Jaren Hinckley

Composer / Clarinetist

I’m Listening to Everything Composed by George Frideric Handel

May 13, 2014



A few weeks ago was Easter, so I guess the resurrection was on my mind.  In addition, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir had just broadcast a pretty great complete performance of Handel’s “Messiah.”  So I decided to check out another oratorio by Handel that he wrote earlier in his career.


TITLE: La Resurezzione


DESCRIPTION OF THE PIECE:  This is one of Handel’s many oratorios (the most famous of them—“Messiah”—seems to have eclipsed all his other oratorios).  It is in Italian, which is already noteworthy since Handel spoke German and his best-known work is in English. This was the 2nd oratorio Handel composed, written in 1708 when he was 23 years old.

This oratorio depicts the events occurring between, and including, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The characters in the oratorio are Lucifer (bass), Mary Magdalene (soprano), an Angel (soprano), St John the Evangelist (tenor), and St Mary Cleophas (alto).


There is a really cool YouTube video of the entire work (and if you click on the “See More” tab underneath the video, you’ll see a listing of all the individual sections within the oratorio with timings).  It appears to be using period instruments (recorders, gambas, etc.)

Sadly, this video does not have subtitles, but who needs ‘em.  Just sit back and enjoy the music.  It’s pretty astounding.  Here’s the link for the video:



And if you like to follow along with the score, try this link:




It opens with an overture that features quite a bit of imitative polyphony and there are moments in it that sound like Vivaldi (but maybe I’m just thinking that way, since the oratorio is in Italian), but there are also definite moments that sound very much like Handel.


The first aria is quite amazing; here’s just a brief clip:

If you liked that, you’ve got to watch the entire aria.  Use the YouTube video link I provided above; start the video at 4:45.  She sings the extremely fast melismas effortlessly and when the da capo occurs (at 7:30) she sings the same melismas AND she improvises extra notes, different melodies—it’s great.  She’s great.  Seriously, watch this number, then continue to watch the entire oratorio. It’s worth it.



One of my favorite arias in this oratorio is sung by Mary Magdalene.  Here is the English translation of the words:


Fold thy wings, and o’er my eyes fly not, unwelcome sleep!

If thou wouldst presume to dry my tears of sorrow let me first weep as full a stream as that shed by my God in blood when He died for me.


It’s a lovely message of the atonement that Christ undertook for us all.


So here is the first A section (follow along with the score—link above; p. 18 in the score/p. 36 in the pdf)


And here’s the second A section.  In the Baroque Era, it was important for the singer to improvise extra notes, ornamentations, trills, runs, etc. during the second A section.  In this example, she doesn’t do much (you can follow along with the score again to see what she DOES add);


She didn’t do much beyond a few tiny little ornaments/grace notes.  But then I found another recording in which the singer does a LOT with the second A section.  Check it out (and follow along with the score to see how much she adds!).

Amazingly cool!  If you’d like to hear a third version, check out the YouTube link (above) at 22:53.  This performance is at a faster tempo and she does do some cool improvising on the 2nd A section.

WHAT’S LEFT TO LISTEN TO BY HANDEL?  Oh my, tons.  But I’ll do it!