Handel's Messiah

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  • Topic: Oratorio, George Frideric Handel, Aria
  • Pages : 4 (1626 words )
  • Download(s) : 273
  • Published : April 8, 2008
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The Messiah was composed by George Friedrich Handel in 1741. It was neither his first nor his last oratorio, yet it has become his most popular and most performed work. Following his journey from his earliest oratorios to his last, Handel’s style of composition and use of various choral techniques set the Messiah apart from his other works and similar oratorios of the time. Handel wrote his first oratorio in Italy in 1707. Called La Resurrenzione, it was in the Italian style and had Italian text. It was performed in Prince Ruspoli’s town house in Rome. Thus began the era of Handel’s oratorios. He wrote another Italian oratorio in 1708, called Il Trionfo del Tempo e del Disinganno, but twelve years would pass before he would another such work. Handel’s main focus at this time was Italian opera; oratorio was just something to dabble in. He did write three more early oratorios: Esther, 1721; Deborah, 1733; and Athaliah, also in 1733. However, he still did not fully devote himself to oratorio until he wrote Saul in 1738. Israel in Egypt was also composed at this time, and these two mark the beginning of Handel’s oratorio as we know it. He abandoned opera altogether in 1740, and from then on concentrated solely on the oratorio. Four elements contributed to the development of the modern form: Italian oratorio, which Handel was exposed to first; opera, in particular the Neapolitan style, but also the English tradition of the lyric stage, used by composers such as Henry Purcell; the different forms of church music in North Germany, Italy, and England; and the secular cantata, especially the English tradition. A beautiful description of the oratorio is given by Jens Larsen, in his book Handel’s Messiah. He says “Oratorio acknowledges two masters, the church and the theatre; it draws on the traditions of both of them, notably in such matters as the place and function of the performance, the choice of subject and the form of the text, the construction of...
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