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Passacaglia in Bb major from

Rodrigo, HWV 5 (1707)

Rodrigo was first performed in 1707, in Florence, Italy. The Passacaglia is scored for 2 oboes, bassoon, strings, and solo violin.

Handel's early and first Italian opera Rodrigo represents secular expression in the religious context of Messiah. Rodrigo's titular character is not the King of Kings, but a very different king of an earthlier realm with deep human failings, the last Visigothic king of Spain. Based on the libretto by Francesco Silvani's Il duello dʻAmore e di Vendetta (The conflict between love and revenge), the plot involves a battle for thrones fueled by Rodrigo's infidelity, betrayal, revenge, and ultimately absolution. These are all themes and actions that seem counter to the story of the Messiah, but these elements are descriptive of the world Christ enters and experiences.


Placement within Messiah is a metaphor, from the temptation of Christ to the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Passacaglia occurs after the Overture and right before the First Act. A transitional piece in Rodrigo, it is perhaps an earthlier bridge from Messiah's Part One to Part Two. The Passacaglia is a 17th-century Spanish form in triple time employing a repeating bass line. In the Passacaglia, the violin is prominently seductive with triplets, ornamental passages, and quick arpeggiations. Viewed through a Messianic lens, the juxtaposition of the sacred and secular embody the Holy (the constant elements of the form) and the slithering serpent of temptation (violin). © MTF


(Notes by Michael-Thomas Foumai)


Rejoice! From Handel’s Baroque epic comes the greatest story ever told, a Messiah of our time. Journey with Jesus of Nazareth, abiding in voices of prophecy, seraphic declaration, and apostolic revelation. The sacred and secular come together, forging a trinity of the divine-human experience. Temptation and betrayal slither in the Passacaglia from Rodrigo, Bach’s beloved Air from the Orchestral Suite No.3, is a vision of the earthly and eternal. Finally, divine design offers a final parable in the resurrection of Brandenburg Concerto No. 5.


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