Thank you for including this wonderful piece in the news!
OK, first of all, the title of this oratorio is "Messiah", not "The
Messiah" despite what is printed on the G. Schirmer musical score.
Secondly, Handel had previously composed about one third of the music and used
it in other instrumental music, a not uncommon practice of the 18th century.
Thirdly, there is no contemporary evidence that King George II was even at the
London premiere of "Messiah". Fourth, the conductor Robert Shaw
despised the tradition of standing for the "Hallelujah Chorus" and
"maintained that it was George II’s bladder, not his soul, that caused
him to rise with such alacrity, the king having lost track of when intermission
started." Sorry to burst some bubbles but I am a retired musicologist
and lectured on Handel at several universities.
I have read in a few places that Handel referred to this piece as
"Messiah", not "The Messiah", out of respect or deference to the
Savior. Can anyone confirm or refute this?
If there is a greater piece of music than Handel's Messiah I am hard
pressed to think of it.
The title page of Handel's autograph score reads "Messiah an
Oratorio".Among the oratorios that Handel composed during his
mature period in London "Saul" and "Israel in Egypt", both from
1730, are generally ranked at the top of the list.As for greater
pieces than "Messiah", my personal favorites are Beethoven's 9th
Symphony and Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2, "Resurrection",
particularly the final movement.
Thank you for this insightful article. Many of us do have ancestors who are
from the British Isles and the thought of them and others being benefitted by
this work is something I had not connected with particular families, but of
course they were all individual ... not just nameless prisoners and poor people.
No nit-picking historical details change the spirit of the music in the least.
I never tire of singing it or listening, or reviewing the miracle that brought
it to us.
To the surprise of many, George Frederic Handel was not the librettist of
Messiah. The anonymous librettist was his friend and sponsor Charles Jennens,
who also was Handel's librettist for other Handel oratorios. Beginning with
Handel’s Rodelina completed in 1725, Jennens helped to finance the
publication of every Handel musical composition. By 1741, after their
collaboration on Saul, a warm friendship had developed between the two. Handel
was a frequent visitor to the Jennens family estate at Gopsall. Smith, curator
of the Britain’s Handel House Museum, names Jennens as “the best and
most innovative” of the texts used by Handel. Smith identifies Jennens as
Handel’s “most stimulating collaborator,” who was devoted to
“his religious faith as a Protestant Anglican," who did not favor the
German Hanover’s in Royal England. Smith sees Jennens as a profound lover
of music, and that Jennens--a devout Christian--did not charge Handel for his
services. Jennens' anonymous librettos were free gifts. Smith says
Jennens did not compose for glory and honor, but believed Handel was “the
perfect conduit” for his religious beliefs. Earlier this year Jennens was
honored at Handel house for his contributions. Rhett S. James, Old Poet
@HansAs a musicologist, you should know better. Your fussing is mostly
inaccurate, and you presume to "rank" musical works according to
"greatness" (which is quite different from having personal favorites).
You give musicology a bad name in the process.Yes, the official
title is "Messiah," though the work was commonly referred to in the
London press as "The Messiah" as early as the 18th century. The
Mozart/Hiller orchestration was published in 1803 as "Der Messias,"
*with* the definite article in the title. "Saul" and "Israel in
Egypt" were composed in 1738, not 1730. Handel's musical borrowings in
"Messiah" were from Italian-language vocal works, not instrumental
compositions. And while there is no hard evidence (only a third-hand account)
that George II was present at the London premiere, neither is there any evidence
that he wasn't. What is certain is that his grandson, George III, *did*
stand during the Hallelujah Chorus at the 1784 festival performance in
Westminster Abbey, continuing a tradition that still deserves to be honored
despite Mr. Shaw's petulant pronouncement.I thought this was a
lovely article, somewhat spoiled by the pedantic comments of an ex-musicologist
trying to be a bubble-bursting smarty-pants.
I love, l-o-v-e, L-O-V-E Handel's "Messiah". It stirs the soul.
It causes one to swell with pride and pure joy when thinking of the glory and
greatness and honor of the Savior, Jesus Christ.Indeed, praise and
glory to the Messiah of all mankind, "forever and ever"!
Awesome piece of work, and thanks to the commentators for the background info.
beautiful song. Probably be banned in the US soon so enjoy it while you can. Too
Christian you know.