Showing posts with label Oratorio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oratorio. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

MESSIAH of HANDEL - An Example For the Charitable Engagement of an Artist in the 18th Century

Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel Deutsch: Ge...
Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel Photo credit: Wikipedia)
With his "Messiah" Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759) created his most widely acclaimed and most popular composition. No other oratorio has received so much general admiration. One of the reasons is certainly the amazing richness of content, the depth and variety of the musical expression and in the unprecedented grandness of the artistic creation.

Charles Jennens, a well-known art lover, compiled the textual part, which in itself is a masterpiece in form and construction, from quotations of the original, English text of the Bible. To what extent Handel himself was involved in the compilation is not documented but the influence on the lyrics' character is undeniable.

The storyline is developed along a line of images that depict the life, passion and the resurrection of the Saviour, who is announced in the Old Testament.

English: Portrait of Charles Jennens
Portrait of Charles Jennens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Assuming the actual content as known, it uses the names of the solo parts, marked only with the voice they are written in, and thus avoids the introduction of any real person that could lessen the sublime effect of the religious text.

According to his own words, Handel composed the music to the "Messiah" in London in only 24 days. He started August 22nd and finished on September 14th, 1741. As the oratorio was firstly composed for Dublin, it was adapted to rather modest conditions Handel had to meet there. The choirs were written for just four voices and the orchestra limited to a smaller range of instruments than was common in London.

After Handel's arrival in Dublin on November 18th, he organized twelve concerts within the next 5 months, and let the much-awaited new oratorio be announced in April, to be performed in support of three different charity institutions.

The final rehearsal taking place on April 8th, Handel himself conducted the first performance on April 13th, 1742 at the Dublin "New Music Hall". The success of the oratorio turned into a triumph for the composer. The first London performance took place in March 1743 at the Covent Garden theatre, after many changes and additions to the score. Handel organized during the years of 1749 to 1758 annual performances at Easter in support of a London orphanage, these were continued with undiminished success even after his death. The first German performance took place at a private concert in Hamburg in 1772.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL and the Hallelujah Chorus

George Frederick Handel (23 February 1685 - 14 April 1759) was a German-English Baroque composer who was born in Halle, Germany (Halle is the largest city in the German State of Saxony-Anhalt.) Handel moved to Hamburg in 1703 after being unsatisfied as the organist at the local Protestant cathedral. He got a position as violinist and harpsichordist in the orchestra of the opera house. In 1706 Handel travelled to Italy at the invitation of Gian Gastone de' Medici, whom Handel had met in 1703/1704 in Hamburg. In 1710, Handel moved to Hanover Germany to become Kapellmeister to George, Elector of Hanover, who would become King George I of Great Britain in 1714. In that year Handel moved back to London and stayed there for 35 years with yearly salary for the rest of his life.

Handels was influenced by his father and the duke: Handel's father wanted him to become a lawyer and have nothing to do with music or playing an instrument however a clavichord was smuggled in with muffled strings so his father would not be able to hear him play. His father took him to Weissenfels where his playing on the chapel organ attracted the attention of the duke. The duke was amazed by Handel's abilities in the chapel that he insisted that Handel is allowed to study music. The duke thought it would be a crime to rob the world of such genius.

Handel wrote many works including:

Operas eg. Araphina which brought him fame in Italy in 1709 and Rinaldo which brought him fame in London in 1711
Dramatic Oratorios eg The Messiah in 1741 which is famous all around the world and Athalia in 1742 which is famous in Dublin
100 Cantatas and 20 Chamber Duets
Church Music eg. Gloria Patri (1707), Funeral Anthem (1707)
Orchestra-eg. Water Music (1717),
Instrumental And Chamber Music ~ Including 9 Trio Sonatas, 5 Concerti for Orchestra.
Vocal Music eg. Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne (1713)

An oratorio is a musical play based on a bible story or scripture. It uses choruses, ensembles and solos to tell a story and usually, an organ or orchestra accompanies the singers. Oratorios are not acted out with costumes or props. The Messiah is an oratorio. You go along and listen to it or sing along to it near Christmas time. This is because The Messiah is about Christs' life and Christmas Day is his birthday.

The Messiah:
In 1741 Handel began putting Charles Jennens' Biblical libretto to music, and 24 days later Messiah was complete (August 22 - September 14). The Messiah was written because Handel was discouraged with his opera writing and after being sent libretto from Charles Jennings Handel felt inspired and immediately began setting the work to music. Legend says that when Handel had finished his work, a servant of his heard him exclaim "Hallelujah Chorus," "I did think I did see all of the heaven before me and the great God Himself!"

The Hallelujah Chorus:
A chorus is a musical ensemble of singers who perform the non-soloist parts of an opera or musical theatre production (or sometimes an oratorio). Handel was known as the master of the oratorio where no composer before or after has surpassed his abilities in writing them. The Hallelujah Chorus was typical of his writing because he wrote 27 oratorios in the later part of his life and wrote many operas which indicate he enjoyed composing music which consists of instruments and singing.

