Handel went to great trouble in the composition of his Te Deum marking the British victory in the Battle of Dettingen. Now the work is available as part of the Complete Edition.
The Dettingen Te Deum is the last of Handel’s five Te Deum compositions. He wrote it in 1743 for a Service of Thanksgiving following the victory of royal troops and the King’s safe return from the Battle of Dettingen. The work was probably completed between 28 and 30 July and it was performed, together with the anthem The King shall rejoice written directly after it, on the morning of 27 November in the Chapel Royal at St. James’s Palace. The imposing music remains very popular today.
At the end of the 1730s Europe was at war, and Great Britain was involved in a colonial war with Spain, the so-called “War of Jenkins’ Ear”. The problems intensified in 1740 when Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor and Archduke of Austria, and sovereign of the other Habsburg crown lands, died without a male heir, and Frederick II of Prussia invaded Silesia, thereby triggering the War of the Austrian Succession. The Battle of Dettingen on the River Main was fought between Great Britain in alliance with the Electorate of Hanover and mercenary troops of the Landgrave of Hesse on one side, and the opposing French army under the Duke of Noailles on the other. King George II fought in the Battle of Dettingen on 27 June 1743 as the Elector of Hanover and was an ally of Austria-Hungary. Advised by his minister Lord John Carteret, the King led his army in battle against the French, whose army withdrew in considerable disorder to the opposite bank of the River Main. George II was the last British monarch to personally lead his troops into battle.
The King set off from Hanover on 9 November 1743 and was back in London on 15 November, but the service of celebration was postponed, because the date could not be too close to the death day of the Queen (20 November). Handel may have expected a splendid state service in an imposing setting, such as St. Paul’s Cathedral for example, but the festivities finally took place instead in the Chapel Royal in St. James’s Palace. The first performance was also the first occasion when an orchestral work was heard there with three trumpets; they play in eight of the fifteen movements. This also explains the prevailing basic key of D major throughout the piece. The inclusion of military trumpets and timpani seems very appropriate, but Handel used them – similarly to in his Coronation Anthems – more to depict the victory over death, and not to illustrate the hostilities. Even the trumpet fanfare in “Day by day” does not serve to celebrate victory on the worldly battlefield, but to depict the Last Judgement.
Handel also drew on elements from other Te Deum compositions; for example, he stayed with the aria form for “When Thou tookest” which he had used earlier in the Te Deum in A, the Caroline “Te Deum” and the “Cannons” Te Deum. An emphasis on the joyful characterises the entire work, which culminates in a majestic concluding movement.
Quite large performing forces are required: alto, tenor and bass soloists, a five-part chorus (SSATB), two oboes, bassoon, three trumpets, timpani, three violins, viola, cello, double bass and organ. The upper voice parts were sung by the boys of the Chapel Royal, and the choir was accompanied by the King’s orchestra.
Te Deum Laudamus is an early Christian Latin hymn of praise for the morning service of Matins. Handel used the text of the Book of Common Prayer of 1662. His setting survives in autograph manuscript, which forms the basis for the edition in the Halle Handel Edition.
(from [t]akte 1/2016)
(translation: Elizabeth Robinson)