picture of Frideric Handel
lab51 clef icon George Frideric Handel
Messiah
(Dublin, April 13, 1742)
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Listening Guide for Part III of Handel's Messiah

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45.) Disk 2, Track 15. Aria (Soprano 1), I know that my redeemer liveth, E major, Job 19: 25-26, I Corinthians 15: 20.
This aria for first soprano sets the mood for the celebration of the redemption of man through Christ. Is this a da capo aria? How many times does the opening motive of "I know that my redeemer liveth" appear in the aria? Does ever return in an exact repetition of the opening, or does it vary in its musical treatment?

46.) Disk 2, Track 16. Chorus, Since by man came death, A minor / C major, I Corinthians 15: 21-22
This chorus clearly depicts the central tenet of the Christian faith, that man's sins will be redeemed by Christ who was himself human. Handel sets the words "since by man came death" in a minor key (A minor) and in a slow tempo (grave), and the choir is unaccompanied except for the continuo. The next phrase "by man came also the resurrection of the dead," in contrast, seems to explode out of nowhere in a bright major key (C major) and fast tempo (allegro). This phrase is also accompanied by the strings of the orchestra, and the lively rhythms convey this greatest of wonders of the Christian faith. Handel then repeats this sequence, returning to the slow, somber, unaccompanied version for "For as in Adam all die," which "Even so in Christ shall be made alive" is given the explosive C-major, allegro, setting. St. Paul's balanced rhetoric of two pairs of contrasting phrases is perfectly matched in Handel's setting.

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47.) Disk 2, Track 17. Recitative, Behold, I tell you a mystery, I Corinthians 15: 51-52
Brief accompanied recitative.

48.) Disk 2, Track 17. Aria (Bass), The trumpet shall sound, D major, I Corinthians 15, 52-54
This piece opens with the only instrumental solo in Messiah, played by the trumpet. Can you determine whether the meter is triple or duple? Listen as before to determine whether you can hear two contrasting sections of music. Does the bass return to the beginning of the piece and repeat the first section as in a da capo aria? This is a dal segno ("from the sign") aria. Like a da capo, it is in ABA form, but rather than starting the piece over again from the beginning, here the performer returns to the "sign" in the music (the sign is found at the top of p. 274 in our score, at the voice's entrance in the A section), thereby avoiding the repetition of the opening ritornello. Does this make the aria a true da capo aria?

49.) Disk 2, Track 18. Recitative (Alto), Then shall be brought to pass, B flat major, I Corinthians 15: 34
Is this secco or accompagnato?

50.) Disk 2, Track 18. Duet (Alto and Tenor), O death, where is thy sting?, E flat major, I Corinthians 15: 55-56
In later versions of Messiah (i.e., not in the first performance) this was the only duet in the oratorio. The musical material comes from another of Handel's Italian duet cantatas. The next chorus continues with this material, but now presents it in all four voices. Notice the simple accompaniment in the duet and the steady rhythm of eighth notes maintained by the continuo instruments throughout much of the piece. This steady eighth-note pace in the continuo gives the piece momentum and is one of the hallmarks of the high baroque style.

51.) Disk 2, Track 19. Chorus, But thanks be to God, E flat major, I Corinthians 15: 57
This is an anthem chorus based largely on musical material presented first in the previous duet. There is some material sung by the chorus, however, that is not sung by the alto and tenor in the duet. Can you identify these passages? What is the texture in this chorus--is it homophonic, polyphonic, or both (and, if so, where?)?

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52.) Disk 2, Track 20. Aria (Soprano 2), If God be for us, G minor, Romans 8: 31, 33-34
This aria maintains one musical affect throughout and is thus quite different in its aim from a da capo aria. Look at how the ritornello and the various orchestral interludes mesh with the vocal line. Do the voice and the orchestral parts ever share material or are they given entirely unrelated lines? What happens at the end of the aria, right before the adagio section, and what does the singer do on the long, held-out "God"? This is a place where the singer can add a small cadenza if she wishes (as Emma Kirkby does on the Hogwood recording).

53.) Disk 2, Tracks 21 and 22. Chorus, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, D major, Revelations 5, 12-13
This last movement contains three choruses that serve as the counterpart to the four movements that opened Part Two. It contains homophonic and contrapuntal textures with consummate skill. The first section contains two contrasted ideas used in alternation; a largo (slow) serious statement of the opening words contrasts with the sprightly andante of "...to receive power and riches ...". The second section of this three-section chorus begins with the words "Blessing and honor..." in the tenor and bass parts. This is an example of a fugue chorus, and it uses an open texture with well spaced entries of the repeated-note fugal subject. Notice the late entry of the trumpets, which enter once all the voice have entered and the texture has become homophonic. This fugue provides the perfect contrast with the concluding "Amen," which also is a fugue. This final fugue is much more drawn out than "Blessing and honor" and begins simply with the basses accompanied by the continuo. Each of the voices enters the texture, after which the first violins pick up the fugue subject, again unaccompanied. The strings are thus brought into the texture until the entire orchestra and chorus enters together, and for the rest of the piece Handel weaves the fugue's subject through all the voices. English music historian, Charles Burney (1726-1814), described this final fugue: "The subject is divided, subdivided, inverted, enriched with counter-subjects, and made subservient to many ingenious and latent purposes of harmony, melody and imitation."

End of Part III.

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