Friday, April 13, 2007

Handel's "Messiah" first performed, 13 April 1742

The premiere of Messiah took place at the Music Hall in Dublin on 13 April 1742. Handel led the performance from the harpsichord, and Matthew Dubourg conducted the orchestra. Dubourg was an Irish violinist, conductor and composer. He had worked with Handel as early as 1719 in London.

Handel conducted Messiah many times, often altering it to suit the needs of the moment. In consequence no single version can be regarded as the "authentic" one, and many more variations and rearrangements were added in subsequent centuries—a notable arrangement was one by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, translated into German. Most modern performances employ orchestra, chorus, and four soloists: bass, tenor, contralto or counter-tenor, and soprano.

Handel himself was a devout Christian, and the work is a presentation of Jesus's life and its significance according to Christian doctrine. It is said that while Handel was writing Messiah, his valet would often find him weeping silently at his desk, overcome by the beauty and majesty of the music that was flowing from his pen.

Recordings of the music of the first two sections of the work are available from wikimedia commons:

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