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Lecture 19

MUSIC 140A Lecture Notes - Lecture 19: Johann Christoph Pepusch, Oratorio, Melisma

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Robert W Inter

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CHAPTER 8 (cont.)
English Oratorio
Italian opera was one of England’s major imports
Handel introduced his first Italian opera to England in 1711
Ballad opera - popular tunes worked into a story about common folk who poked fun at
the pretensions of upper class
The Beggar’s Opera (1728) - Text by John Gay, arr. By John Christopher Pepusch
Pickpockets, prostitutes, jailbirds: ridiculed pomposity of Italian opera and
political party in power
Handel created English oratorio - musical entertainment on a sacred subject (usually
biblical) puts together solo recitative and aria of Italian opera with rich passages for full
Handel might’ve planned to stage them, but Bishop of London ruled it profanation
of sacred subjects
His oratorios share dramatic stories
Plots usually based on Old Testament
Exception was best known oratorio: Messiah
Handel: Part II of Messiah (1742)
Wrote entire work in 3 weeks
Great success in Dublin, failed in London
Identifies Christ with the long-awaited Messiah
Prologue reviews major Old Testament prophecies about coming of Messiah
Ends with announcement of Christ’s birth
Second part shows Christ’s suffering, rejection, resurrection, ascent to heaven,
triumph of Christianity on earth
Third part is epilogue, promise of eternal life
Musical forms used: recitatives, arias (songs), choruses
Used throughout his career in operas
In Messiah, chorus served more dramatic purpose
Saves recitative for special situations
Flexible with forms than in his operas
First choral passage:
Three sections
Dotted rhythms in orchestra - French overture form from Lully and Rameau
Homophonic structure, minor
Back to dotted rhythms in orch with chorus keeping homophony, major
Second choral passage:
Fugal in minor offset by stepwise, ascending motion
Third choral passage:
Major mode
“Astray” with melisma
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