Program Notes

Zadok the Priest – Handel

Zadok the Priest

Much of Handel’s reputation today rests on only a small body of his work, principally Messiah written in 1741, even though the total amount of music he composed was enormous. This preference for Messiah has meant that much of Handel’s work is not heard regularly. Zadok the Priest has had a little more exposure than other of Handel’s musical output because it is heard at every coronation of the British Crown.

One of the last acts of King George I before his death in 1727 was to sign `An Act for naturalizing George Frideric Handel and others’. Handel’s first commission as a naturalized British citizen was to write the music for the coronation service of King George II later that year. Zadok was one of four anthems written for the service and the only one to survive to be repeated at each succeeding coronation.

The anthem was based on the coronation of King Solomon who came to the throne of Israel when his father, King David, was dying. David’s son Adonijah, ambitious to succeed David, made plans to usurp the throne. Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, implored David to give the crown to Solomon.

Zadok had served as priest during David’s reign and had fled with David from Jerusalem during Absalom’s rebellion. Nathan, the prophet, had rebuked David for his adultery with Bathsheba. Both, however, were loyal subjects to David and did as he commanded.

The recounting of Solomon’s coronation is found in I Kings, Chapter 1:”….. and King David said, `Call me Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet ….. and let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him [Solomon] there king over Israel: and blow ye the trumpet and say `God Save King Solomon’ ……”