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'Music, one of the most dazzling fruits of human civilisation,
'is, today, a massive global phenomenon.'
And so it's hard for us to imagine a time, when, in centuries gone by,
people could go weeks without hearing any music at all.
Even in the 19th century,
you might hear your favourite symphony four or five times
in your whole lifetime, in the days before music could be recorded.
'The story of music, successive waves of discoveries, breakthroughs
'and inventions, is an ongoing process.'
The next great leap forward may take place in a backstreet of Beijing
or upstairs in a pub in South Shields.
ORCHESTRA PLAYS: "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga
# Can't read my Can't read my
# No he can't read my poker face
# She's got to love nobody. #
Whatever music you're into,
Monteverdi or Mantovani, Mozart or Motown, Machaut or mash-up,
the techniques it relies on didn't happen by accident.
Someone, somewhere, thought of them first.
Music can make us weep or make us dance.
It's reflected the times in which it was written.
It has delighted, challenged, comforted and excited us.
In this series, I'm tracing the story of music from scratch.
To follow it on its miraculous journey, there'll be no need
for misleading jargon or fancy labels.
Terms like Baroque, Impressionism or Nationalism
are best put to one side.
Instead, try to imagine how revolutionary and how exhilarating
many of the innovations we take for granted today
were to people at the time.
There are a million ways of telling the story of music. This is mine.
MUSIC: "Arrival Of The Queen Of Sheba by Handel
The years 1650 to 1750 were an age of invention and rapid innovation.
Great discoveries were made in science and in music.
Musical structures were transformed in the hands of composers
like Handel and Bach.
This period also saw the rise and rise of purely instrumental music,
and the birth of what became the modern orchestra.
It was an age of transition where music blossomed
from being a private affair to a public spectacle.
Small wonder that the music of this age of invention
is still staggeringly popular in our own 21st century,
from the shores of Tristan da Cunha, to the concert halls of Beijing.
We live in a technological age,
so we can identify with what it was like
to live in the late 17th century,
when innovations were also coming thick and fast.
And to understand our music today, we need to go back to a time
when many of its now-familiar components simply didn't exist.
Imagine a time when leaping from this chord...
to this chord...
was a painful experience, or from this one...
..to this one...
Imagine a time when an oboe and a trumpet
struggled to play the same tune together.
Imagine a time when no-one thought of stringing together
a chain of chords in a pleasing sequence,
like the one that begins this song by Keane.
HOWARD PLAYS "Somewhere Only We Know" by Keane
# I walked across an empty land
# I knew the pathway Like the back of my hand... #
What makes so much of the music we enjoy today
sound the way it does is a series of discoveries
that burst into life in the 17th and early 18th centuries.
Laws governing the use of chords, which chords you could use
and what instruments you could play them on all slid into place,
like the parts of a magical and intricate machine.
People of the period were obsessed with the interplay of cog and wheel,
the laws of motion and gravity
and the understanding of the dimension of time itself.
No wonder it was a period that saw great advances in clock making.
Listen to the music of this period and you hear the ticking of clocks,
the perfectly calibrated whirring and spinning of cogs,
the turning of wheels and the to and fro of pendulums.
The most striking thing about this age of invention is how the
exhilarating speed of scientific investigation
was reflected in constant experiment and innovation in music.
In the 100 years between 1650 and 1750,
music underwent a massive upgrade.
It went from this...
..to this.
Though nowadays it includes instruments of all shapes,
sizes and types,
the orchestra grew from just one leg-of-ham-sized package.
A folk fiddle version of the violin had been around for some time,
but the more sophisticated type we recognise today
began its journey in Italian workshops in the late 16th century,
only really coming in to its own as leader of the instrumental pack
in the following century.
The violin's rise went hand-in-glove
with that of the extravagant absolute Kings of France,
Louis XIII and XIV, who brought in Italian experts to play
for their flamboyant royal ballets.
Louis XIV, the Sun King, was a passionate fan of the ballet,
even giving himself starring roles in them,
no doubt to gasps of Gallic delight from the assembled courtiers.
The ballets were on a fantastic scale,
often performed in palace halls or outdoors,
so the bright, edgy sound of the violin was just the ticket
to fill the space.
