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God Save The Queen : Work information

Anon ( Music, Images,)
Performed by
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Sir William Walton (Conductor)

This work

Work name
God Save The Queen
Work number

This recording

David Starobin
Adam Abeshouse
Recording date
1964-01-01 02:00:00

The Composers


A piece of music is attributed to "Anon" if we do not know who wrote it. There are several ways this can happen.

Some music, particularly folk songs, have been handed down for centuries without being written down. Presumably someone composed them, but by the time people like Bartók, Vaughan Williams and Percy Grainger  went around collecting folk songs, many attributed the tunes as "traditional". Thanks to the "Chinese Whispers" effect of passing on a tune by ear, the music had been shaped and changed with the times.

There are also written pieces that are difficult to identify. Before photocopiers existed, most music was copied by hand, making the age of the paper and handwriting not reliable indicators of age or provenance. If the title page gets lost, we can only listen to the music to see if the style is familiar. If the work is by somebody obscure, or if it isn't a good example of their work, it becomes more difficult to identify.

Copyright violation was abundant in the classical period, with many copying pieces and pretending that they had written them, or producing forgeries of the works of famous composers. As with paintings, once a piece has been identified as a fake, it can be virtually impossible to work out the composer.

There is a lot of debate about certain "anonymous" works. There are claims that "Greensleeves" was written by King Henry VIII although, having listened to some of the other things attributed to him, this seems rather unlikely. One must use a good sense of judgment and have a good musical ear to properly attribute these anonymous works to a particular composer.

Related: folk Traditional

Track listing

  • 0:59 min


The oldest of all national anthems, God Save the King made its first appearance in a printed volume of songs, Harmonia anglicana, in 1744. The first documented performances, in arrangements by Thomas Arne and others, took place in 1745 and though Arne, James Oswald and Henry Carey have all been credited with its composition, many have speculated that the tune existed in some form before the 18th century.

Since the 18th century, however, the words and music have remained virtually the same, though only the first verse is generally sung. In the 19th century, the music was adopted as the national anthem of Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Russia, the USA, and several Germanic states, and made regular appearances in concert music (eg Beethoven's Battle Symphony or Paganini's variations for violin and orchestra of 1829). Liechenstein's anthem continues to use the music to this day.