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I will magnify thee, O God 'Chandos Anthem No 5a', HWV250a
author of text
from Psalms 144 & 145

'Handel: Chandos Anthems Nos 5a, 6a & 8' (CDA67926)
Handel: Chandos Anthems Nos 5a, 6a & 8
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Movement 1: Sonata: Andante – Allegro
Movement 2: I will magnify thee, O God
Movement 3: Ev'ry day will I give thanks unto thee
Movement 4: One generation shall praise thy works unto another
Movement 5: The Lord preserveth all them that love him
Movement 6: The Lord is righteous in all his ways
Movement 7: Happy are the people that are in such a case
Movement 8: My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord

I will magnify thee, O God 'Chandos Anthem No 5a', HWV250a
I will magnify thee, O God, HWV250a, is the celebratory anthem of its pair, which was probably the fourth to be composed. The text is drawn from Psalm 145 in the Prayer Book version with a verse from Psalm 144 added later. Written for the same vocal and instrumental forces as As pants the hart, it calls for extensive florid singing from the tenor. In its original form all the solo movements were for that voice, but at an early stage two arias (one for soprano) were added preceding the final chorus. These movements are not found in Handel’s autograph, but there is no reason to think they are not authentic.

The opening of the instrumental sonata is drawn from the Sonata à cinque HWV288, from Handel’s Italian period, with the oboe replacing the solo violin. With text added, this movement became the basis of the alto solo that opens the Chapel Royal anthem I will magnify thee, O God, HWV250b, and later part of the conclusion to the oratorio Belshazzar. The opening chorus of the Cannons Anthem, ‘I will magnify thee, O God’, derives thematic material from Handel’s Italian psalm setting Dixit Dominus, HWV232.

‘Ev’ry day will I give thanks unto thee’ is a lyrical aria for tenor and strings. It is followed by an imitative chorus, ‘One generation shall praise thy works unto another’, in one of Handel’s favourite forms: a fugue in which two contrasting texts are each given full expositions and then all the material is combined. The following tenor aria presents the text ‘The Lord preserveth all them that love him’ against a slow-moving accompaniment of staccato strings. This is contrasted with a rapid setting of the remaining text, ‘but scatt’reth abroad all the ungodly’, that features extensive passagework for the soloist illustrating the word ‘scatt’reth’.

In the earliest sources for the soprano aria, ‘The Lord is righteous in all his ways’, the oboe doubles the singer throughout; perhaps indicating that Handel had some doubts about the competence of his treble soloist. The concluding tenor aria is a curiously extended movement in which the oboe is silent. The opening motif is related to that used for the duet ‘Happy we’ in Acis and Galatea, although which was written first is impossible to say.

The concluding movement, ‘My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord’, begins with a duet for oboe and tenor over a walking continuo bass in the manner of Handel’s solos for trumpet and alto in the ‘Utrecht’ Jubilate, HWV279 and the Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne, HWV74. The tenor and continuo then present the text ‘and let all flesh give thanks unto his holy name for ever and ever’ with interjections of ‘Amen’ from the other voices and instruments. The anthem concludes with an impressive imitative setting of the ‘Amen’ material in its original and inverted forms. The entire movement, somewhat rewritten, was used in the Chapel Royal Anthem HWV250b and from there was borrowed to form the final chorus of Belshazzar.

from notes by Graydon Beeks © 2013

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