Handel, Shubert, Giuseppe Verdi

Handel's "There were shepherds abiding in the field" and "Hallelujah Chorus" from the oratorio Messiah

Based on biblical texts, this Handel’s work was an extended musical work like opera. However, it is performed without costumes or scenery, and the performers have no specific roles. The scene “the annunciation to the shepherds” Handel took from the Gospel of Luke: “There were shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night” (Handel, 1741).This phrase is “secco”, notably complimented by the continuo. It is solo soprano and it is recitative. Handel emphasizes lines by expanded coloraturas. Handel uses both homophon and polyphon instrumental background to convey the context of text in a best way. The orchestra scoring is: strings, oboes and basso continuo of violoncello, harpsichord, bassoon and violone. Timpani highlight the closing movement Part II, Hallelujah. Handel applied four voice parts, bass, tenor, soprano and alto in the choral movements. During Hallelujah Handle uses melisma, multiple repletion of word Hallelujah. Handle uses a cantus firmus on prolonged repetitive notes to underline majesty and grandeur of the scene.

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Shubert’s Art Song “Erlkonig”

Franz Schubert was a genius of a bohemian art, dedicated himself completely to the arts. The Erlkönig is a tragic story of a son and a father, riding through stormy night. The bass part depicts the galloping horse. The piano’s furious stamping triplet octaves strikingly illustrate this stormy scene. A gloomy and ominous melody intensifies the impression of approaching danger. Schubert made the father's phrases are pitched in the lower register; the lines played in legato when the father is soothing his son. The child’s voice played in the upper register, conveying innocence in face of the fear. The piano vigorous sound is fading into a soft and insinuating accompaniment of the Erlkönig’s voice. After that abruptly the fierce piano sound returns to accompany the boy’s cry: “Mein Vater, mein Vater! (Shubert, 1782). Schubert accompanies the last phrases with an outbreak of shadowy and threatening chords, as the Erlkönig attempts to hurt the child. The child’s last words are the highest sound, demonstrating the culmination of child’s terror as the Erlkönig touched him. The child cries: “My father, my father! ...  He is grabbing me now! The Erlkönig has hurt me!” (Shubert, 1782). Underneath phrases there is a Neapolitan chord gradually being tonicized in the higher measure. The bass part adds an extra tension and anxiety before silent hang-over as the boy’s death was discovered. The phrase: “in his arms the child” sounds almost like an amen at the church mass.

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Giuseppe Verdi, opera Falstaff

Falstaff is a last opera written Giuseppe Verdi; it is a comedic libretto in three acts. In this opera Verdi realized completely and explicitly his understanding of dramatic effect. In the beginning of the opera, he skips an overture and threw the audience immediately into the action, in which Falstaff is accused in beating Dr. Caius’s servants. For Verdi dramatic continuity was the beginning and the end of the play. Therefore, in his opinion, nothing should interrupt or slow down the ongoing story. Verdi’s arias, for example song to Alice “Quand’ero paggio”, which in English means: “When I was a pageboy” is about living human being and their relationships. The sweet duet of young lovers Fenton and Nannetta was abruptly interrupted with comic scene and orchestra music underlined the effect. Verdi does not sacrificed by the comic effect to solo or duets. Verdi keeps the action on edge; he fills the music with immense energy underlining the craziness of action by fierce bits. Verdi was the first composer who preferred dramatic correspondence a performer to the role before the musical talent. His heroes have to be interesting, emotional and distinctive characters. His music conveys the character of opera absolutely, not missing a single detail; the orchestra almost echoes the action but not singers. Verdi’s singers and orchestra are equal partners.

Schoenberg’s 20th century cantata “A Survivor from Warsaw”

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In his cantata Schoenberg illustrates a fictional manifestation of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and applies textual and musical devices to convey the turmoil of traumatic memory. In the cantata the equality of music and recitative received the absolute form. The performer begins his narration without music “I cannot remember everything... “. The music is used only for underlining dramatic effect. As a narrator’s voice rises the music became faster and higher. In especially dramatic moments music almost muffles the narrators voice. Music conveys a sound-manifestation of psychological phenomenon that comprises both literal and abstract representations of traumatic memory.  With entering Feldwebel, trumpet fanfares underline his presence. During the action Jews are separated and violins represent weeping motives. When the Nazis count Jewish bodies the music quicken (accelerando).  While images recess from the memory, the music represent some kind of waves of memory; such impression is possible through dramatic exchange between textural, timbral and dynamic elements.  Musical Leitmotivs intensify the impression of recollection of horrible events; the trumpet reveille completes the impression. The recitative and music go in synchronization as narrator is re-experiencing his horrors in “real time”.  Absolutely vivid concluding element when the narrator’s expressionistic Sprechstimme turns into the men’s choral singing of the Shema Yisroel

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