In fact, not just one violin, but loads of them.
One violin good, 24 violins better.
You might have 10 or 12 or even 24 violins playing the same tune.
Similarly, when they started adding in larger, deeper-toned models
of the violin family, like violas and cellos,
they were also grouped together to play the same musical line.
This, then, was the beginning of the modern orchestra.
The musician in charge of the royal violin band for over 30 years
was Jean-Baptiste Lully,
who created a thicker, grander ensemble style
especially for this beefed-up ensemble.
There was another important innovation
for which dance was responsible.
Louis XIV's long colourful ballets would begin with a self-contained
instrumental introduction, or opening,
the French word for which is overture.
The Italians called it Sinfonia.
These overtures were soon borrowed by opera, too.
They then began to develop into longer and longer orchestral pieces,
eventually becoming the symphony.
The symphony's basic structure was also to come from dance.
Sections of different dance music, pavannes, sarabandes, gigues etc,
began to be gathered together into suites, often in groups of three.
That's right, the three-piece suite was actually invented
by 17th century musicians.
But the idea of linked music at different speeds came to dominate
the symphony, and did so until the end of the 19th century.
In the late 17th century, another crucial part
of the musical tool-kit was put into place.
The composer who first introduced many of the innovations
that Vivaldi, Bach and Handel built on,
and which we now take for granted, was Arcangelo Corelli.
Corelli was the first violin virtuoso,
and he built on his love of the violin
an idea that took off spectacularly.
He gathered stringed instruments together into groups
and created for them a new form, the concerto.
Now, a concerto,
where a small group of players alternates with a larger group,
makes its impact by contrasting loud and soft passages,
like the juxtaposition of light and shade, chiaroscuro, in painting.
Corelli's innovation was called the concerto grosso,
literally the big concert,
and in it he explored the contrast between a small group,
just two violins and a cello, called concertino, and a bigger group
of everyone else called the ripieno, meaning the stuffing.
Every composer in Italy now had a stab at writing concerti grossi.
One young Venetian admirer of Corelli
was to make the concerto as famous as pizza.
His name was Antonio Vivaldi.
Vivaldi took the big group, little group idea one step further,
casting a charismatic solo violin against the whole ensemble.
The solo concerto announced its arrival on the musical stage,
with a set of pieces that were to become,
in the 20th century, deservedly ubiquitous.
Vivaldi's concertos introduced a sense of drama and virtuosity
that took his contemporaries' breath away.
In effect, he was turning his violinists and cellists into divas,
to match the opera stars of the day.
What makes Vivaldi's music so exhilarating
is its sense of forward momentum.
How this was achieved was in itself a giant leap forward.
It's all about the movement of chords,
and it's one of the most fun things in all music.
Whatever you're playing, just having one chord
after another in a random succession is not really very appealing.
Which is why hardly anyone ever does it.
So how do you decide how to string chords together in patterns
that don't sound like random twaddle?
In the 17th century, by experimenting with chains
of certain chords in a sequence, composers stumbled across a concept
students of music call harmonic progression,
but could just have easily be described as musical gravity.
The laws governing actual gravity had been formulated
in the late 17th century by Sir Isaac Newton.
Just as he revealed the inner workings of the universe,
so too musicians, at the same time,
worked out the inner gravity of music.
They made the important discovery that some chords
have an attraction to other chords.
So this chord, known to every guitarist as G7,
is drawn magnetically towards the chord C.
To put it another way, chord five yearns for chord one,
especially when it's corrupted by the 7th note.
Here's chord five,
and here it is with the corrupting 7th note,
and here is where it wants now to go.
The same law of magnetism
applies to every key family, no matter which one you chose,
so A flat 7...
..leads to D flat.
leads to E.
leads to B flat.
And so on.
In the 1600s, musicians became obsessed
with these laws of attraction.
Composers found that stringing sequences of chords together
to trigger this attraction drove the music along.
A master of this technique was English composer Henry Purcell.
Born just around the corner from Westminster Abbey,
where he later worked, Purcell survived the plague
and the Great Fire of London,
so he knew a thing or two about moving on.
