Music GCSE: Handel, the pianoforte and oratorio

Howard Goodall explores 18th century music and the impact of two of the great classical composers: J.S Bach and Handel.

He discusses the invention of the piano and how it changed the trajectory of music in the 18th century.

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

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

He 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 clip is from the 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 topic is relevant to, GCSE, AS Level and Higher Music in the areas of music history, notation, composition, music theory and understanding styles.

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