For Our Consideration: The king’s barge-time Muzak playlist: The 300-year reign of Water Music

Let me tell you something about Handel’s Water Music that you’ve likely heard at least in part, even if you don’t know it—probably the posh “Alla Hornpipe” movement from the second suite, the genteel “Air” from the first, or the ball-gown-ready “Rigaudon” from the third. These get used a lot in movies and TV and are part of the canon of badly overplayed Western wedding music. As for the origins of Water Music (or the Water Music, if you want to be a real snoot about it), here’s what we know for sure: On July 17, 1717, the 57-year-old King George I, who had been crowned to the throne of Great Britain despite the fact that he was very far down the line of succession and spoke little to no English, boarded an open barge for a leisure cruise down three miles of the River …

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