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Area of Study 1:
Structure in
Western Classical
music 1600–1899
This first Area of Study takes in just under three hundred years of
music history during which time musical styles and conventions
changed radically.
In the course of this period, the invention and evolution of instruments
took place along with the formation of standard musical ensembles
such as the orchestra, string quartet and so on. Large scale musical
structures became standard too, such as the orchestral symphony, the
solo sonata, concerto for soloist and orchestra, as well as several large
scale vocal forms of opera, oratorio and cantata all became standard.
The three set works you will explore in this Area of Study are in
different musical forms, each one drawn from one of the three
principal musical periods:
The Baroque Era (c.1600-1730)
Set work 1: Chorus ‘And the Glory of the Lord’ from the oratorio
‘Messiah’ by G .F .Handel (1685-1750)
The Classical Era (c.1750-1830)
Set work- ‘Symphony no. 40 in G minor (1st movement)’ by
W. A. Mozart (1756-1791)
The Romantic Era (c.1800-1900)
Set work- ‘Piano prelude ‘Raindrop’ Prelude in Db’ major by
F. Chopin (1810-1849)
Area of Study 1: Western Classical Music 1600-1899
Chorus: ‘And the Glory of the Lord’
from the oratorio Messiah (1742)
In the study of this set work you will learn about:
the Baroque period and the main hallmarks of the style
some background to the life and works of G.F. Handel
how the chorus ‘And the Glory of the Lord’ from
constructed through an analysis of the music.
The Baroque era
The Baroque era (c.1600-1730) witnessed a new exploration of ideas and
innovations in the arts, literature and philosophy. Italy was at the hub of new
culture and led the way when it came to exploring new ideas and fashions.
The word ‘baroque’ comes from the Portuguese for ‘pearl’ and was used in
reference to the ornate architecture and elaborate gilded paintings, frescoes
and designs that covered the interior walls and ceilings of German and
Italian churches of the period. One particular aspect of this style that made
its way into the music was the emphasis on an ornamented or ‘decorative’
melody line.
The most well-known composers of the baroque period were Johann
Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), George Frederic Handel (1685-1759), Henry
Purcell (c.1659-1695) and Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741). There were many
others too, but the set work that you will be tested on in the exam focuses
on a work by George Frideric Handel.
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Handel was born in Germany in 1685 and from the age of 18
devoted his life to music. In 1707 Handel’s first serious opera
– Rodrigo - was performed. Success followed and in 1710 he
returned to Hanover to be appointed Kapellmeister to the
Elector. As part of this role, he was given permission to take
up a year’s leave in London, England. He spent the rest of his
life in this country and it was during this time that he wrote
some of his finest instrumental works, especially the overtures
and concerti grossi. When his employer, the Elector of Hanover,
succeeded the childless Queen Anne and became George I
of England, Handel became his Royal Composer. He 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.
George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Set work 1: ‘And the Glory of the Lord’
Features of the Baroque style
Before focusing on the set work, it is important to familiarise yourself with
some of the basic ‘hallmarks’ or features of music composed during the
Baroque period. Some general features include:
ornamented melodic parts
establishment of major/ minor key system replacing the old system of
diatonic (i.e. in the key) chords of I, IV V, and II and VI
‘basso continuo’ or figured bass – literally ‘a continuous bass part’. The
adoption of the ever constant keyboard instrument (harpsichord or organ)
playing a chordal support with the bass line, usually played by the cello
different musical textures, such as monophonic, homophonic and
Baroque orchestra based on the newly invented members of the violin
family with the ever present harpsichord supplying the harmonies.
Trumpets and horns and timpani drums were used. However, the use of
woodwind instruments at this time was not standard and varied from piece
to piece.
One ‘affection’ or mood usually prevailing.
dynamics being contrasted on two levels – loud and soft.
diatonic notes belonging to
or literally ‘of the key’
homophonic a musical
texture comprising a melody
part and some form of
monophonic a musical
texture of a single melodic
line with no accompaniment
polyphonic a musical texture
featuring two or more parts,
each having a melody line
and sounding together
What is an oratorio?
This fourth movement scored for a four part SATB choir plus orchestral
accompaniment is taken from a type of work known as an oratorio.
