Handel ' 'And the Glory of the Lord'

Summary notes for Handel

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  • Created by: Callum
  • Created on: 07-04-14 13:32


Baroque Music: Key Features

  • Simple, mainly diatonic haromonies
  • The same mood  throughout
  • Terraced dynamics - changes in volume are sudden rather than gradual
  • Ornamentation - melodies are often highly decorated
  • Complex contrapuntal writing in some pieces
  • Orchestras made up of largely string  instruments
  • The use of a continuo - a group of instruments that provides a bass line and harmonic accompaniment
  • 3 other composers: Bach, Purcell, Vivaldi 

Handel: 'And the glory of the lord'

  • 'And the glory of the lord' comes from the oratorio Messiah. An oratorio is a large-scale composition for solo singers, choir and orchestra usually bades on a biblical story.
  • Messiah was composed in 1971.
  • It is the first chorus of the Messiah.
  • It was written in London. First performed in Dublin.
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Performing Forces/Structure

Perfoming Forces

  • The choir is made up of sopranos, altos, tenors and basses (SATB)
  • They are accompanied by strings and continuo. The continuo is played by the Cello and Harpsichord (or Organ).
  • The orchestra frequently doubles the vocal lines.


  • The work starts with an orchestral introduction, called a ritornello
  • There is no set form to the movement. It is based on different combinations of four motifs.

1. First sung by the altos, starting in bar 11, it clearly outlines the key of A major

2. First sung by the tenors, starting in bar 17. This motif uses a descending sequence and a melisma on the word 'revealed'.

3. First sung by the altos, starting in bar 43. 

4. First sung by the tenors and basses, starting in bar 51. As most of it is on the same pitch (A), and it uses longer notes, it sounds rather solemn.

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R/M/T, Tonality/Harmony, Word Setting

Rhythm, Metre and Tempo

  • The piece is in the dance-like metre of 3/4 - three crotchets per bar.
  • It mantains a fast tempo (Allegro) almost until the end, when there is a bar of total silence (a general pause) and then three bars in a slower tempo to create a drawn-out ending.
  • There are a number of hemiolas in the piece, such as bars 9-10 (where the music feels it is in 2/4 rather than 3/4)

Tonality and Harmony

  • The piece is in A major. It modulates to two related keys: the dominant (E Major) and the supertonic (B major). The work ends with a plagal cadence in A major.
  • The harmony is diatonic (using only notes belonging to the key)

Word Setting

  • There is a mixture of syllabic (vocal music that has one note to each syllable) and melismatic (one syllable sung to several notes) word setting. E.g 'For the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it' (motif 4) is syllabic. Whereas the word 'revealed' (motif 2) is melismatic.
  • The different phrases of text are repeated many times, helping to make the words as clear as possible.
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  • Most of the piece alternates between homophonic and contrapuntalpassages. E.g. The first passage sung by the whole choir is homophonic (bars 14-17). This is then followed by a contrapuntal section that introduces the phrase 'shall be revealed' (bars 17-33).
  • There is a very short monophonic passage in bars 108-9.
  • Handel uses imitation. For example, in bar 17 the tenors sing 'shall be revealed' and this is then imitated (overlapped by a copy of the same melody, here at a different pitch) by the basses and sopranos.  
  • The number of parts varies - sometimes it is just one (such as altos in bars 43-46), and at other times it is two or three parts in different combinations) or all 4 vocal parts together.

Monophonic: This is a single line of music with no accompaniment. Mono = 'one' 

Homophonic: Two or more lines of music moving in the same rhythm at exactly the same time. The music is chordal. Homo = 'the same'

Polyphonic (contrapuntal): This refers to two or more lines of music which move independantly of one another, overlapping creating a 'thick', complicated sounding texture. Poly = 'many

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