The Harmonious Blacksmith

The Harmonious Blacksmith

The Harmonious Blacksmith

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The Harmonious Blacksmith is the popular name of the final movement, Air and variations, of George Frideric Handel's Suite No. 5 in E major, HWV 430, for harpsichord. An air is followed by five double (variations in the English division style): semiquavers in the right hand; semiquavers in the left hand; semiquaver triplets in the right and left hands; and finally demisemiquavers in both hands.

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The eight suites of 1720

Handel published his first eight harpsichord suites in 1720 with the following explanation:

The name

There have been a number of explanations proffered as to why this movement was called The Harmonious Blacksmith, and by whom. The name was not given by Handel and was not recorded until early in the 19th century, when the movement became popular on its own (while Handel's music remained popular in England continuously after his death, it was only very selectively known.)

An unproven history

The story is that Handel, when working for James Brydges the future Duke of Chandos at Cannons between 1717 and 1718, once took shelter from the rain in a smithy, and was inspired to write his tune upon hearing the hammer on the anvil; the regularly repeated pedal note (B in the right hand) in the first variation, can give the impression of a blacksmith hammering. A variation on the story is that he heard the blacksmith singing the tune which would later become the Air; this explanation fits in nicely with...
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