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  • Writer's pictureTim Braithwaite

Isaac Nathan’s Annotations on a Handel Aria and the Swelling and Dying of the Voice

‘The preceding examples receive their colouring from the discrimination of the singer; but a still nicer task remains for him to execute, where the repetition of one word nineteen times, as in Holy Lord God Almighty, requires, that a variation should be given without departing from its devotional character. It is there, that the singer of mind excels; for the soul chastens down the whole performance, and inspires him with the same power of feeling the just meaning of the words, which must have dwelt in the breast of the composer while writing the music.

The first time of uttering the word holy, it should be sung with a degree of humble piety, which warms on a repetition into enthusiastic fervour; and, as the word is again and again repeated, the judgement of the singer should display itself by the variety of pious readings, which he is capable of giving.’


Isaac Nathan, Musurgia Vocalis, an Essay on the History and Theory of Music, (London: Fentum, 1836).

The image below is from an earlier chapter of the same source, and demonstrates the variety of nuance possible through the ‘swelling and dying of the voice’


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