Context within work
- From the last section of the B minor mass.
- Solo aria followed by a chorus.
- Alto solo, violin ritornello (low tessitura), low lying violin melody.
- Obbligato aria: have to have instrumental line interlinking with solo voice: violin line essential.
- The music's from one of his earlier works.
- Old style of composition: elaborate.
- Prima Prattical: first style; some harmonic features more elaborate.
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Text and Text Setting
- "Agnus Dei, qui tolis peccata mundi, miserere nobis" translates to "Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of world, have mercy on us."
- Minor tonality, starts in G minor. Opening 8 bars set therefore for these words.
- Opening ritornello has lots of features which give it a lamenting feel.
- Poignant intervals, eg diminshed 5ths (ex: F# to C) and uses diminished 7ths in violin ritornello.
- Chromatic shapes also add to this feel.
- Pairs of slurred quavers also. Sometimes appogiaturas.
- Mostly syllabic setting apart from on the word: 'miserere' which is always melismatic. This is to add emphasis.
- Opening vocal melody descends, giving it a depressing feel.
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Melody and Rhythm
- Ritornello melody uses some particular motifs.
- 1st melody has a disjunct, arpeggiated shape.
- Uses some diminished 5th and 7ths throughout. Bach often used angular shapes/patterns, refers to wider scale of work.
- Second idea (bar 3), uses slurred quavers, some of them being appogiaturas.
- The rests in the continuo create a sigh like/sob feel.
- vocal line: descends, long phrases, especially in bar 17 on the word: 'miserere'. It goes on.
- The use of irregular phrase lengths makes it unsettling.
- In places, vocal line quite linear, beginning tune: 'agnus dei'.
- In other places, not so linear, lots of chromaticism, for ex: when the melody is in D minor (bar 27).
- 1st melody is sequential.
- Lots repeated.
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Tonality and Harmony
- Starts in G minor.
- Bar 27: D minor - dominant.
- Bar 31: returns to G minor.
- Examples of Dissonance (bar 1), also a chromatically altered chord (beat 4 of bar 1) -not what you'd expect.
- A dissonance between C in violins and G in basso in bar 1.
- Use of Neopolitan 6th, bar 2: Ab chord in 1st inversion.
- Goes through D minor in bar 4, and C minor in the second half of bar 5.
- Uses a full diminished 7th in bar 7.
- False relations in bar 9, F followed by F#, in bar 14, Ab to A natural. Bar 18: E to Eb: typical of era.
- Generally, more chromatic harmony.
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- Instrumental: 2 part texture. When voice comes in, it's a three part texture.
- It's broadly a contrapuntal texture.
- Bars 13, 14: imitation between voice and violin.
- The violin obbligato imitates the voice.
- A canon when the voice first comes in between the voice and violin obbligato. Canon at the 5th.
- Bar 17: violins play ritornello from the opening melody against the melody in the voice.
- Bar 31: repeats canon at the 5th.
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Writing for instruments and relationship between v
- The voice part isn't doubled.
- The 1st and 2nd violins play a unison obbligato.
- The continuo would've been playted by cello and organ.
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- Ritornello form: Bars 1-8 opening ritornello.
- Bar 9: Vocal melody comes in: A section.
- Bar 13: Ritornello in violin part.
- Bar 17: move to D minor and ritornello material in violins. Very short ritornello in the middle of the aria.
- Opening melody in bar 9 is repreised in bar 31.
- Not as sectional as Laudamus Te, less ritornellis. But bar 23, 4 bars of Ritornello.
- Integrated with voice, ritornello against it.
- Bar 27: back to beginning melody but changes direction.
- Bar 31: E minor
- The structure has similarities with Laudamus Te but not such clear divisions between sections.
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