GCSE Music Area of Study 1 - Handel: And the Glory of the Lord

Edexcel GCSE Music Area of Study 1: Western Classical Music 1600-1899

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  • Created by: Mel
  • Created on: 11-04-12 09:00

Baroque era (c. 1600-1750)

The word ‘baroque’ comes from the Portuguese for ‘pearl’.

Composers: Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), Henry Purcell (c. 1659-95) and Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). 

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Features of the Baroque Style of Music

  • Use of ornamented melodic parts (trills, triplets etc.)
  • Establishment of the major/minor key system
  • 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 cello
  • 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) 
  • Prevalence of one 'affection' or mood 
  • Contrasting of dynamics on two levels - loud and soft (terrassed dynamics)
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George Frideric Handel (1675-1759)

  • Born in Germany 
  • Devote his life to music from the age of 18 
  • In 1707 his first serious opera - Rodrigo - was performed 
  • In 1710 he returned to Hanover to be appointed Kapellmeister to the Elector 
  • He was given permission to take up a year's leave in London, England 
  • Spent the rest of his life in England and wrote some of his finest instrumental works, especially the overtures and concerti 
  • When his employer, the Elector of Hanover, succeeded the childless Queen Anne and became George I of England, Handel became his Royal Composer 
  • Wrote the Water Music (1717) to accompany the king's triumphant procession up the River Thames
  • Towards the end of his life his sight failed him and he died in 1759 and was buried in Westminster Abbey
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  • A 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
  • Key difference between the opera and oratorio was that the oratorio used only texts for the story taken from the bible
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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 of Jesus' birth (or coming of the Messiah)
  • 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.

Handel composed the famous oratorio, Messiah, in only twenty-four days in the summer of 1741. It was first performed in Dublin in 1742.

'And the Glory of the Lord' is the fourth movement of the whole work and is the first chorus.

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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, minimal focus on music


  • A solo vocal piece with instrumental accompaniment which often reflects on a mood or emotion
  • Music much more elaborate to display vocal qualities and expertise of  singer


  • Summing up the action of the story at that particular point in the drama
  • Consolidates positivity of mood in the preceding two movements and looking forward to the coming of the lord
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'And the Glory of the Lord' Key Ideas

Idea 1: 'And the glory of the Lord'

  • First heard in bars 1-4 by the violins and first sung by altos in bars 11-14
  • Short theme with two characteristic features 
  • First three notes outline a triad (A major) - Emphasizing key signature
  • Second feature - Stepwise scale ending 
  • Words are mainly syllabic (one note per syllable) - Emphasizes words

Idea 2: 'Shall be revealed'

  • First heard in bars 17-20 sung by tenors
  • Idea built up using two one-bar descending sequences and is a melismatic (several notes to a syllable) setting of the word 'revealed'
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'And the Glory of the Lord'

The whole movement conveys the joyful words through the sprightly triple time metre (3/4) and Allegro tempo marking.

 The key is in A major with modulations to the dominant (fifth note of the scale or key) key of E major and dominant of the dominant key of B major. Minor keys are avoided, as the words dictate the prevailing joyful mood or ‘affection’ of the music.

It was customary in Baroque music for a single mood to prevail in a movement and in this case the ‘affection’ is clearly one of glorification and praise. 

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'And the Glory of the Lord' from Messiah - Analysi

  • Piece starts off with orchestral introduction (ritornello) in which the first two melodic ideas are stated 
  • Lively triple time dance tempo gives feeling of one in bar 
  • One-bar descending sequence at bars 5-6 and 7-8 
  • Hemiola rhythms at bars 9-10 - very common practice at the approach to a cadence as is the case here
  • Introduction ends with perfect cadence in the tonic key of A major 
  • Harmonic rhythm (number of times chords change per bar)
  • Instruments double voice parts
  • Bar 11 - Alto entry with melody 1, words mainly syllabic 
  • Forte chordal response by sopranos, tenors and basses
  • Melody (bars 11-14) heard in bass part, bass often has the melody in chordal (homophonic) sections
  • Imitative entries of melody 2 stated first by tenor (bar 17), then bass (bar 19) and then soprano (bar 20) - music idea built on two one-bar descending sequences on the word 'revealed'
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'And the Glory of the Lord' from Messiah - Analysi

  • Bar 33 - Strong, four-part homophonic rendition of idea 1 in E major 
  • Features include sequences (bars 38-39), hemiola rhythms (bars 41-42) and a suspension (bar 42). These features were also found in the opening introduction
  • Sense of descending pitch achieved at bars 87-91, as first the alto, then the tenor and finally the bass sing short melodies
  • Bar 83 - Music modulates back to donimant key of E major, then return to the tonic key of A major and music stays in this key until the end
  • Imitative entries follow in the alto, tenor and bass parts
  • Bar 134 - Dramatic three-beat rest in all four voice parts leads to final grand (and slow 'Adagio') plagal cadence in glorious four-part homophony adding emphasis to the final words 'hath spoken it'
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'And the Glory of the Lord' from Messiah


  • Handel uses homophonic, contrapuntal and monophonic texture in this movement. These are all obtained by altering choral styles
  • Monophonic texture found in bars 11-13
  • Simple imitation used in bar 17
  • Homophonic texture found in bars 33-38
  • Doubling of parts used in bar 51
  • Contrapuntal texture used in bars 110-113


  • Most of the chorus is in A major
  • Modulates to E major (dominant) and B major (dominant of the dominant)
  • Consistent use of major keys maintains joyful mood
  • Modulation is subtle but still provides variation - reflects the baroque style
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