Christmas with the Master Composers (Part 6) - And the Glory of the Lord from Handel's Messiah

in classical-music •  7 months ago Licensed in the Public Domain

Hello everyone! And welcome to part 6 of my series of analyses of great Christmas music. Today, I will discuss And the Glory of the Lord from Handel's Messiah. If you have not seen any of the previous articles, and would like to, there will be links provided at the end of the article. Now, without any further lolly-gagging, let's get into And the Glory of the Lord!


And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken it. Isaiah 40:5



I would say that this piece generally consists of three main sections: The introduction of the first 2 motifs (we'll call this section A); The introduction of motifs 3 and 4 (we'll call this section B); and the combination of the materials from the 2 prior sections (all 4 motifs) in invertible counterpoint.

I would not classify this piece with any conventional form. I would instead make the claim that it is more or less text-oriented and through-composed as a result.

Invertible Counterpoint

I will first address that I did not label harmonics in the analysis because I feel this work is centered around counterpoint, and trying to depict the harmonics in roman numerals would be pointless. The only places where harmonics are easily labeled would be cadences, and those are rather obvious (I-IV-Cad6/4-V-I)

First of all, if you want an incredible example of invertible counterpoint, look at the finale to Mozart's Jupiter symphony. After looking at this work from the Messiah, it is quite obvious that Mozart studied Handel in depth. Within the Jupiter's finale, Mozart utilizes 5 motifs, combining them in 5 part invertible counterpoint at the end of the movement.

I will now quickly describe each of the Motifs. I will also make the point that it is quite ingenious of Handel to give each line of text its own associated motif.

Motif Color Key and Associated Text

Motif 1 - Green - and the glory of the Lord
Motif 2 - Yellow - shall be reveal'd
Motif 3 - Red - and all flesh shall see it together
Motif 4 - Blue - for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it

This concept of assigning different lines of text different motifs really reminds me of composers (starting with Wagner I believe) assigning themes to different characters and ideas in both opera and film score.

This work really is incredible in its use of invertible counterpoint. Right away, we are introduced to two motifs, and I am especially impressed by how he dovetails motif 2 on top of itself, and utilizes it to modulate from A major to E major.

I will admit that I am sad that I could not include the accompaniment in certain places. Such as when the basses go up to the High D and down to the A in the second section. You can hear a really cool scale in the Bass. But most of the accompaniment is simply doubling the voices. Make sure to point your ear towards the accompaniment though, there might be some figures which you find quite cool.


Notice how Motif 2 enters in the different voices on top of itself, and how it leads us to E major. I would also point out how Handel ingeniously places it on top of Motif 1 (green) in two different voices. This is our first taste of invertible counterpoint.

We then get these two motifs tossed around between the different voices, until he comes to a homophonic conclusion to this first section. As the director of one of the choirs I sing in said, "This is like the period at the end of the sentence." I am quite fond of that analogy. I would also point out the use of the Hemiola for the cadence. This is a common trick used by composers in movements in 3. It is quite exciting, and I have observed it in composers ranging from Handel to Tchaikovsky.


Motifs 3 and 4 are no less interesting than 1 and 2. Motif 3 is quite comparable to Motif 2 in that it easily dovetails, and it helps keep fluidity within the section. Motif 4 is much more stationary than the other motifs.

At first, I considered the fourth motif a let down considering that it basically consists of a pedal point. But, I have found it to be quite interesting how much he uses that one pitch to drive the motion of the piece forward. It seems as if all of the other motifs revolve around this one stationary foundation created by the fourth motif.

Finally, we get a combination of the 4 different motifs, and how glorious it is.

Here is a full video of my analysis of the work:

Previous Analyses

The Nutcracker Suite
Miniature Overture (12/4)
March (12/6)
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy (12/8)

The Messiah
Overture (12/5)
Comfort Ye. . .Ev'ry Valley (12/7)
And the Glory of the Lord (12/9)

Upcoming Analyses

Trepak from the Nutcracker Suite (12/10)


Thanks for reading this! This work really demonstrates the genius of Handel, especially considering that it was probably written in about half a day (the whole first part of the Messiah was composed in 6 days. It has taken me longer to analyze it than it took him to write it). Before I had copied and analyzed this (That took a while. I need to step up my game in copying speed. It is currently December 7th and I have a busy week coming up), I did not really have an appreciation for this piece despite the fact that I am singing it. This piece was just another bump in the road to getting through this analysis. But, I have really grown to love this chorus. It is now definitely one of my favorites! Please remember that feedback is always appreciated. I can be an idiot. Please point it out if that was the case. Hopefully I will see you tomorrow!

(Note) In order to encourage meaningful feedback on the platform, I will check comment trails of users who leave superficial comments (ie "Awesome post," or "Upvoted.") and will mute any users who exhibit a pattern of leaving "spammy" comments.

Authors get paid when people like you upvote their post.
If you enjoyed what you read here, create your account today and start earning FREE STEEM!
Sort Order:  

Resteemed, your post will appear in the next curation with a SBD share for you!

Your post has been supported and upvoted from the Classical Music community on Steemit as it appears to be of interest to our community. We also support jazz and folk music posts!

If you enjoy our support of the #classical-music community, please consider a small upvote to help grow the support account!

You can find details about us below.

The classical music community at #classical-music and Discord. Follow our community accounts @classical-music and @classical-radio or follow our curation trail (classical-radio) at SteemAuto!

Delegation links: 10SP, 25SP, 50SP, 75SP, 100SP, 150SP, 200SP, 250SP, 500SP, 1000SP

@tipu curate

Upvoted 👌 (Mana: 10/20 - need recharge?)

Congratulations @cmp2020! You have completed the following achievement on the Steem blockchain and have been rewarded with new badge(s) :

You distributed more than 48000 upvotes. Your next target is to reach 49000 upvotes.

You can view your badges on your Steem Board and compare to others on the Steem Ranking
If you no longer want to receive notifications, reply to this comment with the word STOP

To support your work, I also upvoted your post!

Vote for @Steemitboard as a witness to get one more award and increased upvotes!