Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Splendid Sunrise

I've gone on record before as not being the biggest fan of Haydn, but it's certainly not that I don't appreciate his genius. I've also gone on record as not being a big fan of Haydn's widely adored creation, The Creation, but I do love some things about it, including the beautiful recitative passage that precedes the work's most famous chorus, "The Heavens are Telling." (Notice I'm not saying what I think of that chorus, although thisthis, and this might provide some evidence.)

So I've come not to bury Haydn, but to praise him. Just the other day in Music History, I was playing the orchestral intro to this beautiful recitative passage for my class and realized something that should've been obvious to me before: it's just a D major scale! Well, it's just a D Major scale that is harmonized and orchestrated exquisitely. This rising scale in the most brilliant of keys is appropriate for a passage that celebrates the first rising of the sun: "In splendour bright is rising now the sun and darts his rays; an am’rous joyful happy spouse, a giant proud and glad, to run his measur’d course." (We're just not going to discuss this poetry now, OK?)

So, a D Major scale (plus two extra notes for free):

But here's what Haydn does with it:

As is so often the case with Haydn, I could only wish this passage were longer. I've written before about how both Haydn and Mozart will often "save their best stuff for first." Still, I think it's even better than that other famous sunrise passage. (No, not this one.) So, while sitting in a dentist's chair today, I had this idea of visualizing the way the music rises from the orchestra, and there you go (although I'd like to make the animation look smoother).

I could write at length about the amazing seventh bar, when we hear E, F#, G, B, and C# simultaneously. (The B and G are just suspensions over a V7/vi chord, but they are wonderful.) But, I think the remarkable fact that this is beautiful even when "played" by the synthesized orchestra inside my computer is saying enough. Listen to how different that D Major scale sounds when it radiates outward this way.

If you'd like to hear what comes next (performed by humans, no less (although the sun was created before humans)), go to 2:50 of this video:

The part about the moon rising is perhaps even more beautiful, by the way...
In splendour bright is rising now the sun and darts his rays; an am’rous joyful happy spouse, a giant proud and glad, to run his measur’d course. With softer beams and milder light steps on the silver moon through silent night. The space immense of th’ azure sky innum’rous host of diant orbs adorns. And the sons of God announced the fourth day in song divine, proclaiming thus his power: The heavens are telling the glory of God...

1 comment:

jpung said...

Very informative analysis!! Please keep it up!