Baroque - key points: Recitative

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Ah Golgotha - No 69 from Bach's St Matthew Passion

  • An extended accompagnato recitative in an arioso style for contralto
  • Story of Jesus hanging on the cross
  • Obligato oboe de caccia - plaintive, sorrowful tone. Continues throughout with a repeated pattern which is like a wail
  • Plaintive tone of contralto - richer than soprano yet still able to produce high, sighing effect
  • Organ used - more appropriate for sorrowful mood than harpshicord
  • Use of cello pizzicato broken chords - unique use of instrumenation (late baroque), could represent drops of blood
  • Use of diminished harmony, eg. on 'shame and scorn must perish'
  • Melody is fluid and expressive, createds a sighing effect due to being fairly disjunct eg. downward leap on 'ah gologtha'
  • Unrestrained - close to speech however perhaps closer to singing than usual recitative, hence 'arioso style'
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The Death of Christ - 71 from Bach's St Matthew Pa

  • Secco recitative
  • Evangelist played by soprano, Jesus by bass giving Jesus the more powerful tone
  • Swapping of roles like dialogue - Jesus speaks the hebrew 'Eli, Eli, Lama ...' and evangalist translates, 'My god, my god, why hast thou forsaken me?' . The different voices help mark this out.
  • Very thin accompaniment, Jesus usually has a halo of strings but it is not there in this piece, to represent his death/dark hour
  • Dissonance, flattened notes (Db and Fb in Eb maj) on words 'there was darkness all over the land'
  • Choir in homophony represent mocking crowd, 'He calleth for Elias' syllabic and forceful with driving semiquaver string accompaniment (becomes accompagnato briefly)
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Christmas recitatives from Handel's Messiah 14a-15

  • These recitatives for soprano move the story along, linking choruses 'For unto us a child is born' and 'Glory to god in the highest'

14 a 'There were shepherds abiding in the field'

  • Simple secco, uses chords I and V in C with tonic pedal

14 b 'And lo, the angel of the lord came upon them'

  • Accompagnato (aka stromentato)
  • F major - bright, calm, heavenly major key
  • Strings in high register and just cello for continuo
  • Driving semiquaver string rhythm - beating of angels' wings
  • Glistening, bright sound of violins' E string
  • High, disjunt movement in the voice, arch shaped vocal line peaking at 'and the glory of the lord'
  •  leaps on 'and lo' (perfect 5th), 'lord' (perfect 4th), 'glory' (major 6th)
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Christmas recitatives from Handel's Messiah 15 and

No 15, 'and the angel said on to them'

  • Back to secco
  • Dominant lift from A major to E major 'to all people'
  • Ends in F#m and uses a diminished chord - a sense of unease/mystery
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