Messiah may be Handel’s most famous work, the oratorio was however composed rapidly for a premiere in Dublin in 1742.
Messiah met with resounding success from its creation: 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’s 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 choirs 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 been singing in our ear for 250 years…
After the grand alto aria “He was despised”, overcome by emotion, Reverend Delany stood up in the audience 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… revisited by Jordi Savall.