Choral Music in the Baroque Period

He Was Despised - no.23 from Handel's Messiah

  • Handel's Messiah is an oratorio which is an extended composition for vocal soloists, chorus and orchesta based on scripture and biblical stories.
  • He Was Despised is an aria for alto
  • Tells the story of how Jesus was rejected by the people, but also tells how he rose above that and 'hid his face' from 'shame and spitting'
  • Could be given as an example of a contrasting aria to 'the Trumpet Shall Sound'
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He Was Despised - no.23 from Handel's Messiah - fo

  • Da Capo Aria (so ABA and ternary)
  • Has an A section and a contrasting B section, Da Capo is full A section repeat
  • The A section is split in two by a ritornello
  • There is an opening ritornello, a ritornello in the A section and one between A/B
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He Was Despised - no.23 from Handel's Messiah - A

  • Key of Eb - wistful (interestingly, mournful section is in a major key and bold section is in minor)
  • Largo tempo is mournful
  •  In opening ritornello violins introduce melody. 3-quaver falling figure is imitated in descending sequence by violins, with a trill - wordpainting, mournful falling and trill could denote crying
  • p dynamic /sparse texture of imitation like a sorrowful echo
  • Dissonance/unease created by plaintive-sounding flattened 3rds (Gb)
  • Voice enters, phrases are interjected by falling figure on violins (vocal line feels fragmented and lacks flow  - adds to sense of dispair)
  • Voice elaborates melody with appogiaturas which could denote wailing
  • Use of melisma also denotes crying/wailing, on the word 'sorrows'
  • Sorrows sung on a downwards scale (word painting)
  • Elongation and Gb on word 'grief' (dissonance)
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He Was Despised - no.23 from Handel's Messiah - A

  • For the second part of the A section, music is in Fm (supertonic minor). Motif is inverted.
  • Use of same motif for 'despised' and 'rejected' creates emphasis, interval gets smaller (rises) builds tension
  • Use of 9-8 suspensions to create dissonance
  • Borrowed and unexpected chords: Gm and Ebm
  • After dissonant harmony, Fmin7 is like a relief after the word 'grief'
  • Use of diminished 7ths (A dim7 on the word 'grief')
  • Towards end of A.2, instruments drop out and voice/violin imitation are alone, the sparse texture emphasising Jesus' solitude 
  • Free rhythmic feel and use of rubato - intense emotion, wailing
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He Was Despised - no.23 from Handel's Messiah - B

  • B section is completely contrasting
  • Much faster tempo
  • In relative minor (C minor) - mood of tension, spite, triumph
  • Very rhythmic, mostly on the beat using crotchets/quavers, lots of rests, no rubato/free feel (determination)
  • Much more syllabic (determined/bold)
  • Lots of repetition ('he gave his back to the smiters') to reiterate points
  • Disjunct 'he gave his back', 'plucked of his hair' - forceful
  • Lots of triadic movement (regal/fanafare-like)
  • Cycle of 5ths/ascending sequence ('and his cheeks to them that plucked off his hair') builds tension
  • Driving  semiquaver rhythm in strings
  • Much less legato
  • Ends in perfect cadence in Gm - block chords (dramatic)
  • Constant texture creates tension/intensity
  • 'For shame and spitting' just voice (dramatic climax), answered by emphatic perfect cadence
  • Long note on 'shame'
  • Fuller texture (melody and accompaniment rather than homophony)
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The Trumpet Shall Sound - no.48 from Handel's Mess

  • about the power of Christ over death, and how the living and the dead will be transformed into spiritual bodies
  • Da Capo Aria (but opening ritornello isn't repeated)
  • Bass with trumpet obligato
  • D major - triumphant, joyful key, themes of intense joy/spirituality (and idiomatic for trumpet)
  • Ritornello begins with triadic fanfare on the trumpet, imitation between trumpet and strings - jubilant
  • Vocal melody is triadic/fanfare like
  • Voice imitates the sound of a trumpet
  • Vocal phrases interjected by trumpet
  • Sonorous bass voice and long note on 'sound' (5 beat long high D) - intensity
  • Falls then rises on 'raised'
  • Syllabic words 'incorruptable' on imperfect cadence create a strong and certain statement, which is word painting
  • 'We shall be changed' - melismatic semiquavers in ascending sequence literally paint a picture of changing, later it's French dotted
  • Interrputed cadence on 'and we shall be changed' - slight hint at some uncertainty, however the uncertainty is extinguished with the phrase repeated on a definite perfect cadence
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The Trumpet Shall Sound - no.48 from Handel's Mess

  • B section is in B minor, subject matter is more serious as it talks about 'immortality' and everyone must become immortal
  • No trumpet/strings, less jubilant, much thinner texture (just melody and accompaniment)
  • Descending then ascending sequence and melisma on 'immortality' - everlasting/eternal so long note
  • Modulation to dominant F#m on 'immortal' also shows uplifting/life
  • Below this there is a cycle of 5ths, denoting endless life and spreading excitement/anticipation
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