George Frideric Handel: And He Shall Purify
Messiah Part I
George Frideric Handel’s Messiah has remained one of the composer’s most beloved works. Incredibly, Handel completed this 260-page oratorio in just 24 days during the summer of 1741. The scriptural text was compiled by Charles Jennens, with the source being the King James Bible. The first performance of Messiah was on 13th April 1742, to celebrate Easter.
Initially the oratorio garnered a lukewarm reception from audiences, however the work began to gain popularity over some years, with it now being the go-to work to perform during the Easter period. During this new Messiah exploration on Classicalexburns, blogs will be posted regularly to cover all of the pieces involved in making up this much-loved oratorio.
And He shall purify the sons of Levi, that they may offer unto the Lord an
Offering in righteousness.
(Malachi 3: 3)
Using the full choral forces, And He Shall Purify is built as an exciting fugue. Based largely on the phrase ‘And He Shall Purify’, Handel uses melismatic movement to create different vocal lines. Starting with the upper voices, the principal theme is set out. The lower voices then start the fugue as the chorus begins intertwining together. The quick pace of this section adds to the drama of the music as the voices are buzzing around.
The orchestra takes an accompaniment role in this movement, with them often just harmonically supporting the chorus. This short chorus movement concludes with the voices uniting after much time in fugue, which makes quite the statement as the oratorio moves into Scene III.
Ⓒ Alex Burns