His music makes creating imaginative chains of chords look effortless.
All he needed was a short sequence that repeated itself a number
of times and he'd constructed for himself a whole song.
In his Evening Hymn, published in 1688,
he sets up a simple sequence of chords.
This sequence he then repeats five times, followed by a middle bit
where he has a second sequence, then he returns to his original chord
sequence for another 13 times, to finish the song off.
The amazing thing is you don't get bored with the sequence,
despite its repetition.
That's because Purcell overlays onto it a ravishingly beautiful melody
that follows its own meandering path across the top.
# Now, now that the sun
# Hath veil'd his light
# And bid the world good night
# To the soft bed
# To the soft
# The soft bed
# My body I dispose
# But where
# Where shall my soul repose?
# Dear, dear God. #
Look at this painting by Vermeer, which was finished in 1664.
At first sight, the colours appear to be vivid and well-defined.
But look closer and we discover that Vermeer creates this effect
by layering colour upon colour, each subtly blending into the next.
This melding of colours is like the way harmony works in music.
Notes are laid on top of each other, to make constantly shifting chords.
# ..praise the mercy
# That prolongs thy days. #
The chord progression in Purcell's Evening Hymn was to pop up
in countless other pieces by other composers
in the decades that followed.
Indeed, composers went back to the same few archetypes time and again.
The most popular sequence by far even had its own name,
the circle of fifths.
This sequence used the seventh note to trigger chord after chord
to jump ship from chord five to chord one.
On a piano keyboard you could even make a circle of fifths
include every note and chord there is, like this.
Starting on B, I add the seductive seventh,
to take me to E.
I add the seventh, to take me to A,
and so on.
Arriving back where I started on B.
A chain of 10 moves like that would be excessive,
and, in fact, not possible on the keyboard instruments
of Corelli's time.
But he, and all his colleagues, would happily string
a sequence of three or four or five moves together.
Here is the circle of fifths in a Christmas concerto by Corelli.
Here's the same thing in a piece by Vivaldi.
And again, in Handel.
What may surprise you is that the dozen or so
favourite chord sequences beloved of composers around 1700,
are still the top dozen harmonic sequences
mined by composers of all styles today.
Here's just one example, a sequence that evolves
a downward stepping bass progressing from chord one to chord five.
MUSIC: "Air On The G String" by JS Bach
MUSIC: "A Whiter Shade Of Pale" by Procul Harum
# We skipped the light fandango
# Turned cartwheels 'cross the floor... #
MUSIC: "Go Now" by The Moody Blues
# Go now
# Go now, go now
# Go now. #
MUSIC: "No Woman, No Cry" by Bob Marley
# No woman, no cry
# No woman, no cry. #
MUSIC: "Piano Man" by Billy Joel
# Sing us a song You're the piano man
# Sing us a song tonight
# Well, we're all in the mood For a melody
# And you've got us Feelin' all right. #
The magic of these evergreen chord sequences wasn't lost on the 17th
and 18th century composers who discovered them.
Before long, they were able to construct whole sections of music
without a melody at all.
Once again, it was Vivaldi who set the gold standard.
In the opening of one of the concertos in his best-selling
collection published in 1711,
unashamedly labelled L'estro armonico,
the inspiration of harmony, Vivaldi takes us
on a gripping suspenseful journey through chords alone.
Vivaldi's music was in demand all over Europe,
and he often conducted it in person,
to great acclaim in the major cities.
Indeed, the years from 1600 to 1700 had been completely dominated
by Italian taste, expertise, sensuality and flair.
Along with Corelli and Vivaldi, practically all the other composers
who dominated the 1600s were Italian.
What's more, they all had names ending in I.
Vivaldi, Corelli, Albinoni, Monteverdi, Cavalli,
Bonnoncini, Steffani, Vitali, Manelli,
Torelli, Locatelli, Valentini, and the brothers Scarlatti.
But then the musical world began to tilt on its axis,
and Italy began to be eclipsed in the musical firmament.
Vivaldi himself was to become a victim of this redrawing
of Europe's musical map.
The popularity Vivaldi enjoyed during his middle age did not last,
and after living most of his life in Venice, he decided
to move to Vienna in his 60s, where he died lonely and impoverished.
