Aria: "Beatus vir" from "Nisi Dominus" (HWV 238 Mvt. 5) for Wind Sextet

Uploaded on Mar 17, 2018

According to the autograph manuscript, George Frideric Handel put the finishing touches on his Nisi Dominus, HWV 238 for vocal soloists, chorus, and string orchestra on July 13, 1707, making it probably the last of the composer's sacred Latin choral works to be written during the first of his two or three extended visits to Rome.

When Handel moved from Northern Germany, his lifelong home up to that point, to Italy in 1706 it was for the express purpose of gathering up a real first-hand knowledge of Italian opera, a genre in which he had already begun to dabble while still living in Hamburg. However, Handel's choice to travel to Rome near the end of that first Italian year, or perhaps at the beginning of the next, was a little counterproductive if the opera-houses were really his goal, since Papal edict had put an end to all dramatic, theatrical entertainment in the city all the way back in 1677. Handel had no trouble finding employment as a composer of pure sacred music, however, and it was in this fashion that he filled the time until he found it possible to move on to Venice at the end of 1707 (he had meanwhile found a sponsor in the person of the Marquis Francesco Ruspoli, however, so he did return to Rome several times over the next couple years to write secular music for the Marquis).

Nisi Dominus is not nearly as sizeable a work as its better-known companion piece Dixit Dominus, HWV 232, but it too is a setting in several small, oratorio-like sections of a Psalm (Psalm 127, or 126 in the alternate numbering scheme), to which is added a setting of the Lesser Doxology traditionally read after the Psalm-reading; the total number of musical sections, including the gloria Patri Doxology, is six.

The violins usher in the opening chorus (not a pure chorus, but one to which the three soloists--an alto, or more properly countertenor, a tenor, and a bass--add their more individual thoughts) with some energetically spinning arpeggio figures--the same kind of figuration that begins Dixit Dominus. The tenor aria that follows is really something of a duet for the singer and the cello/bass, which plods steadily forth with a dotted-rhythm idea. Cum dederit, for alto solo, floats along on a gentle repeated-note string background, while the following bass aria, Sicut sagittae, plunges forth with hair-raising string viruosity (as the text refers to "arrows in the hand of a mighty man"), only to immediately calm down as the singer moves on to consider the "young children."

The tenor gets a second aria, Beatus vir, before Handel divides both the chorus and the orchestra into two ensembles each (i.e. double chorus and double string orchestra) for the final, splendiferous Doxology, Gloria Patri; the result is some of the most acoustically stunning music Handel ever wrote. As the Doxology moves forward, the opening tones of the first movement--violin arpeggios, chorus in unison--are reprised just enough to set the stage for a rich choral imitation that moves with great joy towards the final AmenNisi Dominus (HWV 238). Note that Friedrich Chrysander had prepared the 'Gloria Patri' (which was seen as an independent work, at the time) for volume 49 of his edition of Händel's works, but that volume was never published and is not included here.

Source: AllMusic (

Although originally written for Mixed Chorus & Baroque Orchestra, I created this Interpretation of the Aria: "Beatus vir, qui timet Dominum" (Blessed are those who fear the Lord) from "Nisi Dominus" (HWV 238 Mvt 5) for Wind Sextet (Bb Trumpet, Flute, Oboe, Bb Clarinet, French Horn & Bassoon).


Pages 4
Duration 02:17
Measures 31
Key signature 2 sharps
Parts 6
Part names Trumpet, Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, French Horn, Bassoon
Privacy Everyone can see this score
License None (All rights reserved)
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