Musical Form – Baroque Era: Oratorio

An oratorio is a large musical composition for orchestra, choir, and soloists. Like an opera, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias. However, opera is musical theatre, while oratorio is strictly a concert piece—though oratorios are sometimes staged as operas, and operas are sometimes presented in concert form. In an oratorio there is generally little or no interaction between the characters, and no props or elaborate costumes. A particularly important difference is in the typical subject matter of the text. Opera tends to deal with history and mythology, including age-old devices of romance, deception, and murder, whereas the plot of an oratorio often deals with sacred topics, making it appropriate for performance in the church. Protestant composers took their stories from the Bible, while Catholic composers looked to the lives of saints, as well as to Biblical topics. Oratorios became extremely popular in early 17th-century Italy partly because of the success of opera and the Catholic Church’s prohibition of spectacles during Lent. Oratorios became the main choice of music during that period for opera audiences.

Handel’s Messiah

Part I Scene 1: Isaiah’s prophecy of salvation 1. Sinfony (instrumental) 2. Comfort ye my people (tenor) 3. Ev’ry valley shall be exalted (tenor) 4. And the glory of the Lord (chorus) Scene 2: The coming judgment 5. Thus saith the Lord of hosts (bass) 6. But who may abide the day of His coming (alto) 7. And he shall purify the sons of Levi (chorus) Scene 3: The prophecy of Christ’s birth 8. Behold, a virgin shall conceive (alto) 9. O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion (alto and chorus) 10. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth (bass) 11. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light (bass) 12. For unto us a child is born (chorus) Scene 4: The annunciation to the shepherds 13. Pifa (“pastoral symphony”: instrumental) 14a. There were shepherds abiding in the fields (soprano) 14b. And lo, the angel of the Lord (soprano) 15. And the angel said unto them (soprano) 16. And suddenly there was with the angel (soprano) 17. Glory to God in the highest (chorus) Scene 5: Christ’s healing and redemption 18. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion (soprano) 19. Then shall the eyes of the blind be opened (soprano) 20. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd (alto and soprano) 21. His yoke is easy (chorus)

Part II
Scene 1: Christ’s Passion
22. Behold the Lamb of God (chorus)
23. He was despised and rejected of men (alto)
24. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows (chorus)
25. And with his stripes we are healed (chorus)
26. All we like sheep have gone astray (chorus)
27. All they that see him laugh him to scorn (tenor)
28. He trusted in God that he would deliver him (chorus)
29. Thy rebuke hath broken his heart (tenor or soprano)
30. Behold and see if there be any sorrow (tenor or soprano)
Scene 2: Christ’s Death and Resurrection
31. He was cut off (tenor or soprano)
32. But thou didst not leave his soul in hell (tenor or soprano)
Scene 3: Christ’s Ascension
33. Lift up your heads, O ye gates (chorus)
Scene 4: Christ’s reception in Heaven
34. Unto which of the angels (tenor)
35. Let all the angels of God worship Him (chorus)
Scene 5: The beginnings of Gospel preaching
36. Thou art gone up on high (soprano)
37. The Lord gave the word (chorus)
38. How beautiful are the feet (soprano)
39. Their sound is gone out (chorus)
Scene 6: The world’s rejection of the Gospel
40. Why do the nations so furiously rage together (bass)
41. Let us break their bonds asunder (chorus)
42. He that dwelleth in heaven (tenor)
Scene 7: God’s ultimate victory
43. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron (tenor)
44. Hallelujah (chorus)

Part III
Scene 1: The promise of eternal life
45. I know that my Redeemer liveth (soprano)
46. Since by man came death (chorus)
Scene 2: The Day of Judgment
47. Behold, I tell you a mystery (bass)
48. The trumpet shall sound (bass)
Scene 3: The final conquest of sin
49. Then shall be brought to pass (alto)
50. O death, where is thy sting (alto and tenor)
51. But thanks be to God (chorus)
52. If God be for us, who can be against us (soprano)
Scene 4: The acclamation of the Messiah
53. Worthy is the Lamb (chorus)
Amen (chorus)

Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Part 1

Part I Introduction (Elijah) – As God of Israel liveth Ouverture Chorus – Help Lord Quartet Recit. – The deep affords no water (3,5,7,8) Duet with chorus – Zion spreadeth her hands for aid (3,5) Recit (Obadiah) – If with all your hearts Chorus – Yet doth the Lord see it not Recit (Angel) – Elijah! get thee hence (Florence Quivar) Double quartet -For He shall give His angels (2,3,4,5,6,7,8,) Recit (Angel): Now Cherith’s book is dried up (Florence Quivar) Air (Bonney): What have I to do with thee – Recit (Elijah, Widow) Give me thy son!


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