For the next 200 years, his prolific body of music, including 500
concertos and over 40 operas, would stay silent, his career forgotten.
Vivaldi's legacy survived in the somewhat surprising influence
he had on two other composers,
Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel.
The centre of gravity of the musical world had moved north,
over the Alps, to Germany.
From the home of Roman Catholicism,
to the well spring of the Reformation.
Bach and Handel both learnt from the Italians,
especially Corelli and Vivaldi.
They also took what they fancied from the French violin bands
and proto-orchestras.
They incorporated the inventions
and technological advances of their time,
and created something extraordinary of their own, that grew out of
the particular north German Lutheran culture that they were born into.
Lutheran congregations were active participants in the church service,
with communal hymn singing being given high status.
Just as the Reformation swept away the elaborate decoration
favoured in Roman Catholic Churches at the time,
so too in Protestantism, the music was always in service
of the message, making the Gospel radiant, unfussy and clear.
A huge amount of what Bach wrote,
including virtually all his 300-plus cantatas, and his vast output
of organ music, is based one way or another on German Protestant
hymn tunes, or chorales.
He would weave a tapestry of sound around a hymn,
being sung or played slowly through the centre of the work,
as he does here in Jesus Bleibet Meine Freude -
Jesu, Joy Of Man's Desiring.
# Jesus bleibet meine Freude
# Meines Herzens Trost und Saft
# Jesus wehret allem Leide
# Er ist meines Lebens Kraft. #
All Bach's vocal music is focused on one thing,
devotion to God in the human form of Jesus of Nazareth.
Whatever he does musically, however complex,
he does to enhance the meaning of the words.
Take this aria from his St John Passions, Zerfliesse Mein Herze.
If we deconstruct its opening instrumental phrase,
we see that it's a series of exquisite chords,
with a gently descending bass line.
That's 15 chord changes in about 10 seconds.
But when the voice joins in, Bach's harmonies become even more daring,
allowing notes to clash against each other in swiftly moving discords.
Here are the dissonances tucked into just the first short vocal phrase.
The dissonances may be cleverly disguised,
but they're still there, because Bach wants to create a feeling,
subliminally, of anguish and grief,
which is exactly what the words of this aria are trying to convey.
# Zerfliesse, mein Herze
# In Fluten der Zaehren. #
If Bach's aim in his choral music is to move and inspire,
in his instrumental music, he wants to dazzle.
He's the undisputed master of all time of the musical technique
of counterpoint, the interweaving of different tunes.
And the quintessential Bachian form of counterpoint was the fugue.
A fugue, which means flight in Italian,
is a complicated form of canon, or round.
So here is a round that any child in late 17th century London
would have known only too well.
# London's burning, London's burning
# Fetch the engine, fetch the engine
# Fire, fire! Fire, fire!
# Pour on water, pour on water. #
In a canon or round, the same tune is sung by different groups
at different points,
allowing each new entry to fit on top of the others.
A fugue is essentially a more complicated version,
with multiple lines, some coming in backwards,
or in reverse or upside down.
If this sounds freakishly clever,
something Einstein might have done in a physics seminar,
well, Bach is the closest thing music has to Einstein,
who, by the way, was a massive fan of Bach.
Let's look at a fugue by Bach that shows him at his Einstein-like best.
First of all, we have the basic theme.
It would be too easy just to have this theme repeated
and played on top of itself, so brainbox Bach
has it super-imposed in a number of other ways.
One option is to have it play at double speed,
and starting on a different note.
Not bad, except that he manages two other tricks at the same time.
One of them is to turn it upside down,
known in the trade as the inverted version, also at double speed.
And another is to play it at half the speed,
that is, twice as slow as the original.
There are four main voices or parts in this fugue,
and as it progresses, all of the above techniques cascade over
each other, upside down, reversed, speeded up,
slowed down and played at different positions on the keyboard.
It is a miraculous musical jigsaw.
Now composing something as complex as this structure,
you'd think would be hard enough when you've got it all laid out
in front of you on the page, like a graph.
But here's an amazing thing.
Bach could improvise fugues like this at the keyboard.
