Handel’s Messiah vs.Bach’s Cantata No. 140 Wachet Auf

Composers’ Background and Historical Context

The two baroque composers had different compositional influences. Coming from a musical background, Bach’s compositions were mainly instrumental while Handelpreferred vocal components. Such differences are evidenced inHandel’s Messiahversus Bach’s Cantata No. 140. While the ‘Messiah’ is an English-languageoratoriocomposed with scriptural text from the King James Bible, it characterizes features of theatrical effects(Powell, 2009 p.96). On the other hand, with Bach’s musical and strong religious background, the Cantata No.140was specially composed for a single performance n 27th Sunday after Trinity, in1731.

Similarities and Differences (Musical Elements)

Their similarities are evidenced in their melodious endings, whereby both the ‘Messiah’and the Cantata No. 140feature triumphant closings influenced by harmonious contrapuntal textures. For example, movements of the Cantata No. 140are set in outer chorale fantasies, thus keeping a four-part closing. For the ‘Messiah,’ the tonal scheme is targetedtowards the D major, which complementsits powerful, idiomatic ending. Regarding their differences, the movements in Bach’s Cantata has several instruments play different unique melodies, thus characterizing it with complex polyphonic textures(Button, 2004 p.698).Handel’s ‘Messiah’lacks aspects of trumpets, which are used only during the “Hallelujah”and in the final chorus. He intended to place a brass offstage and hence highlight the effectiveness of distance.

Works Cited

Button, H. Elliot. “Chorales Harmonized By Johann Sebastian Bach.” The Musical Times, vol 64, no. 968, 2004, p. 698.JSTOR, doi:10.2307/911494: Accessible at https://bit.ly/2IWjhSJ

Powell, David R. “The Bible AndHandel’S Messiah: Some Sources On Their Relation And Use.” Theological Librarianship, vol 2, no. 2, 2009, pp. 94-97.American Theological Library Association, doi:10.31046/tl.v2i2.121: Accessible at https://bit.ly/2ECF6RP

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