No.44 Chorus, Hallelujah! Handel, Messiah

  • Created by: Katherine
  • Created on: 30-04-14 15:21

Context within work

  • One of the most well known oratorio choruses of all time.
  • Closes part II of 'The Messiah.'
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Text and Text Setting

  • Mostly set syllabically - makes the rhythms really well articulated and lively.
  • Lots of repetition
  • In D major, major key: reinforces the joyful mood. Uses tonic and dominant throughout and primary chords, I, IV and V.
  • Uses texture and melody throughout: 'for the Lord God.' In octaves, powerful.
  • 'The kingdom of our Lord' - huge leap. Violin rising scale, ascending to heaven.
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Melody and Rhythm

  • Diatonic melody throughout. Very lively rhythms.

Idea 1: "Hallelujah"

  • Uses notes from the chord, no passing notes. 
  • Uses a lively quaver movement to accompany. 
  • The use of dotted rhythms also make it sound military and purposeful. 
  • The idea starts with a descending 4th.
  • Repeated note figures.
  • Easy to sing descending 4ths.
  • Syncopation in bar 7.

Idea 2: "For the Lord"

  • Begins with a scalic figure.
  • Bar 13: jumping octaves in soprano, which make it exciting.

Idea 3: "The Kingdom of this World"

  • Starts with a descending scale, rhythmically calmer. It's also conjunct.
  • Lower tessitura, to reflect descending scale and fall to earth.
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Melody and Rhythm 2

Idea 4: "He shall reign"

  • Fugal subject
  • Disjunct melody
  • There is a counter melody in the bass. The word "forever" used in the counter subject is based on the "hallelujah" rhythm.
  • Violin I uses a conjunct ascending melody just before, as if its ascending to heaven. 

Idea 5: "King of Kings"

  • Uses repeated notes
  • Raises its pitch with each repetition of phrase. Has a high tessiutura to reflect the power of God and heaven. 
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Tonality and Harmony

  • D major: this is a bright key because the strings resonate.
  • He uses lots of chords I and IV which give a plagal cadence - typical of religious choruses. This also establishes the key. It's declamatory.
  • Modulation to A major in Bar 8.
  • Back to D major in bar 17
  • Figure B: still in D major.
  • Modulation to A major again in Bar 25.
  • Back to D major in Bar 29. Most of the movement is either D or the dominant A.
  • After figure D (bar 41): fugal but no change in tonality. Only alternates between D and A.
  • In section E ("King of Kings"), Handel uses some different keys, such as the relative minor B. 
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Vocal Textures

  • The piece starts with a homophonic chorus, making it very declamatory.
  • "For the Lord God" is in octaves.
  • The strings interlock.
  • Letter A: back to homophonic chorus
  • Letter B (bar 22): combines the two ideas contrapuntally. The line "Hallelujah" acts as a countermelody to "For the Lord God". Also imitative.
  • Letter C: "The Kingdom of this World" is homophonic. 
  • Letter D: "For he shall reign" is a fugal texture. As we would expect, it starts monophonic and becomes contrapuntal. 
  • Letter E: "King of Kings" starts monophonically and other parts come in (two part texture)
  • Bar 69 (just after letter F): "he shall reign" uses imitative dialogue. This melodic idea was originally fugal, however now uses stretto as is coming in more quickly. This creates a sense of excitement. 
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Writing for instruments and relationship between v

  • The string and oboe parts often double the vocal lines, typical of Baroque, but they also imitate on occassion. 
  • "For the Lord God" uses doubling; all strings are playing in unison. 
  • Timpani and trumpets are not used very often. Trumpets fairly fan-fare like due to the arpeggiated shapes. Due to the nature of the trumpets at the time, they could only play the notes in the harmonic series. They had to play at a higher tessitura in order to increase their range. 
  • More independent writing towards the end of the movement, especially in the strings. There are lots of scalic flourishes. 
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  • Through composed structure (no repeating patterns), but is based on a few reccuring motifs. 
  • Intro: bars 1-3
  • Bars 4-7: Idea 1 in tonic, introduces "Hallelujah". It's repeated afterwards but in the dominant key. 
  • Bar 12: Idea 2: "For the Lord God" in the dominant key (A). It uses octave leaps at the end and repeats "Hallelujah". It's then repeated again in the tonic. 
  • Bar 22: Developmental, as Ideas 1 and 2 are used at the same time.
  • Bar 33: Idea 3: "For the Kingdom of this World". 
  • Bar 42: Lots of different melodic ideas, even uses Idea 4 as a fugal subject: "for he shall reign".
  • Bar 52: Idea 5: "King of Kings" with "Hallelujah" underneath gives it continuity and remind us of the "Hallelujah" counter melody used previously under Idea 2. 
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