It is nearly impossible to go a day and not hear a piece of music. Music has been around for many many years and greatly impacts our world. It has not been the same forever though. Just as times change, so does the style and characteristics of the music written within those times. This can be perceived by observing two different works from two different periods of time. The two works I chose to compare and contrast are Handel’s Messiah and Smetana’s The Moldau. Along with the similarities and differences between the works themselves, there are also some between their composer’s styles and of the periods they were written in.
The first work, the Messiah, was composed by German born George Frideric Handel. Handel wrote suites, organ concertos, concerti grossi, but he is known mainly for his Italian operas and his English oratorios. An oratorio is similar to an opera in the sense that they both feature a chorus, orchestra, and have a plot. However, an oratorio does not have sets or costumes. Handel’s most famous oratorio, Messiah, is actually void of a plot and, like many of his other oratorios, is based off of the Bible (Kamien 141-143).
The Messiah premiered in 1742 in Dublin, Ireland. It was so popular there that men were not allowed to bring swords and women could not wear hoopskirts to the concert hall. This was in order to make room for more people to attend. However, its first performance in London was not nearly as popular due to religious disagreements on showing a Christian based work in a theater. It took about ten years, but eventually Messiah became popular in London (Kamien 143).
The Messiah has three parts. The first part is about the prophecy and birth of Jesus. Part II expresses the salvation through Jesus’ death and how some people refuse God’s gift. The last part focuses on the eternal life that is available through Jesus Christ. Together the three parts have over fifty movements. Its most famous movement, the Hallelujah Chorus is found in part II (Kamien 143)
Handel’s Messiah was composed during the baroque period. The baroque period occurred from 1600 to 1750 and the music composed during this time has unique characteristics. Aspects of the music that are exclusive to the period are the use of unity of mood, repetition of rhythm, recurrence of melody, terraced dynamics, polyphonic texture, and putting words and music together (Kamien 102-104).
The first general characteristic of baroque composition is its unity of mood. The music typically only conveys a single mood. A piece that starts cheerfully will continue to be cheerful until the end. An anomaly to unity of mood happens in vocal music. A baroque vocal piece’s mood changes to fit the lyrics of the music. However, a vocal piece does not hastily switch mood. Instead, a vocal piece’s mood is consistent for awhile prior to switching. Unity of mood is just one feature of baroque music, and another attribute is the repetition of rhythm (Kamien 102-103).
Rhythm is the...