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BCS - Concert Notes
BCS Next Concert

Concert Notes
Messiah

7.30pm
4 & 5 Dec 2015

Bath Abbey

Messiah 2014

Born in Germany, Handel settled permanently in England in 1712 and over the next 30 or so years wrote nearly 40 Italian operas. But by 1741, the general (i.e. non-aristocratic) public wanted theatrical works in English rather than Italian. Handel needed to change track and luckily a new direction arrived in the form of a libretto for an oratorio and a fresh venue away from London in which to perform it.

The libretto came from Charles Jennens, a rich, musically literate, landowner who spent his summers at his residence in Leicestershire and his winters in London. Jennens had worked on oratorios with Handel previously. He finished compiling his choice of words for Messiah in June of 1741 and sent it to the composer in July, but when he arrived in London in November, Handel was not there. He had been invited to perform a series of subscription concerts for charity in Dublin by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. Handel explained in a letter that he had set the words to music before leaving for Dublin. Jennens, a rather touchy soul, became angry, assuming that no-one, not even Handel, could possibly have done justice to his libretto in the time between July and November. What would his reaction have been had he known that the composer had needed only three weeks, rather than four months, to do the job! Furthermore, after taking a week off, Handel started upon and completed another oratorio, Samson, within a similar time-scale!

The first performance of Messiah, in Dublin in April 1742, was a brilliant success, raising a huge amount of money for charity. The first London performance eventually took place in March, 1743. Handel went on to compose many more oratorios, but there were to be no more operas.


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