Handel's Messiah

Classical Academy | Composers | On This Day... | Instruments

Although George Frideric Handel was born in Germany, after he settled in England in the 1712 he soon become a favourite with the british public and they adopted him as their own. So it isn't at all suprising that Handel's most loved and most performed work is written not in German or even in Italian like his operas, but in English.


 The Messiah is an oratorio - a large-scale religious work for orchestra, choir and solo singers that is quite like an opera, except that it is usually performed like a concert rather than on a theatrical stage. The text comes from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer


The work was first performed in 1741, after Handel was already famous in eighteenth-century London for his operas. He was the "Composer of Musick" at the Chapel Royal and even had a pension from King George II himself. But by the 1740s, public taste had altered and instead of frivolous operas about love, they wanted awe-inspiring potrayals of stories from the bible. The very first performance of The Messiah took place in Dublin, Ireland and a year later it was performed in London.


Take a listen to this recording of Album of Handel's masterwork The Messiah by the Ambrosian Singers. Don't miss the beautiful soprano aria "How beautiful are the feet" and the rousing tenor solo "Every valley shall be exalted". Have you performed in a performance of The Messiah? Choral societies around the world perform this work every year, often at Christmas or Easter.