Ode For St. Cecilia's Day
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Ode For St. Cecilia's Day

Ode for St. Cecilia's Day (HWV 76) is a cantata composed by George Frideric Handel in 1739. The title of the cantata refers to Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians. The premiere was on 22 November 1739 at the Theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, London.


Handel sets a poem which the English poet John Dryden wrote in 1687. The main theme of the text is the Pythagorean theory of harmonia mundi, that music was a central force in the Earth's creation.


Ebenezer Prout has commented on various facets of Handel's instrumentation in the work[1] and Edmund Bowles has written on Handel's use of timpani in the work.[2]


  1. Overture: Larghetto e staccato--allegro--minuet
  2. Recitative (tenor): From harmony, from heavenly harmony
  3. Chorus: From harmony, from heavenly harmony
  4. Aria (soprano): What passion cannot music raise and quell!
  5. Aria (tenor) and Chorus: The trumpet's loud clangour
  6. March
  7. Aria (soprano): The soft complaining flute
  8. Aria (tenor): Sharp violins proclaim their jealous pangs
  9. Aria (soprano): But oh! What art can teach
  10. Aria (soprano): Orpheus could lead the savage race
  11. Recitative (soprano): But bright Cecilia raised the wonder higher
  12. Grand Chorus with (soprano): As from the power of sacred lays


From Harmony (Recit)

TENOR: From harmony, from heavenly harmony
This universal frame began.
When nature, underneath a heap
Of jarring atoms lay,
And could not heave her head.
The tuneful Voice, was heard from high,
Arise! Arise!
Arise ye more than dead!
Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry,
In order to their stations leap!
And music's power obey!
And music's power obey!

From Harmony (Chorus)

CHORUS: From harmony, from heavenly harmony,
This universal frame began.
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in man.

What Passion Cannot Music Raise and Quell

SOPRANO: What passion cannot music raise, and quell?
When Jubal struck the chorded shell,
His listening brethren stood 'round.
And wondering on their faces fell,
To worship that celestial sound!
Less than a god they thought there could not dwell
Within the hollow of that shell
That spoke so sweetly and so well.
What passion cannot Music raise and quell?

The Trumpet's Loud Clangour

TENOR: The trumpet's loud clangour excites us to arms,
With shrill notes of anger and mortal alarms,
The double-double-double beat,
Of the thund'ring drum,
Cries hark! Hark! Cries hark the foes come!
Charge! Charge! Charge! Charge!
'Tis too late, 'tis too late to retreat!
Charge 'tis too late, too late to retreat!

The Soft Complaining Flute

SOPRANO: The soft complaining flute
In dying notes discovers
The woes of hopeless lovers,
Whose dirge is whispered by the warbling lute.

Sharp Violins Proclaim

TENOR: Sharp violins proclaim,
Their jealous pangs,
And desperation!
Fury, frantic indignation!
Depth of pains, and height of passion,
For the fair disdainful dame!

But Oh! What Art Can Teach

SOPRANO: But oh! what art can teach,
What human voice can reach
The sacred organ's praise?
Notes inspiring holy love,
Notes that wing their heavenly ways
To join the choirs above.

Orpheus Could Lead The Savage Race

SOPRANO: Orpheus could lead the savage race,
And trees uprooted left their place
Sequacious of the lyre:
But bright Cecilia raised the wonder higher:
When to her Organ vocal breath was given
An Angel heard, and straight appeared -
Mistaking Earth for Heaven.

As From The Power Of Sacred Lays

SOPRANO: As from the power of sacred lays
The spheres began to move,
And sung the great Creator's praise
To all the blest above;
So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour,
The trumpet shall be heard on high,

CHORUS: The dead shall live, the living die,
And music shall untune the sky


See also


  1. ^ Prout, Ebenezer (1 May 1884). "Handel's Orchestration (Continued)". The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular. The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, Vol. 25, No. 495. 25 (495): 256-260. doi:10.2307/3356425. JSTOR 3356425.
  2. ^ Bowles, Edmund A. (August 1991). "The Double, Double, Double Beat of the Thundering Drum: The Timpani in Early Music". Early Music. 19 (3): 419-435. doi:10.1093/earlyj/XIX.3.419. JSTOR 3127779.

External links

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