While Messiah is Haendel’s most famous work, the oratorio was composed rapidly for a premiere in Dublin in 1742.
Messiah met with resounding success from the very beginning: the demand for tickets was such that gentlemen were asked “not to wear their sword” and ladies to come “in dresses without hoops to allow room for a larger audience and thus increase benefits intended for charitable purposes”.
Messiah would soon become Handel landmark composition. Performed 36 times during his lifetime, it soon came to embody all that is majestic and sublime in music. Charles Jennens constructed the libretto dedicated to Christ in three parts: Nativity, Passion and Resurrection, Redemption. The combination of soloist arias and chorales is admirable and Handel’s science of lyric music is deployed in both suave and victorious arias, among the composer’s finest. The memorable chorales have remained in our ear for 250 years…
After the grand alto aria “He was despised”, Reverend Delany stood up in the audience, stirred by emotion and cried out to the singer “Woman, for this may all your sins be forgiven”. In London,
King George II was so moved by the Hallelujah that he stood up, followed by the entire audience, and all British audiences ever since. Incomparable and indispensable Messiah…
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