Behind the music: Handel’s Messiah

Written in 1741, Messiah has become one of Handel’s most well-known works, yet despite its enduring popularity, there are many lesser-known facts behind the music.

Before its performance by The English Concert at our Winter Festival, take a closer look at one of the greatest baroque oratorios in British history.

colorplate162-163When it was first performed in 1742, Dublin, hundreds of people were turned away due to lack of space. As large crowds were expected, women were asked to wear dresses without hoops to allow for more room (these kinds of dresses were very fashionable at the time). All the proceeds from this performance were donated to mental health charities.

The 259-page score for Messiah was completed in an impressive 24 days! The original manuscript shows the changes that Handel made as he went along, but according to scholar Richard Luckett, these errors were remarkably minimal for a score of this length.

Over the course of its three act structure, there are over 50 movements.

It is an opera which isn’t an opera – although its structure resembles that of an opera, there are no character impersonations and very few sections with direct speech therefore it is arguably not in dramatic form.

Check out the video below to see The English Concert perform the Hallelujah section from Messiah with Trevor Pinnock CBE.

Monday 16 December
Christ Church Spitalfields
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