The accompaniment to this aria is very distinctive, with wide leaps across almost two octaves over very short phrases in the violin, and chords from the continuo on the final quaver and first beat of each bar. This rhythm gives the music a jerky, almost lumpy – one might even say a ‘broken’ – feel to it. The word ‘dash’ is frequently set to a note high up in the tenor’s range, colouring it with a certain distinctive timbre.   


Aria   Tenor

Psalm II, v 9

Thou shalt break [bruise] them with a rod of iron, thou shalt dash [and break] them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.


This chorus – probably the most universally recognisable of all of Handel’s compositions – brings a triumphant end to Part 2, proclaiming God as an invincible king-eternal, having triumphed over those who rejected his message. The use of the entire orchestra brings these words vividly to life. Again, the movement is in the key of D Major to suit the trumpets. (Trumpets and timpani were associated with the presence of royalty in Handel’s time.) The music, which contains a number of prominent devices, speaks for itself: there are fanfare figures (‘Hallelujah’); a short reflective passage (‘The kingdom of the Lord is become...’); strong passages of homophony and unanimity which contrast with excited passages of chattering and fragmented polyphony; a short fugal episode (‘and he shall reign’); rising sequences where both pitch and excitement are continually ramped up (‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’); and a triumphant coda. Handel freely uses the rhetorical device known as ‘copia’ here, as he continually changes which syllable of the word ‘Hallelujah’ receives natural musical emphasis. (HAllelujah / HalleLUjah / HalLEluJAH all feature.) He also uses the device known as ‘commoratio’ where a phrase (‘the kingdom of this world’) seems to linger and then repeats itself in a reflective or exaggerated way, and the device of ‘noema’, used in previous movements.



Revelation XIX, v 6

Revelation XI, v 15

Revelation XIX, v 16

Hallelujah, [Alleluia,] for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, hallelujah. The kingdom[s] of this world is [are] become the kingdom[s] of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever. KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. [Hallelujah.]




Scene 13 alludes to the promise of bodily resurrection and the redemption from the fall of Adam. This beautiful and well-known aria, in a warm major key, exudes comfort at the promise of eternal life and cushions the listener in waves of rising, sequential, optimistic phrases. The soprano voice, used as a representation of the angel in the nativity movements, now leads us into the afterlife. Once the soprano has entered, the violin melody (firsts and seconds playing in unison) alternates between countermelody and silence (leaving much of the accompaniment to the continuo alone), and links the soprano phrases with imitations of the vocal line. The rhythm, with its lilting three-in-a-bar structure is frequently treated with hemiolas. Yet again, the omission of the word ‘for’ at the start makes the text more direct and assertive. The movement of worms is described in the movement of the violins at the point where they are mentioned with ‘wriggling’ dotted quavers and semiquavers across the same two notes for five consecutive bars.


Aria   Soprano

Job XIX, vv 25-26

1 Corinthians XV, v 20

[For] I know that my redeemer liveth and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though [after my skin] worms destroy this body yet in my flesh shall I see God; for [but] now is Christ risen from the dead, [and become] the first fruits of them that sleep [slept].


Handel divides these two lines of text into four short statements. The first clause of each line is initially slow, subdued, cautious, sustained and in a minor key, but, using the rhetorical device of ‘amplificatio’ again, Handel repeats it, but at a higher pitch and a louder volume, to heighten its effect. The second clause of each line is lively, fast, joyous, articulated and in a major key. In the final line of music Handel uses a different rhetorical device – that of ‘epizeuxis’, where the words ‘shall all’ are immediately repeated within the sentence, with double note values to draw emphasis to them.



1 Corinthians XV, vv 21-22

[For] Since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.


As we move into Scene 14, the next three movements (which take their text from another of the few sequential passages of biblical text, namely Chapter 15 of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians) form a sequence of text which was used in exactly the same way by Brahms in his ‘Ein Deutsches Requiem’. The end of this recitative contains a fanfare figure which pre-empts the movement which follows.


Recitative   Bass

1 Corinthians XV, vv 51-52

Behold I tell [shew] you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet [trump].

Aberdeen Bach Choir
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