Comments about ‘Researching Family History: Handel's oratorio 'Messiah' was a gift for our ancestors’

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Published: Wednesday, Dec. 18 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

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caf
Bountiful, UT

Thank you for including this wonderful piece in the news!

Hans in California
Valencia, CA

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.

John Wilson
Idaho Falls, 00

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?

cjb
Bountiful, UT

If there is a greater piece of music than Handel's Messiah I am hard pressed to think of it.

Hans in California
Valencia, CA

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.

cindyb
CASPER, WY

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.

Old Poet
Salt Lake City, UT

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

BooBoo
Orem, UT

@Hans
As 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.

Dan Maloy
Enid, OK

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"!

rlsintx
Plano, TX

Awesome piece of work, and thanks to the commentators for the background info.

patriot
Cedar Hills, UT

beautiful song. Probably be banned in the US soon so enjoy it while you can. Too Christian you know.

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