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Sunday, September 05, 2004
  Saul: Act II, Scene 10, b) No. 67, Recitative, Saul and Jonathan: Where is the Son of Jesse?
George Frideric Handel
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 6 Track 26

I wonder how carefully Handel wrote his recitative? Not that there is something sloppy about his work, but this type of recitative does not seem to ask much of the composer. Singers generally seem to approach recitative with a rather relaxed regard for pitch. And, as it appears to have developed by the mature baroque, composers prioritized declamation over melody. In other words, rhythm over pitch. However, other than the close fit to the text, the rhythm of this recitative does not appear to contain many mysteries. In spite of these low standards, recitative is a fabulous legacy of the Baroque and a vital part of many an opera and oratorio.

The moments of recitative in an oratorio like this one are more than perfunctory, yet artful, plot developments. They prepare the listener for the wonderful choruses and arias by suggesting that we are always in music. They put in our ears the sense of people musically talking the way ballet puts motion in our arms and legs. With this belief in music the listener is well suited to hear about the fatal consequences of the plot developments.

What I like about this exchange of frustrations is that Saul and Jonathan, voice types notwithstanding, sound alike. Even though it is Saul who suffers the unreasonable anger, he is not set apart and viewed without sympathy. Handel's interest is more interesting than a display of violence.
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In January 2004 I starting writing an opinion for each selection in the Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music. Now, more than a year later, I am almost finished. Soon, I will have an archive full of opinions on the music we so carelessly call "classical." And no one can stop me.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Director of the Contemporary Performer's Workshop... Music Teacher for St. Aloysius Gonzaga School... Principal 'Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra... Composer

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