Act II, Scene 10, c) No. 68, Chorus: O fatal Consequence of Rage
George Frideric Handel
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 6 Tracks 27-29
I would have loved to have heard the clatter of Saul’s javelin. Such a violent and disorganized percussive event would have been a fine segue from his argument to the chorus’ lament. The out of control stick would be a perfect symbol of Saul’s loss of reason. The mere presence of the weapon would be enough to unsettle the audience. And what percussion player (I see him in a cheep tuxedo) would not love to throw the javelin against the wall? But, Handel had better taste.
There are three sections of the text that Handel has presented with distinct musical events. The second, by Reason uncontroll’d! With ev’ry Law he can dispense; No Ties the furious Monster hold,
has the repeated chords and quarter time groove popular in contemporary orchestral writing. There are times when modern composers seem to working their way back to this sound. As Ms. Sontag
wrote, improving on the new by returning to the old.
What I like about this grand finale is the blindly going from crime to crime the singers describe. This, the most chromatic theme of the piece, is reminiscent of the text painting and weird chords of the 16th century madrigal composers. The tune that comes to my ears is Marenzio’s beautiful Solo e pensoso
. Because of this unintended association and Handel’s incredible writing, the listener is able to end the second act with sympathy for the mad king.