Music fit for a king: Handel's 'Zadok the Priest'

Music fit for a king Handels Zadok the Priest  Sonatica Blog

As the world prepares for the coronation of King Charles III, the historic and majestic composition of George Frideric Handel's 'Zadok the Priest' is likely to be heard once again. This masterpiece of baroque music has been performed at every British coronation since 1727 and is considered a musical symbol of the country's rich history and royal heritage.

Handel composed 'Zadok the Priest' in 1727 for the coronation of King George II and Queen Caroline. The piece was commissioned by the new monarchs, who wanted to include a grand anthem in the coronation ceremony. Handel was an inspired choice, as he had already become renowned for his religious and operatic works.


'Zadok the Priest' is a choral piece that features four soloists, a choir, and a grand orchestra. The lyrics are taken from the biblical book of Kings, where Zadok is the priest who anoints Solomon as king. The words were chosen to reflect the religious nature of the coronation ceremony and to emphasize the importance of the divine right of kings. The music of 'Zadok the Priest' is characterized by its majestic and triumphant tone. The piece begins with a grand orchestral introduction that builds in intensity until the choir enters with the opening words "Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet anointed Solomon king." The four soloists then take turns singing the remaining verses, with the choir joining in for the triumphant chorus.

One of the most remarkable aspects of 'Zadok the Priest' is its use of musical devices to create a sense of grandeur and solemnity. Handel uses the technique of imitation, where a melody is repeated by different voices in succession, to create a sense of unity and grandeur. He also employs the use of suspensions and dissonances, where a note clashes with the underlying harmony, to create a sense of tension and drama. The popularity of 'Zadok the Priest' has endured over the centuries, and it has become a cultural icon of British music. The piece is often played on significant national occasions, such as the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics and the funeral of Winston Churchill. The anthem has even been included in popular culture, with the piece featuring in the opening scene of the popular TV series 'The Crown.'

As the world prepares for the coronation of King Charles III, 'Zadok the Priest' will undoubtedly be heard once again, ringing through the halls of Westminster Abbey. The piece remains a symbol of the monarchy's religious and cultural heritage, and its inclusion in the coronation ceremony is a testament to the enduring power of Handel's music. In conclusion, Handel's 'Zadok the Priest' is a masterpiece of baroque music that has become synonymous with the British monarchy. Its use of grand orchestration, choral unity, and dramatic musical devices has ensured its place in the canon of classical music. As we approach the coronation of King Charles III, the piece will once again be heard, resonating with the majesty and history of the British monarchy.