George Frideric Handel: Thou Art Gone Up On High

Messiah Part II


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. 


The Lyrics


Though art gone up on high; Thou hast led captivity captive, and received gifts for men; yea, even from 

Thine enemies, that the Lord God might dwell

among them. 


(Psalm 68:18)



The Music

Originally written as a bass air, Thou Art Gone Up on High is often performed in the modern day by alto soloists. The text is taken from Psalm 68, and the air opens the fifth scene of the second part of the Messiah. The lilting 3/4 time keeps the rhythms driving through the orchestra as the chosen voice soars above. As with many of the pieces in the oratorio, Thou Art is also laden with melismatic movement for the vocalist. Handel writes intricate melodic lines between the voice and the upper violins, who musically flirt with one another throughout. After the final line is sung the orchestra leads this piece to its conclusion. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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You might also enjoy… Project Messiah


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