È pietoso l’inferno?

I am in love with that arioso since I first heard it. It is just a small snipped out of Handel’s Cantata “La Lucrezia.” I will write more, about this specific cantata, Handel in general and about how he manages to put feelings into music. For now, only why I am absolutely fascinated by this particular small piece: It has everything!

The chromatic, compelling, jazzy, chaconne-like bassline so reminds me of Purcell’s Dido (When I am laid in earth):

The way Handel exchanges the lines played and sung from the gamba to the voice and vice versa is wonderful. Maybe you  remember the line “non vi renda audaci ancor,” in Mozart’s “Come scoglio,” where the soprano suddenly picks up a typical middle-voice line which you would maybe expect a viola to play, and the stunning effect it has? (around 5 minutes in this recording.) It feels like you are allowed to see an altogether new shade of Fiordiligi’s character.

The way of mingling of voices, where in the end you are not sure, and don’t care if something is the vocal line, a middle line, the bass-line, whether it is the real melody, or it is only a variation over the dominating  Generalbass reminds me of the very beginning of Bach’s cantata “Widerstehe doch der Sünde” (Do withstand sin, roughly translated.) (around 3 minutes)

The way the music evolves, and develops — like it would start to bloom, unfolding one petal after the other — always reminded me — part time nerd which I am — of something totally different; of an electromagnetic field.  It is transmitted through empty space even, no one is really able to explain about the how, it just bootstraps itself — The magnetic field creating the electic one and vice versa, continuing to theoretic infinity. “Bootstrapping” is a lovely term to describe it, reminding of course of Münchhausen pulling himself out of the swamp by his own bootstraps.

Excuse my nerdy digression; back to Handel. Even this tiny piece is proof enough to be sure: Handel is God.

From Handel, La Lucrezia

Ma il ferro che già intrepido stringo —
… alla salma infedel porga la pena

And may the sword which I’m already holding, fearlessly —
… do justice to my faithless body.

illustration from here.


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