From just one fragment of tune, Bach has built an edifice
of seven minutes of contrapuntal invention.
Bach's mastery of counterpoint wasn't about solving crossword
puzzles or cracking enigmatic codes for the sake of it.
He believed what he was doing was the musical embodiment of God's
master plan for humankind, a recognition of the intricate
mathematical beauty of the natural order as ordained by the Almighty.
The towering achievements of Bach's career are his settings
of the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.
CHOIR SINGS "St Matthew Passion" by Bach
At the climax of this monumental opening of The Passion,
with two adult choirs and a double-sized orchestra
already in full sway, he introduces a new, majestically slower tune,
on top of the entire structure.
Like a phalanx of trumpets announcing the arrival
of a mighty ruler, it's a children's choir singing a hymn chorale,
O Lamm Gottes, Unschuldig - O innocent lamb of God.
In these Passions, Bach employs all the techniques we've encountered
in this survey of the music of the 17th and early 18th centuries.
Vivaldi's concerto style with large and small forces,
juxtaposed in a musical chiaroscuro.
Fugal counterpoint, vast choral effects,
musical gravity driving harmonic progressions
of which the circle of fifths is but one,
dance rhythm patterns and a string-led orchestra made of members
of the violin family joining forces with woodwind and brass instruments.
The St Matthew Passion, well over three hours of it,
is a supreme example of how the musical innovations
worked out in the preceding 100 years could be brought to bear
on a work of epic size, and powerful emotion.
But there's one other invention made in this period
we haven't yet looked at, and it's the most important appliance
of musical science of them all.
It could be, in fact, the single most important development
in all western music.
It was called Equal Temperament, and this is how it worked.
On a modern, equal tempered keyboard I can play in any,
or all of the available 12 key families to my heart's content,
so I can play this...
HE PLAYS "Ain't Misbehavin'" by Fats Waller
..in the key that Fats Waller played it in the 1930s, E flat,
or in the key of G.
Or C.
Or, for that matter, F#.
Moving from key family to key family like that - the posh name
is modulation - on one instrument
is what Equal Temperament made possible.
It also made it possible for lots of different instruments
to play in tune with each other,
which, believe it or not, they couldn't easily do before.
So it's worth finding out how this happened.
Looking again at our piano layout, we see that if we find the note C,
for example, it occurs eight times from bottom to top of the keyboard.
We also notice that there are 12 other notes between each of the Cs.
This is the thing.
As it happens, in western music there are in fact at least 19
sub-divisions between one C and another, not 12.
This is what they sound like.
For some instruments,
playing all these squashed-together notes wasn't an issue.
Cellos, say, are flexible, because you can change a note
by sliding your finger by tiny degrees along the string.
But instruments like the trumpet and piano can't play them,
because their mechanical valves, buttons, tabs and keys are fixed.
It's like the difference between this swannee whistle,
with its flexible pitch...
..and this recorder, with its fixed pitch.
What Equal Temperament did was effectively to abolish
seven of the 19 sub-divisions, and create a standardised 12
that would swallow up the other little notes.
So what used to be the two separate notes, F# and G flat,
became one all-purpose note that accommodated both.
B#, even though it still gets written out in music,
got gobbled up as a separate entity by the note C, and so on.
In their natural state, the notes of the octave are not evenly spaced.
What Equal Temperament did
was to equalise the distance between notes.
Thanks to this compromise, you could now jump from chord to chord
as often as you liked.
The new system of tempering, or tuning, worked.
Indeed, it was JS Bach himself who, in around 1722,
presented the most conclusive evidence that it worked.
He composed two books of pieces to be played in all the new
12 standardised keys, both major and minor.
He even called the books The Well-Tempered Clavier, or keyboard.
What followed Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier were 300 years in which
instruments and our ears were calibrated to Equal Temperament.
One reason the traditional music of say, Indonesia, sounds exotic
and mysterious to western ears,
is because it uses a different system of tuning.
Traditional music apart, though,
Equal Temperament has now been adopted all over the globe.
It's hard to exaggerate the importance of the arrival
and triumph of Equal Temperament
as a standard across the industrialised world.
