GCSE Edexcel Music Western Classical Music Notes

GCSE Edexcel Music Western Classical Music Notes

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  • Created on: 27-05-12 12:12
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GCSE music revision Area of Study 1: Western Classical music
G.F. Handel: Chorus: `And the Glory of the Lord' from oratorio Messiah
The Baroque era (c. 16001750)
The word `baroque' comes from the Portuguese for `pearl'.
Composers: Johann Sebastian Bach (16851750), George Frideric Handel (16851759), Henry
Purcell (c. 165995) and Antonio Vivaldi (16781741).
General features and developments:
Use of ornamented melodic parts (trills, triplets etc.)
Establishment of the major/minor key system, replacing the old system of modes
Use of the diatonic (notes or chords belonging to or literally `of the key') chords of I,
IV, V, II and VI
`basso continuo' (literally continuous bass). The adoption of the keyboard instrument
(harpsichord or organ) playing a chordal support with the bass line usually played by the
Different musical textures, such as monophonic (a musical texture of a single melodic line
with no accompaniment), homophonic (a musical texture comprising a melody part
and accompaniment) and polyphonic (a musical texture featuring two or more parts,
each having a melody line and sounding together).
Use of the Baroque orchestra, based on the newly invented members of the string family
with the harpsichord supplying the harmonies. Trumpets, horns and timpani drums were
Prevalence of one `affection' or mood
Contrasting of dynamics on two levels ­ loud and soft (terrassed dynamics)
Musical work based on words and stories from the bible. Oratorios were essentially made out of
operatic forms such as the recitative, aria and chorus and acted out with scenery and in full costume
dress. The key difference between the opera and oratorio was that the oratorio used only texts for
the story taken from the bible.
The libretto (the text/words of a musical work such as an opera or oratorio) is in three main parts
telling the story of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Part 1 ­ Consists of prophecies foretelling the annunciation (or coming of the Messiah) with
texts taken from the Old Testament as well as the story of His birth from the New
Part 2 ­ The passion music of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus, set mainly to words
from the Old Testament.
Part 3 ­ Jesus' resurrection from the dead.

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GCSE music revision Area of Study 1: Western Classical music
Handel composed the famous oratorio, Messiah, in only twentyfour days in the summer of 1741. It
was first performed in Dublin in 1742.
Structure of the oratorio in Messiah
A style used in operas, oratorios and cantatas in which the text is `declaimed' (told) in the rhythm of
natural speech. The fundamental idea is to concentrate on getting the words of the narration over
with a minimal use of music.…read more

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GCSE music revision Area of Study 1: Western Classical music
W.A. Mozart: 1st movement from Symphony No. 40 in G minor
The classical era (c. 17501830)
Music from this era echoes the architecture in that it uses a clearcut and balanced structure.
Simplicity and clarity of the line also became a feature of the music in the emphasis placed on a
graceful and regularly phrased melodic line.…read more

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GCSE music revision Area of Study 1: Western Classical music
16001899…read more


Samuel Richardson

This is brilliantly detailed set of notes on the Baroque and Classical eras of music and Handel's 'Messiah'. Maybe make some flash cards to compliment this resource so you can test your memory. 

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