This form developed at roughly the same time as opera. It took its name from
St. Philip Neri’s oratory or ‘hall of prayer’ situated in Rome, where the first
oratorios were performed. These works were essentially made of operatic
forms such as the recitative, aria and chorus and acted out with scenery and
in full costume dress. The key difference between the opera and oratorio was
that the oratorio used only texts for the story taken from the bible. By the time
of Handel however, the ‘acting’ element to the oratorio had ceased.
Messiah is probably the most well known and loved of all oratorios. The
libretto is in three main parts telling the story of the birth, death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Part 1 consists of prophecies foretelling the annunciation (or coming of the
Messiah) with texts taken from the Old Testament as well as the story of His
birth from the New Testament.
Part 2 is the passion music of the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus, set
mainly to words from the Old Testament.
The final part of the work, Part 3, tells of His resurrection from the dead.
Area of Study 1: Western Classical Music 1600-1899
Structure of the oratorio in ‘Messiah’
In the structure, the oratorio closely follows the patterns of Italian opera,
through the use of recitatives, arias and choruses. Handel gave great
importance to the chorus to comment on the action of the drama, more so
than in opera where an aria would have served the purpose. The choruses
in ‘Messiah’ are powerful and contribute to the drama of the story. They are
a bit like the choruses of Greek drama with the emphasis on the group or
crowd commenting in a communal fashion. Handel had been influenced
by his early experience of German Lutheran choral music and subsequently
during his time in England he had been impressed with the choral tradition
of this country and ensured that the chorus featured prominently in his
‘And the Glory of the Lord’ is the fourth movement of the whole work and
is the first chorus. It follows the opening instrumental overture, then two
solo movements for tenor voice. In these opening movements we have an
example of each of the three main musical forms used in the oratorio, which
are taken from the Italian Opera.
In the recitative, the fundamental idea is to concentrate on getting the words
of the narration over with a minimal use of music. In the case of Messiah
, the scene is set and we are told of the coming of the lord in the words
‘prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for
our God’.
The aria is essentially a solo song which often reflects on a mood or
emotion. The music is much more elaborate to display the vocal qualities
and expertise of the singer to the full. In Messiah the mood of the aria is
uplifting and joyful: ‘Ev’ry valley shall be exalted’.
The aria leads directly into the first main chorus, ‘and the Glory of the Lord’.
Generally, the chorus has the function of summing up the action of the story
at that particular point in the drama. In Messiah, not much has happened
yet in the unfolding of this great story, so the chorus simply consolidates
the positivity of the mood in the preceding two movements and the looking
forward to the coming of the Lord. The text of the chorus sums up this
mood: ‘‘And the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it
together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it.’
Set work 1: ‘And the Glory of the Lord’
Listening: four ideas in ‘And the Glory of the Lord’
This chorus, like most of the other choruses in Messiah, is built up on a series of musical
ideas each relating to a separate line of the text. Handel’s practice was to state each idea as
a single line then to develop the idea in various ways. In this chorus, we can identify four
1 Listen to the music and follow the four ideas as follows.
1 And the glory of the Lord
This short theme has two characteristic features, namely the first three notes outline a
triad (A major) and the second feature is a stepwise scale ending. The setting of the words
is syllabic (one note per syllable).
2 Shall be revealed
This is built up using two one bar descending sequences and is a melismatic (several
notes to a syllable) setting of the word ‘revealed’.
3 And all flesh shall see it together
This is a repetitive idea consisting of three statements of the descending fourth idea.
Because it is repeated like this, it gives the impression of a firm statement!
4 For the mouth of the Lord has spoken it
The fourth idea is characterised by long (dotted minims) repeated notes. They have a
theatrical feel, ‘hammering home’ the conviction that ‘the Lord has spoken it’. To achieve
the strength of the statement, Handel doubles the part with tenors and basses!
All four of these short ideas are contrasted, so that when Handel combines them together,
each ‘melody’ with its own character and shape can be clearly heard.
2 Now follow the close analysis of this piece on pages 5-9 of the student book before
tackling the listening and appraising questions that follow on page 10.
Area of Study 1: Western Classical Music 1600-1899
Analysing the set work: ‘And the Glory of the Lord’
1 Listen to the recording on the audio CD and use your Anthology to follow the analysis
below bar-by-bar. Then answer the questions that follow on page 10.
Musical features
Keys used
Orchestral introduction in which the first two melodic ideas are stated.
