Zadok the Priest (HWV 258) is a British anthem which was composed by George Frideric Handel for the coronation of King George II in 1727. Alongside The King Shall Rejoice, My Heart is Inditing and Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened, Zadok the Priest is one of Handel's Coronation Anthems. One of Handel's best-known works, Zadok the Priest has been sung prior to the anointing of the sovereign at the coronation of every British monarch since its composition and has become recognised as a British patriotic anthem.
Part of the traditional content of British coronations, the texts for all four anthems were picked by Handel—a personal selection from the most accessible account of an earlier coronation, that of James II in 1685. The text is a translation of the traditional antiphon, Unxerunt Salomonem, itself derived from the biblical account of the anointing of Solomon by the titular priest Zadok. These words have been used in every English, and later British, coronation since that of King Edgar at Bath Abbey in 973. An earlier setting is thought to have been written by Thomas Tomkins for the coronation of King Charles I in 1626, the text of which has survived but not the music. Henry Lawes wrote another for the coronation of King Charles II in 1661; this was also sung at James II's in 1685, although the music may have been amended to accommodate changes to the text made by Archbishop William Sancroft.
At the coronation itself on 11 October 1727, the choir of Westminster Abbey sang Zadok the Priest in the wrong part of the service; they had earlier entirely forgotten to sing one anthem and another ended "in confusion".
While the lyrics of "God Save the Queen" are based on the same scripture from which "Zadok the Priest" originated, the lyrics of "Zadok the Priest" do not change based on the sex of the sovereign. Because it is a hymn and pulled directly from scripture, and because the king in question is Solomon, it remains "king" even if the monarch is female.
Zadok the Priest is written for SS-AA-T-BB chorus and orchestra (two oboes, two bassoons, three trumpets, timpani, strings with three violin parts rather than the usual two, and continuo), in the key of D major. The music prepares a surprise in its orchestral introduction through the use of static layering of soft string textures followed by a sudden rousing forte tutti entrance, augmented by three trumpets.
The final section "God save the King", etc. is a return to common time (4
4), with the "God save the King" section heard chordally, interspersed with the Amens incorporating long semiquaver runs, taken in turn through the six voice parts (SAATBB) with the other parts singing quaver chords accompanying it. The chorus ends with a largo plagal cadence on "Alleluia".
- Blumsom, Amy (23 October 2015). "Zadok the Priest: a champion's anthem". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
- sussexchorus.org, Coronation Anthems, HWV 258 - 261. Retrieved 15 August 2016.
- "George Frideric Handel: Coronation Anthems, HWV258-261". Classical Archives. 2015. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
- Range, Matthias (2012), Music and Ceremonial at British Coronations: From James I to Elizabeth II, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-1-107-02344-4 (p. 10)
- "Guide to the Coronation Service", Westminster Abbey website, London, U.K.: Dean and Chapter of Westminster, 2009, retrieved 2009-08-20,
Meanwhile the choir sings the anthem Zadok the Priest, the words of which (from the first Book of Kings) have been sung at every coronation since King Edgar's in 973. Since the coronation of George II in 1727 the setting by Handel has always been used.
- Range, Matthias (2012). Music and Ceremonial at British Coronations: From James I to Elizabeth II. Cambridge University Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-1107023444.
- Sadie, Julie Anne (1990), Companion to Baroque Music, University of California Press, ISBN 0-520-21414-5 (p. 297)
- Range 2012, p.
- "Lambeth Palace Library Research Guide: Sources for the Coronation – George II, MS 1079b (p. 7)" (PDF).
- "Bible Gateway passage: 1 Kings 1:38–40 (New International Version)". Bible Gateway.
- drwestbury (24 April 2011). "Zadok The Priest – Westminster Abbey Choir and Choristers of the Chapel Royal" – via YouTube.
- Borden, Sam (23 May 2013). "European Soccer's Biggest Star May Be a Song". The New York Times.