Like the adoption of the Greenwich Meridian, which made everyone
perceive the map and their place in the world differently,
Equal Temperament altered the mindset
of everyone who enjoyed music.
The modern population of the world now hears all music
through the filter, some would say distortion, of Equal Temperament.
Everyone alive now has a different idea of what sounds "in tune",
or "off key", to everyone alive in, say, 1600,
before Equal Temperament became the norm.
Towards the end of his life,
Bach was involved in another new invention that was, in the next
century, to be the emperor and empress of the whole world of music.
The piano.
What we now call simply the piano was invented in around 1700,
by a Florentine instrument builder and restorer,
called Bartolomeo Cristofori.
The unique selling point of the new instrument,
making it different from all the previous harpsichords,
clavichords, spinets and virginals that went before it,
was its ability to play soft and loud,
or in Italian, piano e il forte.
The harpsichord plucked its strings, and so no matter what pressure
you exerted on the keys, the notes always came out the same volume.
Cristofori's invention, instead of plucking the strings,
tapped them with a gentle hammer, tipped with deer skin,
and the harder you hit the key, the harder the hammer hit the string,
resulting potentially in different levels of volume for every note.
A friend of Bach's, Gottfried Silbermann, began
manufacturing pianos, and although Bach played on a few prototypes
and even advised on their design, he didn't seem that impressed.
Ironically, it was Bach's son, Johann Christian, living in London,
who was to become the champion of the new instrument,
30 or so years later.
Thus paving the way for the young Mozart
and others to follow his lead.
By the time this early piano piece was written,
believe it or not, the music of Johann Christian's father, the great
Johann Sebastian Bach, had already started to fall out of favour.
For 100 years after his death, in 1750, Bach was a forgotten,
unperformed composer,
until Mendelssohn drew attention to his genius in the 19th century.
If Bach had written operas rather than church music, it might
have been a different story.
Opera composers have always been accorded more respect
and fame than church composers.
Luckily for his great contemporary, Handel, opera was his thing,
at least to start with.
Handel and Bach were born just 80 miles
and four weeks apart in 1685, but never met.
Whilst Bach stayed firmly rooted his whole life in his native
North Germany, Handel was more the adventurer and entrepreneur.
In his long career, he took full advantage of the many technical
and stylistic advances in music that swept across Europe
in the early 1700s.
And there's one other big thing that had changed by 1750.
The arrival of you, the audience.
And you, we, made a massive difference to the future of music.
Before the arrival of a paying public, with its own preferences
and appetites, music had depended on the whims of cardinals or princes.
Now, commercial opera houses and concert halls
opened their doors to anyone who had the price of a ticket.
It was this new and fickle audience that Handel quickly learnt to serve.
Though he spent some of his youth in Italy, Handel wrote
most of his masterpieces after moving to London in 1710.
MUSIC: Giulio Cesare in Egitto - Aria - Al Lampo Dell'armi
Handel had two reasons for coming to London.
One was that his former boss in Germany had become
King George I, in 1714.
The King and his successor, George II,
commissioned music for royal pageants from Handel,
including still famous works, like Zadok The Priest,
the Water Music and Music For The Royal Fireworks.
Handel also settled in London because it was
already on its way to becoming the biggest and richest city in Europe.
The rapidly rising middle class had money to spend on music,
and for a while, they were swept up
in a Europe-wide craze for Italian opera.
The use today of Italian terms like aria, libretto, prima donna
and diva began at that time.
Handel wrote 39 operas, in Italian, for the London stage.
In London, though, the Italian opera boom was short lived.
Its death knell was sounded by a home-grown work,
The Beggar's Opera, produced in 1728.
The black musical comedy of Polly Peachum, Jenny Diver
and MacHeath, and the underworld of Soho, was a full-on
parody of the posh folks' mania for Italian opera.
It was a huge, long-running success.
It didn't do Handel any favours, though.
His earnestly serious Italian-style operas
now seemed out of sync with the public mood.
Casting around for something else to do, he found an unlikely,
unwitting ally in the shape of the Pope.
As well as banning women from singing in church,
the Vatican in the early 17th century had from time to time
forbidden opera, which the Pope thought was too damned rude.
