Video: “Eternal Source of Light Divine” by Handel

7

December
2010

Eternal source of light divine
With double warmth thy beams display,
And with distinguis’d glory shine,
To add a lustre to this day.

George Frideric Handel‘s aria “Eternal source of light divine” is a stunning piece when beautifully performed. If you’re familiar with the work, you might not be surprised to discover that it’s one of the more popular baroque vocal compositions found on YouTube (next to Purcell’s duet “Sound the Trumpet”).

Taken from a larger Handel work—Birthday Ode for Queen Anne, HWV 74—the aria is an opening movement intended to set a calm and meditative tone. The work, after all, marked a peace treaty, in addition to a royal birthday.

The vocal soloist is matched nearly phrase for phrase by a trumpet player, both supported by strings and continuo.

Below are three videos of the piece, all performed by a soprano soloist, commonly done out of context of the ode—an irony if you take into consideration that Handel’s score calls for an alto soloist. Nevertheless, it’s a popular aria with sopranos.

The first two videos are performances with period instruments, live and produced, respectively, while the last is a decidedly modern instrument take*, but immensely beautiful, nonetheless.

  • Kate Royal, David Blackadder, and the joint orchestra of the English Concert and Freiburg Baroque (begins at 3:18).

  • Elin Manahan Thomas, (trumpet player unknown,) and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

  • Kathleen Battle, Wynton Marsalis, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.

*And, incidentally, my favorite of the three. Wynton’s reaction to the Battle’s gorgeous singing is priceless.

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