This well-known da capo aria, for bass and trumpet obbligato˚, is a confirmation of the promised eternal life. As such it is joyous, energetic, and comforting. Again, Handel chooses the key of D major in order to exploit the capabilities of the trumpet effectively. Fanfare figures pervade the music, and the trumpet and bass are used largely antiphonally. The word ‘changed’ is often set to a long melisma, and the word ‘raised’ is almost always at a high pitch. For the B section, the trumpet is omitted and the music becomes more reflective. Significantly, the longest two melismas in the entire work are reserved for the word ‘immortality’ before the A section is recapitulated.


Aria   Bass

1 Corinthians XV, vv 52-53

[For] The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.


The penultimate scene focuses on the victory of the grave over death and sin.


Recitative  Counter Tenor

1 Corinthians XV, v 54

Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory.


The only duet in the entire work comes at this point with the two voices being allocated one of the questions each to begin with, but later sharing the text equally. The questions are very similar; to illustrate this, Handel uses two voices adjacent in pitch range and writes parts for them which are always extremely close together in pitch, and on occasions even cross over. This is not so much a conversation between two voices, but more like two people thinking the same thing out loud at the same time. The accompaniment is very sparse – for continuo only, and features a permanently moving, restless bass line for the most part. Eventually the movement blossoms into a hymn of praise for the chorus which is uplifting and confirmatory to begin with before developing further into a fugue. The rhetorical device ‘epizeuxis’ is used extensively throughout this duet (‘O death, O death, death where is thy sting?’) and again in the chorus, (‘But thanks, but thanks, thanks, thanks, thanks be to God’).



Counter Tenor/Tenor


1 Corinthians XV, vv 55-57

O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law, but thanks be to God who [which] giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


This aria, sometimes allocated to the counter tenor, is a triple time movement where, again, hemiolas, one of Handel’s trademarks, pervade the music. Surprisingly the aria is in a minor key, although the elegant phrases and arch shaped melodic lines draw attention away from this. The movement is really a duet between the singer and the violins with firsts and seconds playing in unison. The violins introduce the melody and then it is passed between singer and instrumentalists with the continuo alone accompanying the singer and providing all of the harmony. The movement ends with an instrumental coda.


Aria   Soprano

Romans VIII, vv 31, 33-34

If God be for us who can be against us? Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is [even] at the right hand of God, who makes [also maketh] intercession for us.


The final scene, consisting of a single extended movement encompassing two fugues, glorifies the Messiah as victim ascended to his Father in Heaven. This epic chorus is back in the key of D major so that the trumpets can be used to maximum effect. The conclusion of Messiah begins with weighty statements presented homophonically and forcefully by the chorus. These alternate with faster more staccato passages. At ‘Blessing and honour’ the first fugal section begins with tenors and basses in unison. A dense, polyphonic passage of imitative writing follows interrupted on occasions by strong, unanimous interjections of ‘blessing, honour, glory and power’. After this passage draws to a close, a more extended fugue takes over with the single word ‘Amen’. This is an emphatic and powerful conclusion. The subject starts in the basses and spreads upwards through the vocal parts. The polyphony is intense, but a brief respite to the singers is given in the shape of two short fugal passages for the strings before the full force erupts again.



Revelation V, vv 12, 9, 13

Worthy is the Lamb that was slain and hath [hast] redeemed us to God by his [Thy] blood, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory and blessing. Blessing and honour, glory and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne and unto the lamb for ever and ever. [Amen]

Aberdeen Bach Choir
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