George Frederick Handel

The King Shall Rejoice, coronation anthem No. 2 for chorus & orchestra, HWV 260

    Description by Michael Jameson

    The British coronation ceremony has survived essentially unaltered for nearly a thousand years, and Handel's four magnificent Coronation Anthems occupy an illustrious place in its history. The most popular of the set, Zadok the Priest, has been performed at every coronation since it was first heard at the 1727 coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline. The King Shall Rejoice (HWV 260) was also written for this same royal occasion and was specifically intended for the part of the service during which the new monarch receives the crown. The King Shall Rejoice takes its texts (almost word for word) from the Book of Psalms (Ps. 21) and is divided into four sections. The opening sequence based on the first stanza of the Psalm leads to a setting of "Exceeding Glad Shall He Be." After this comes a heaven-storming declaration for full choir and orchestra of "Glory and Worship," before the anthem ends with a final, majestic "Alleluia." The scoring gives special prominence to ceremonial clarino trumpets, which add nobility and brilliance to the most opulent moments, as does the use of the organ. Some sources affirm that it was at the insistence of King George himself that Handel provided the anthems for his coronation. However, organist Maurice Greene was senior to Handel in the royal musical establishment and felt that he, rather than a foreigner, should have been accorded the honor. Handel was also offended when several bishops sent him the Biblical texts for the anthems. He resented any inference that he did not know his scriptures well enough to make his own selections and wrote back saying "I have read my Bible very well, and shall choose for myself." Nor, if some who attended are to be believed, was the event itself a complete musical success. Handel himself presided over a vast orchestra of over 150 players, but had a mere 50 or so singers at his disposal. This fact, combined with the reverberant acoustics of London's Westminster Abbey, probably ccasioned Archbishop of Canterbury William Wake's complaint (noted down on his Order of Service) "The anthems in confusion; all irregular in the music." Even so, the occasion was a remarkable patriotic spectacle, and it is easy to appreciate that this impressive music must have left its first hearers awestruck.


    1. The King shall rejoice
    2. Exceeding glad shall he be
    3. Glory and great worship
    4. Alleluja

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2015 Brilliant Classics 95050BR
    2015 Decca 4788918
    2014 Les Arts Florissants AF 004
    2014 Obsidian Records CD 711
    2013 Deutsche Grammophon
    2013 United Classics T2CD 2012071
    2012 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099932728
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94214
    2010 Newton Classics 8802016
    2009 Decca
    2009 Decca 4781190
    2009 Coro 16066
    2009 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099926433
    2009 EMI Classics
    2009 Decca 4781374
    2007 Decca 4758359
    2006 Decca
    2002 Philips 4733042
    2001 Hyperion CDA67286
    2000 Amadeus 7013
    1995 Philips 432110
    EMI Music Distribution 65336