George Frideric Handel Born in Germany 1685 Went to Italy in his 20s Returned to Germany and became court conductor for Prince Elector of Hanover Moved to London. Then Prince Elector of Hanover became George 1st of Britain so Handel composed for him again Generally made his living from composing operas and oratorios Died in London 1789
Sacred and Secular music Sacred – has a religious aspect. Can be Mass, Requiem, Chorale, Oratorio or Cantata. Secular – non religious. Can be Opera or Cantata.
Features of Baroque Music Tonal Use of ornamentation Mainly string orchestra Use of basso continuo Terraced dynamics
Messiah An oratorio Written in 3 weeks in the summer of 1741 Words set by Charles Jennens. Mainly from the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament of King James’ Bible. First performed in Dublin 13 April 1742 First performed in London in the Covent Garden Theatre. The audience doubted of presenting such a subject in the theatre was a good idea. But eventually this became the most famous of all major choral work.
An oratorio Large scale orchestral work Biblical subject for concert performance (like an opera but sacred music not secular) Handel’s were often poetic versions of dramatic storiesIn oratorios there were: Arias – vocal solo with orchestral accompaniment Recitative – like a spoken song. Tells a story and rhythm is like normal speech Chorus – sung by the choir . Usually SATB.
First Performance in Dublin 13thApril 1742 No more than 16 singers and 10 string players The altos were counter altos – male altos – who used a technique called falsetto to get the high notes. The pitch was a semitone lower than today. The recording tries to imitate this performance.
‘And the Glory of the Lord’ The fourth movement. First chorus. After a tenor aria and before a bass recitative 4 motifs based on the four phrases: And the glory of the Lord Shall be revealed And all flesh shall see it together For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it
Metre This is in ¾ simple triple time The triple metre makes I dance like so it sounds joyfulTempo Allegro – fast, sounds joyful Last four bars are marked Adagio. This is only intended to be a little slower than allegro (which is what it is in the recording). It helps create a grand ending.
Tonality Begins in bright and joyful key of A major. Starts to change in bar 22 to E major – the dominant – with the appearances of D#. It then returns to A major in bar 37. E major is briefly passed through in bar 63 before the piece moves swiftly to B major – the dominant of the dominant. The piece then returns on its journey the way it wen and it goes back to E major in bar 93 then A major in bar 105. It stays in A from then onwards.
Harmony The voices are in harmony . There is no dissonance. At the end of the introduction, there is a perfect cadence to mark it. Perfect cadences are used o confirm the changes of keys eg. bars 37 – 38 a perfect cadence in E major. Handel makes the last of chord of one section the first of the next so that a sense of energy is achieved. The piece ends in a plagal cadence so it sounds like a grand ‘Amen’.
Melody Each motif has its distinctive melody Motif A: leaps to outline A major. Ends with the last 3 notes of an ascending A major scale. This movement from low A to high A creates a surge of confidence. Motif B : a smooth descending outline. Has a sequence. Motif C: A repeated figure spanning the interval of E and A. Motif D: mostly on the same pitch, combined with the rhythm creates a solemn chant.
Rhythm Like melody, the rhythm for each motif is different. Motif A: simple rhythm, with a dotted crotchet- quaver rhythm in the second bar Motif B: dotted rhythm sequence Motif C: a repeated crotchet quaver, quaver, crotchet figure. Motif D: contains long dotted crotchets, expressing seriousness of the words. Hemiolas are used at cadences eg. Bar 9 – 10 There is a general pause before the last phrase for effectiveness
Texture Alternates between homophonic and contrapuntal. Motif A is sung by altos then repeated by the whole choir homophonically. Handel contrasts the opening homophonic texture by creating a contrapuntal one in bar 22 where the tenors enter with motif A whilst the others continue with motif B. Motifs are often combined in counterpoint to create a complex contrapuntal texture. Another technique used by Handel to vary texture is by using different combinations of voices. Eg. Bar 108 – 110 where the sopranos are on their own so that their highest note – A – is exposed. Ends homophonic so it sounds ‘grand’.
Structure All based around the 4 motifs Begins with introduction – bars 1-10 Then the entry of motif A and B – bars 11-8 After the piece modulates to E major there is a ritornello in E major – bars 38-42 It then introduces motif C and D – bars 43-73 There is another ritornello for 3 bars (73-75) Then there is a long section of 57 bars which the choir sings There is a general pause before the Adagio bars, which is the ‘grand ending’
Dynamics They were originally not marked. Terraced dynamics are used as instruments then did not have a great dynamic range. The only dynamics are f and pInstruments String orchestra. Basso continuo: cello and chamber organ.