I have been obliged to publish some of the following Lessons, because surreptitious and incorrect Copies of them had got Abroad. I have added several new ones to make the Work more useful, which if it meets with a favourable Reception; I will still proceed to publish more, reckoning it my duty, with my Small Talent, to serve a Nation from which I have receiv’d so Generous a protection.
That's Georg Friedrich Händel, writing in the preface of his first eight harpsichord suites. And while we're speaking of "favourable Receptions," I'd like to focus our attentions on one movement from one suite in particular. It's the last movement of the Suite No. 5 in E major (HWV 430), it's comprised of an air and five variations, and it's got a great name: The Harmonious Blacksmith.
No one's quite sure where the name comes from, though everyone's quite sure it didn't come from Händel himself. But don't let the awesomeness of the name distract you from the fact that the music's fantastic.
First off, let's set the stage with the wonderful Murray Perahia.
For those who find themselves drawn more to the harpsichord, I am happy to offer you Trevor Pinnock as an alternative (or a bonus, really).
Here's an orchestral version. It's a bit ponderous for my tastes, I think. The melody's still there, and still wonderful. But the tone/texture feels pretty diluted. (The harpsichord one captures the ball-peen hammer-y tone of the piece best. This one's less ping-y, more Stokowski-y.)
Wait. There's more.
Here's the legendary guitarist John Williams (to be distinguished from the legendary film composer John Williams) with his interpretation.
And here, just for the heck of it...er, I mean, for the sake of the historically-interested, is Sergei Rachmaninov's version.
ne Last Tidbit: Pip, the main character in Dickens' "Great Expectations," is nicknamed Handel by his new friend, Herbert Pocket. And now you know why.
"...We are so harmonious, and you have been a blacksmith,—-would you mind it?"
"I shouldn't mind anything that you propose," I answered, "but I don't understand you."
"Would you mind Handel for a familiar name? There's a charming piece of music by Handel, called the Harmonious Blacksmith."
"I should like it very much."
"Then, my dear Handel," said he, turning round as the door opened, "here is the dinner, and I must beg of you to take the top of the table, because the dinner is of your providing."