The result was the rise of the oratorio, a kind of opera
that didn't have costumes, or women, or lewd plots, or comedy or scenery.
The singers didn't have to act anything out,
they just stood there and sang.
Oratorios were originally performed in church,
and they drew their subject matter from the Old Testament.
And no-one could object to that.
So when Handel's luck with opera ran out,
he turned to English language oratorio instead.
It was an inspired move.
# Jehovah crown'd with glory bright... #
Handel's first ever oratorio in English, Esther,
was performed in 1732.
It was put on, not in a church, but in a West End theatre.
Handel wrote 16 more oratorios,
nearly all based on stories from the Old Testament, all seen in theatres.
In these works, Handel took elements from Italian operas,
oratorios and concertos, added in the Lutheran Church music style
and grafted them on to the local English choral tradition,
aiming to seduce an audience eager for musical excitement.
He succeeded triumphantly. Hallelujah.
# Hallelujah, hallelujah
# Hallelujah, hallelujah
# Hallelujah
# Hallelujah, hallelujah
# Hallelujah, hallelujah
# Hallelujah
# For the lord God omnipotent reigneth
# Hallelujah, hallelujah
# Hallelujah, hallelujah
# For the lord God omnipotent reigneth... #
Handel brilliantly brought together, in a wholly accessible way,
all the musical idioms of the previous 50 years.
Dramatic and stirring choruses, full-on crowd pleasers, moving and
tuneful solos borrowed from a style that opera had made popular, and an
orchestral bedrock owing a debt of gratitude, once again, to Vivaldi.
# And He shall reign for ever and ever... #
What's more, Handel's oratorios were richly allegorical stories
with plenty of emotional impact, but without
the need for histrionic over-acting, to embarrass the English.
# King of kings for ever and ever, hallelujah, hallelujah... #
And what an audience thought was now important, Handel's oratorios,
though based on religious stories,
were essentially commercial productions,
mounted in theatres, not churches, aimed at a paying public.
Unlike the St Matthew or St John Passions of Bach,
which were aimed at a congregation who
would have attended church anyway, Handel was trying deliberately
to court public taste, which he did, with bells on.
# And lord of lords for ever and ever, hallelujah, hallelujah
# King of kings... #
There was one other key and topical element in Handel's close
relationship with his audience, patriotism.
His 45 years in London coincided with Britain's rise to
the status of world power, and her growing wealth and military
success found their celebration in Handel's patriotic choruses,
in which God and King were more or less
interchangeable objects of praise.
# King of kings and lord of lords
# King of kings and lord of lords
# And He shall reign for ever and ever
# For ever and ever
# For ever and ever
# Hallelujah, hallelujah
# Hallelujah, hallelujah
# Halle-lu-jah. #
Music showed it could become the collective voice of nationhood.
This, for good and for ill,
has been an important function of music ever since.
Handel donated all the earnings from his Messiah
and most of his considerable estate to an orphanage,
The Foundling Hospital, gestures which give us
a clue as to the quality that enriches every note of his music -
One of his final oratorios, Solomon,
contains towards its end an aria for the Queen of Sheba.
Now, she is bidding farewell to her lover King Solomon,
whom she'll never see again as he returns to Jerusalem.
The aria, Will The Sun Forget To Streak, is no hysterical
outburst of operatic tragedy, nor is it a plaint of sentimental,
self-indulgent misery,
it's the voice of rueful acceptance, as if the
centuries have melted away, and left us with a simple, humane message.
Time doesn't stand still,
so cherish every moment of joy and beauty with gratitude.
The Queen of Sheba knew she would never encounter
a man of Solomon's wisdom again.
It's debatable whether music has every surpassed the creative
ingenuity and spiritual candour of the masterpieces
of Bach and Handel either.
In the next programme -
the profound moral dimension that Bach
and Handel embedded in music gives way to the pleasure principle.
In the era of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven,
the composer stopped being a servant and became a kind of God, game on.
MUSIC: "The Marriage Of Figaro" - Overture - by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd


BBC Howard Goodalls Story of Music. Part 2 of 6: The Age of Invention

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Ntiana 發佈於 2016 年 10 月 1 日
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