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Music from this period often had identifying characteristics: expressing mood through both instrumental and vocal music, consistent rhythmic patterns, terraced dynamics that change suddenly rather than gradually, basso continuo, complex melodies, and polyphonic textures (Kamien 148).

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By contrast, the third recording [Mackerras, Charles, conductor. Edith Mathis (s), Birgit Finilla (a), Peter Schreier (t), Theo Adam (bs), Austrian Radio Chorus and Symphony Orchestra. DG Archiv Galleria 427173-2 (2CDs) (Authentic Mozart arrangement complete: 6*, 48+, omits 35, 36] glorious in almost every way, is essential to the library of anyone seriously interested in "Messiah" or Mozart. Conducted by Charles Mackerras (his second "Messiah") and produced by Andreas Hohlschneider, who prepared the Urtext edition for the "Neue Mozart Ausgabe", the recording accurately represents the original production in all important respects save two: Firstly, the chorus consists of 52 singers rather than twelve, and the solo passages Mozart indicated in some choruses are sung by a "Favoritchor" rather than by the soloists. Secondly, the second soprano's part is divided between soprano Edith Mathis and alto Birgit Finnila, who, with tenor Peter Schreier and bass Theo Adam, make up one of the finest group of soloists to grace any recording of "Messiah". Overall, the performance is indescribably charismatic and atmospheric and, despite the use of modern instruments and other minor inauthenticities, succeeds admirably in conjuring up images of the Palffy Palace premiere in Vienna on March 6, 1789.

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Still, as exhilarating though it may be as a performance, Mackerras's second "go" at the Mozart arrangement is, alas, a disappointment. This English language performance with a large orchestra and chorus is neither fish nor fowl. Nineteenth century forces and authentic performance practice (the scrupulous observance of the appogiatura convention and the final chords of recitatives played as written, for instance) rub shoulders uncomfortably. This interpretation is further compromised both by cuts and by an uneasy melange of Handel-Mozart and the original score. Besides making the standard cuts in Parts II and III, Mackerras omits "Their sound is gone out". "The trumpet shall sound" is performed without the central section and the da capo reprise, rather than in Mozart's reworking. In addition, with the exception of the assignment of the "Guadagni" version of "But who may abide" to the bass, the "traditional" vocal assignments are preferred to Mozart and Van Swieten's occasional reallocations. Mackerras's decision not to follow either pure Handel or pure Mozart in its entirety is particularly regrettable because he passed up a perfect chance to fill an important gap in the "Messiah" discography by recording the Mozart-Hiller setting as it was known in Britain in the latter half of the nineteenth century thanks to the Novello full score, published in 1859 with the original English text.

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Eager to find a new audience, Handel turned to the composition of oratorio: dramatic, non-staged works for the concert hall, usually with a great deal of choral music, and most often with a Biblical subject, the text in English. His first such composition (Esther) had been written in 1732, and its success was followed with other oratorios. By 1740 Handel had already composed two of his greatest works in the genre, Saul, and Israel in Egypt. Handel infused these Biblical stories with the melody, majesty, and drama he had previously lavished on his operas, and such works as Solomon, Jephtha, Samson, Joshua, Israel in Egypt, and Judas Maccabeus brought the composer ever more fame and recognition. But Handel's genius is nowhere more evident than in the sublime music he provided for his most famous oratorio, Messiah, which had its premiere in Dublin in 1741. Its success was immediate and resounding, and the work has never been out of the repertory since. The incredible successes of Handel's oratorios made a deep and lasting impression on English music for the next century, and no native-born musicians were able to gain a foothold with the public due to their continuing popularity. Not until the movement of the late eighteenth century would England produce any composers of lasting international stature.

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"Ecco mormorar l'onde" is in three sections. The first six verses of text (26 plus 13 measures)describe the quiet before dawn, and should be sung softly. The second five verses (27 measures)describe the changes as they are taking place, and with successive repetitions of 'and,' becomeincreasingly excited and sonorous. The final three verses (26 measures) celebrate the arriveddawn,and should end strongly.