Handel - 'And the Glory of the Lord'

Notes on Handel

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Performing Forces

  • The choir is made up ofsopranos, altos, tenors and bases
  • They are acompanied by strings and continuo (for cello and harpsichord or organ)
  • The orchestra often doubles the vocal lines.


  •  Strings
  • Trumpets
  • Timpani
  • Organ
  • Harpsichord continuo
  • Oboes
  • Bassoons 
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  • The work starts with an orchestral introduction, called a ritornello. Shortened versions of this music return later in the work in two different places.
  • There is no set form to this movement. It is based on different combinations of the four motifs.
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Melody - Motif 1

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

  • Opening movement
  •  Orchestral introduction is followed by motive 1 sung by altos and then motive 2 sung by tenors followed by the basses
  • Syllabic
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Melody - Motif 2

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

  •  Sun by tenors, followed by the basses an then the sopranos
  • Use of sequence
  • “revealed”- melismatic
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Melody - Motif 3

First sung by altos, starting in bar 43. The short descendin figure from A to E is repeated twice.

  •  First heard altos.
  • Repetition of first 5 notes
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Melody - Motif 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.

  • Tenors and basses (unison)
  •  Long notes, same pitch emphasise words
  • Long held note -Pedal note. Top of the texture (soprano ) called inverted pedal
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Rhythm, Metre and Tempo

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


Time signature- 3/4


  •  Hemiola rhythm (2 bars in triple time)
  • Closes with plagal cadence 
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Melody - General

The four motifs are heard in different parts and combined in different ways throughout the movement.

  •  Entries are often staggered- the different parts come on one after another rather than together
  •  Use of imitation- overlapping melody
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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 cadencenin A major.

The harmony is diatonic.

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  • Most of the piece alternates between homophonic and contrapuntal passages. For example, 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 108-109
  • 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 four vocal parts
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Word Setting

  • There is a mixture of syllabic and melismatic word setting. For example, motif 4 ('For the mouth of the Lord hath spocken it') is syllabic. Whereas the word 'revealed' in 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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'And the Glory of the Lord' comes from the oratorio Messiah. An oratorio is a large-scake composition for solo singers, choir and orchestra. It is usually based on a Biblical story - the words of Messiah are seleted from the Bible and refer to important Christian beliefs about the life of Jesus.

Messiah was composed in 1741 while Handel was living in London. It was originally perfomed in concert halls and theaters (although today you might also hear it perfomred in a church). The first performance was given by a small choir and orchestra; now it is often performed by much larger forces.

'And the Glory of the Lord' is the first chorus in Messiah.

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Baroque music - the basics

The Baroque period of music lasted from around 1600 to 1750. The word 'Baroque' was used to describe things that were ornate and extravagant, and Baroque music is often very decorative, with ornamented melody lines and complex counterpoint. The Baroque period was the first in which composers thought as much in terms of harmony (chords) as polyphony (individual lines), and this way of thinking formed the basis of music for the next 300 years.

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Baroque music - extras

Key Features

  • Simple, mainly diatonic harmonies
  • Movements that usually keep to the same mood throughout
  • Terraecd dynamics - changes in volume are sudden rather than gradual
  • Ornamentation - melodies are often highly decorated
  • Complex contrapuntal writing in some pieces
  • Orchestras made up largely of string instruments
  • The use of a continuo - a group of instruments that provides a bass line and harmonic accompaniment. Usually consists of a keyboard instrument (harpsichord or organ), with one or more bass instruments (such as cello or double bass).

Four important composers in the Baroque period were Bach, Handel, Purcell and Vivaldi.

Handel was born in the same year as Bach, in 1685. He grew up in Germany, spent time in Italy and later settled in London. An excerpt from his most famous piece, Messiah, is the first set work.

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