The Hallelujah Chorus is a typical piece of music written in the Baroque period because of the religious text used and the use of English to please the middle class. Religious text is found throughout the Hallelujah Chorus including in bars 36-51 where the text states that "He shall reign forever and ever." referring to Christ. Another thing that makes the Hallelujah Chorus typical of the Baroque period is the way Handel used a mix of homophonic, polyphonic and a small amount of monophonic texture eg. Bars 33-41 of the Hallelujah Chorus is homophonic and bars 41-51 are polyphonic.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

HAYDN's "Creation"

No other work has contributed to the fame of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) like his oratorio "The Creation", however, no other expresses the inner wealth of the composer, the greatness of his art, in such an outright manner. To establish Haydn's immortality his symphonies and quartets would have already been enough, however, without "The Creation" we would not able to estimate the whole scope of his talent, because this composition does not only exceed his usual range of instrumental music, but it led the composer to entirely new ways of the musical development of thought and structure.

Haydn was one of the first composers to write ...
Haydn was one of the first composers to write a pitch
change as well as a written out solo for the timpani
in a symphonic movement.
(Photo credit: 
The poetic voyage in "The Creation" from pole to pole of the visible and invisible world makes it an especially complex oratorio, Haydn has solved the challenging demands he had to face with incomparable confidence and added unexpected and peculiar characteristics to the poetic representation, in which also humour has its place. In Haydn's interpretation the psychic and mysterious character of the act of creation steps back behind the joyous gratitude to the creator. The music unfolds an unsurpassable inventiveness.

The composition is especially admired for its form. Only a composer like Haydn could join the immense plenitude of the subjects and scenes so clearly arranged, comprehensively and, nevertheless, impressively. The artistic freedom and beauty of "The Creation", which have inspired many artists since its first performance, will be continually considered exemplary for music.

As can be proven by his early oratorio "Il ritorno di Tobia", Haydn was mainly influenced by the Italian school, he had already encountered Händel's new art in Vienna, "The Creation" owes, but in London it had effected him with all its splendour. During his second stay, Haydn received the text for "The Creation", which a poet, unknown in the history of literature called Lidley (more recent research claims it was written anonymously) allegedly had written for Händel, who had probably rejected the text because of its length, however, it was composed in the three act order typical to Händel's oratorios. Not until his return to Vienna did Haydn decide on the composition, at the instigation of the well-known Händel-admirer Baron van Swieten, who amateurishly translated the English original himself. The composition took the three years from 1795-98, a strenuous endeavour of which he complained over and over again, both orally and in writing.

The success of the, at first, privately performed oratorio - on the 29th and 30th April at the Schwartzenberg palace, then on the 19th January and 19th March at the Viennese Burgtheater - was unequalled. "The Creation" brought to the composer constant honour, within and outside Germany it was performed over and over again and highly celebrated. Church music took over single choir parts, German "Kurrenden" (boys choirs) sang them until well over the middle of the 19-th century. Another remarkable effect is also of special interest: "The Creation" inspired the founding of many choir clubs and music institutes, among them the "Allgemeine Schweizer Musikgesellschaft". Haydn's composition entailed an increase in the performance of the oratorios by Händel, an independent German oratorio school evolved, which could finally overcome the rule of the Italian style.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

FRIEDRICH HANDELS Oratorio "Israel in Egypt"

Portrait of Georg Friedrich Händel Deutsch: Ge...
Georg Friedrich Händel (1733)
(Photo credit: 
"Israel in Egypt" stands out among the oratorios composed by Georg Friedrich Handel (1685-1759) with its rich use of the choir and an extraordinary scope of tone painting.

Most oratorios by Handel differ from those of his predecessors and contemporaries in the musically and dramatically importance given to the choir, but with "Israel" this has reached an even higher level.

No doubt, this oratorio contains many excellent solo songs, but the overall impression of the composition is determined by the impressive choral scenes.

As these already are examples for the highest artistic creativity, the admiration still increases if you know the original material used by Handel for his composition and note the superior finesse with which he introduced parts that create dramatic tension.

Also the strong, graphic character of Handel's work, his love for nature, the most important source of his inspiration, are nowhere more strongly expressed than in "Israel in Egypt". Using an elated tone painting, in particular the representation of the Egyptian plagues offers an excellent motive for a naturalistic but never trivial representation.

"Israel in Egypt" is close to the very successful "Messiah", with the similar use of the figure of a narrator who links the historical images with short recitals, likewise the fact that the whole text is taken directly from the Bible.

Georg Friedrich Handel started composing "Israel in Egypt" on October 1st, 1738 and completed it on November 1st of the same year.

The first performance on April 4th, 1739, was unkindly received, as the large amount of parts for the choir, which were utilised to express the ideas and actions of the composition, was not understood. Händel, if the reports of different contemporaries can be believed, was deeply struck for the first time in his life and tried to meet the taste of the time by interposing solo songs and organ music in a new version.

Only in the 19-th century, the commitment of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847) could lend a certain popularity to Handel's oratorio.