Music GCSE: Handel, the pianoforte and oratorio

In this short film Howard Goodall explores 18th century music, the invention of the piano and the establishment of opera as a major art form.

Invented by Bartolomeu Christofori, the piano gave composers more dynamic range than the harpsichord.

We find out how the shift away from piano impacted J.S Bach and his sons.

Goodall also explores how opera became a hit with the masses in the 1700s.

Handel was one of the most successful composers of the era writing several operas, oratorios and popular religious set pieces.

Handel was capitalising on great social changes sweeping across Europe as the rise of the middle classes created more demand for public shows.

Includes extracts from Handel’s Esther, Messiah and Solomon.

This short film is from the BBC series, Howard Goodall's Story of Music.

Teacher Notes

Students could research the development of the piano from the very earliest keyboards to the modern electronic versions, including examples of music written during the different eras.

Discuss how social changes might have affected the 18th century.

Think about how patronage declined during Handel's lifetime, and how this has influenced outcomes of musical compositions since.

Curriculum Notes

This short film will be useful for teaching music, particularly in the areas of music history, notation, composition, music theory and understanding styles.

More from Howard Goodall's Story of Music:

Notation and melodic movement
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Harmony, intervals, triads and cadences
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Harmony, dissonance and an introduction to opera
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Key signatures, equal temperament and the 12-tone tuning system
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Mozart, melodic writing and the symphony
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Haydn, symphonies and melodic writing
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A profile of Beethoven
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Franz Liszt, symphonic poems and orchestral music
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Saint-Saëns and developments in French composition
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Debussy, world music and impressionism
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Shostakovich and the effects of Nazi rule on composers
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Minimalism and the advance of music technology
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Stravinsky, Russian music and modernism
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Blues and ragtime
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