The lively triple time dance tempo gives the feeling of one-in a bar.
Several features to note in the introduction:
The introduction ends with a perfect cadence in the tonic key of A
Note that, in terms of the role and function of the orchestral
accompaniment throughout the whole extract, the instruments double
the voice parts. The music throughout the extract too is driven on
A major
in the bass part.
A major
two, one bar descending sequences on the word ‘revealed’.
A major modulating at
using chords
At this point the first idea ‘and the glory’ is combined with the second
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interest and is a feature of the whole movement.
Several perfect
cadences in the
dominant key in this
Set work 1: ‘And the Glory of the Lord’
Listening and appraising questions: ‘And the Glory of the Lord’
Now that you have listened to ‘And the Glory of the Lord’ and studied the analysis on
pages 5-9, answer the listening and appraising questions that follow.
1 How is the joyful mood or ‘affection’ of this chorus achieved by Handel?
2 Name three different types of musical texture that feature in this chorus.
3 Name the four voice parts that perform this chorus.
4 What instruments accompany the singers?
5 How many different melodies are used by Handel in the chorus?
6 Identify two ways in which the last three bars of the extracts (‘hath spoken it’) is
given a dramatic setting.
7 Give bar numbers where you can hear:
a One voice part
b Two voice parts
c Three voice parts
d All four voice parts together.
8 How are the words set to the music in the main?
9 How is the word ‘revealed’ treated throughout the piece?
Try the following task in groups of four
PART 1: Call and response!
PART 2: Follow me!
3 one bar after player two, then player four, one bar after player 3. This should produce
some simple imitation!
PART 3: Building up the texture!
keeps playing this over and over until the last player has finished playing.
PART 4: The Grand Finale!
later by players three and four.
Build up the dynamics through this final section ending fortissimo!
Area of Study 1: Western Classical Music 1600-1899
Watch out!
Build Better Answers
When listening and appraising pieces of
music, it is important to give enough detail in
your response.
Question: Describe the use of rhythm in this
expressionistic piece.
(3 marks)
Typically, weak answers lack in real
musical detail. For example:
If a question has three or four marks assigned to
it, then you are expected to make three or four
different points.
Question: Describe the texture of music.
Answer: It is thin then becomes thicker.
This just tells us that the texture changes. A
better answer would be:
At the start of the extract there is
only a solo flute playing pianissimo. (creating
a monophonic texture). A few bars later
the texture and dynamics increase as the
strings enter providing an accompaniment
to the flute creating a fuller homophonic
Basic answers
Include the basic ideas:
Excellent answers
Develops the basic ideas above, adding more
detail and using more precise musical vocabulary
to fully describe the use of rhythm.
- they are fragmented and erratic with no
regular feeling of a beat.
patterns feature including sextuplets,
dotted, reverse dotted and double dotted
rhythms, triplets are heard against duplets,
constant syncopation etc.
rhythmic ideas in the music, creating a
sense of unrest and lack of order or chaos.
Set work 1: ‘And the Glory of the Lord’
Further listening
In addition to this set work, try to listen to other examples of a chorus movement found in Messiah
by G.F. Handel, for example:
And he shall purify
For unto us a Child is born
Glory to God
Surely he hath borne our griefs
He trusted in God
Hallelujah Chorus
Worthy is the Lamb
It would also be good to listen to other Baroque Choruses, such as those found in the music of J.S.
Bach (the chorus movements from St. John Passion, St. Matthew Passion) as well as many examples
in other sacred Oratorios by Handel.
Setting words to music
In the vocal set work, we saw how Handel uses four different short melodies for each
line of text and then combines them in different ways.
1. Try setting the following poem by Cara Lockhart Smith in any style you wish (rock,
pop, folk, classical) using a different melody for each line as shown.
Zebediah Zidcup
Puzzles in his head
Round and round and round they go
When he lies in bed
tune 1
tune 2
tune 3
tune 4
Zebediah Zidcup
Looking at the moon
Round and round and round it goes
Likewise does the sun
tune 1
tune 2
tune 3
tune 4
Likewise do the elephants
Likewise do the sheep
Round and round and round they go
Till they fall asleep
tune 4
tune 4
tune 3
tune 4
Write for a solo voice, duet, trio or quartet and try to show some of the techniques
that Handel uses: