You are on page 1of 12

Name: Katerina Kakantoussis

Essay: Messiah by George Friedrich Handel


Class: The ratorio
!ro"essor: Michele Cabrini
George Friedrich Handel #as born on February $%rd &'() and died on *+ril &,th &-)./
He #as a German com+oser #ho accom+lished great success in England/ Handel com+osed
0arious di""erent "orms o" orchestral #orks1 o+eras1 organ concertos1 anthems and oratorios/
&
2orn in Halle1 in a "amily #ith no musical roots1 Handel reali3ed his +assion "or music at a 0ery
young age/ His "ather +rohibited him to ha0e access to musical instruments1 because he #anted
him to study la#1 and there"ore Handel secretly +racticed on the cla0ichord in his attic/ He ga0e
his "irst +er"ormance at the court o" 4uke 5ohann *dol"1 and sho#ed e67uisite talent in organ
+laying1 starting a +recocious musical training in harmony1 counter+oint and the organ/
4es+ite his talent1 Handel8s "ather insisted and +ersuaded him to study la# in Halle in &-9$/
:imultaneously he became organist at the Cal0inist cathedral o" Halle and com+osed his "irst t#o
o+eras: *lmira and Nero/
$
;n &-9' Handel le"t Halle to +ursue his musical career1 and mo0ed to ;taly/ There he met the
librettist *ntonio :al0i #ith #hom he #ould collaborate in com+ositions at a later time/ 4ue to
the restrictions o" !a+al la#1 +rohibiting the +roduction o" o+era1 as it #as considered a
1 *nthony Hicks/ <George Friedrich Handel/<Gro0e Music nline/ 6"ord Music nline/ 6"ord =ni0ersity !ress1 /
htt+:>>###/o6"ordmusiconline/com>subscriber>article>gro0e>music>,99'9 ?accessed May &91 $9&,@/
2 Gretchen :immons 2ro#n / HandelAs Messiah/ : Fruitbearer !ublishing1 BBC1 $9&9/
blas+hemy1 Handel then began to com+ose sacred #orks such as cantatas and oratorios/ His "irst
t#o oratorios to be com+osed #ere Ba Cesurre3ione and ;l trion"o di tem+o/
%
*lready a success"ul musician1 Handel mo0ed around Euro+e and created ne# #orks at
each country that he 0isited/ ;n &-&9 he mo0ed to England and became Ka+ellmeister o" King
George ;/ He settled there in &-&$1 as his salary #as satis"actory and com+osed #orks such as
*madigi di Gaula based on the tragedy by *ntoine Houdar de la Motte1 and Dater Music/
,
4uring the +eriod o" &-&-E&-&( Handel became House Com+oser at Cannons in Middlese6 and
com+osed some o" his notorious choral #orks such as the T#el0e Chadons *nthems and *cis
and Galatea/
)
;n &-&.1 Handel and a di0ision o" aristocrats "ounded the Coyal *cademy o" Music1 in
order to assure the +roduction o" 2aro7ue +eras and +era :eria/ From &-$)E&-$, he
com+osed some o" his most outstanding o+eras such as Giulio Cesare1 Codalinda and
Tamerlano/
'
Furthermore he "ounded and managed t#o ne# o+era houses1 #hich #ere called
the Fueen8s Theatre1 in &-$.1 and Con0ent Garden Theatre in &-%$/ He became one o" the most
acti0e com+osers and managers o" o+era and o+era theaters o" his times/
;n &-,& he sto++ed com+osing o+eras1 #ith his last #ork o" this genre being 4eidamia1 and
"ocused on the com+osition o" oratorios/
The oratorio is a sacred musical #ork1 #hich em+loys the use o" singers and orchestra/
Much like an o+era in 0ocal "orm1 it di""ers in the te6t1 #hich is mainly religious1 and its
3 *nthony Hicks / <George Friedrich Handel/<Gro0e Music nline/ 6"ord Music nline/ 6"ord =ni0ersity
!ress1 / htt+:>>###/o6"ordmusiconline/com>subscriber>article>gro0e>music>,99'9+g%/ ?accessed May &91 $9&,@
4 *nthony Hicks / <George Friedrich Handel/< Gro0e Music nline/ 6"ord Music nline/ 6"ord =ni0ersity !ress1
htt+:>>###/o6"ordmusiconline/com>subscriber>article>gro0e>music>,99'9+g, ?accessed May &91 $9&,@
5 *nthony Hicks/ < George Frideric Handel/< Gro0e Music nline/ 6"ord Music nline/ 6"ord =ni0ersity
!ress1 1htt+:>>###/o6"ordmusiconline/com>subscriber>article>gro0e>music>,99'9+g) ?accessed May &91 $9&,@
6*nthony Hicks/ < George Frideric Handel/< Gro0e Music nline/ 6"ord Music nline/ 6"ord =ni0ersity
!ress1 1htt+:>>###/o6"ordmusiconline/com>subscriber>article>gro0e>music>,99'9+g' ?accessed May &91 $9&,@
+resentation as it is not staged/ The roots o" the oratorio reach back to Come1 to the
Congrega3ione dell8oratorio and the s+iritual e6ercises established by !hilli+o Neri/
-
Handel began com+osing oratorios "rom &-9-E&-)$/ :ome o" his most +rominent #orks in this
music "orm are Ba Cesurre3ione ?&-9(@1 Hercules ?&-,)@1 Theodora ?&-)9@1 5e+tha
?&-)$@ and The Messiah ?&-,&@/
The Messiah1 his most "amous #ork1 is an English oratorio in three +arts #ith te6t based
on the King 5ames 2ible and the !salms #ithin the 2ook o" Common !rayer assembled by
Charles 5ennens/ ;t #as "irst +er"ormed in 4ublin on *+ril &%th &-,$/ This oratorio #as intended
to be +er"ormed during the Easter and Bent season/ 5ennens +resented the #ork 7uite like an
o+era in order "or the audience to ha0e a dee+er com+rehension o" the #ork/ The Messiah is
di0ided in the "ollo#ing sections:
(
; ?i@ The +ro+hecy o" :al0ationG ?ii@ the +ro+hecy o" the coming o" Messiah and the 7uestion1
des+ite ?i@1 o" #hat this may +ortend "or the DorldG ?iii@ the +ro+hecy o" the Hirgin 2irthG ?i0@ the
a++earance o" the *ngels to the :he+herdsG ?0@ ChristAs redem+ti0e miracles on earth/
;; ?i@ The redem+ti0e sacri"ice1 the scourging and the agony on the crossG ?ii@ His sacri"icial
death1 His +assage through Hell and CesurrectionG ?iii@ His *scensionG ?i0@ God discloses his
identity in Hea0enG ?0@ Dhitsun1 the gi"t o" tongues1 the beginning o" e0angelismG ?0i@ the #orld
and its rulers reIect the Gos+elG ?0ii@ GodAs trium+h/
;;; ?i@ The +romise o" bodily resurrection and redem+tion "rom *damAs "allG ?ii@ the 4ay o"
5udgement and general CesurrectionG ?iii@ the 0ictory o0er death and sinG ?i0@ the glori"ication o"
the Messianic 0ictim/
9
7 Ho#ard E/ :mither/ <ratorio/< Gro0e Music nline/ 6"ord Music nline/ 6"ord =ni0ersity !ress1 accessed
May &,1 $9&,1 htt+:>>###/o6"ordmusiconline/com>subscriber>article>gro0e>music>$9%.-
8 4aniel ;/2lock1 <Handel8s Messiah: 2iblical and Theological !ers+ecti0es/< Becture1 5ohn C/ :am+ey !ro"essor
o" ld Testament ;nter+retation1 Bouis0ille1 Kentucky1
9 4a0id Hickers/ <Messiah < * :acred ratorio</< / htt+:>>g"handel/org>messiah/html ?accessed May &91 $9&,@/
!art ; recounts the +ro+hecy o" the Hirgin 2irth and the #elcoming o" 5esus Christ1 the
Messiah1 according to the +ro+hets o" the ld Testament and the Holy Ghost annunciation/ !art
;; describes the !assion o" Christ1 his death1 resurrection and ascension and the communication
o" the Gos+el throughout the #orld/ !art ;;; commences #ith the assurance o" Cedem+tion and
the +rognosis o" the 4ay o" 5udgment/ ;t ends #ith the +raise to Christ and the trium+h o0er sin
and death/
&9
The music o" the Messiah is e6tremely +o#er"ul/ ;t #as #ritten "or a small number o"
instrumentalists such as oboes1 strings ?including 0ioloncello and 0iolone@1 basso continuo1
har+sichord1 bassoon1 trum+ets and singers/ There #ere se0eral ada+tations o" the score1 to meet
the needs o" the singers o" the time/
&&
The Messiah begins #ith a subtle instrumental +assage #ith em+hasis on the trum+ets1
and a choral +assage that is in the lo# alto register/ The com+oser em+loys the French o0erture
style in his o+ening o" the :ym+hony in E minor/
&$
The tenor shi"ts the key to E maIor #ith his
recitati0e Com"ort ye and his +roclamation o" the "irst +ro+hecy/ ;n addition1 the key shi"ts
once the chorus sings For unto us a child is born leading to G maIor1 "ollo#ing the !i"a
+astoral interlude/ The so+rano soloist then enters #ith "our recitati0es1 succeeding #ith the
chorus singing Glory to God in 4 maIor/ * sense o" steadiness is created #ith the so+rano
com+leting !art ; in 2 "lat/
&%

!art ;; is introduced #ith a "ugal +art 2ehold the Bamb o" God in G maIor/ The alto
soloist "ollo#s #ith the aria He #as des+ised in E "lat maIor #hich is the longest aria in the
10 <HandelA Messiah/< The Musical Times and :inging Class Circular Hol/ &: +g/')E''J-&/
htt+:>>###/Istor/org>stable>%%-9,,' ?accessed May .1 $9&,@
11 Gretchen :immons 2ro#n / HandelAs Messiah/ : Fruitbearer !ublishing1 BBC1 $9&9/
12 <HandelA Messiah/< The Musical Times and :inging Class Circular Hol/ &: +g/')E''J-&/
htt+:>>###/Istor/org>stable>%%-9,,' ?accessed May .1 $9&,@
13 Gretchen :immons 2ro#n / HandelAs Messiah/ : Fruitbearer !ublishing1 BBC1 $9&9/
oratorio1 a resource he uses to em+hasi3e the su""ering o" Christ/ The !assion1 Cruci"i6ion1 4eath
and Cesurrection o" Christ are de+icted #ith brie" choral +assages in *ll #e like shee+ both in
F minor and F maIor/
&,
The sense o" bleakness returns in 2 "lat minor #ith the tenor recitati0e
*ll that they see him/ Finally the chorus is se+arated into t#o +arts in order to com+lete the
*scension as they sing Bi"t u+ your hands +roceeding #ith Bet all the angels o" God #orshi+
him in 4 maIor in order to +raise Christ going to hea0en/ The ending clima6 is reached #ith the
"amous HalleluIah sung by the choir/
&)
!art ;;; o+ens #ith the so+rano singing in E "lat maIor ; kno# that my Cedeemer Bi0eth
accom+anied by 0iolin/ The bass continues in 4 maIor The trum+et shall sound #ith the
instructions o" not going e6tremely "ast/ The tenor and alto +roceed by singing the duet death1
#here is thy stingK and lead into the choral +art 2ut thanks be to God/ Buther8s choral is
7uoted by the so+rano solo in ;" God be "or us ?*us tie"er Not@/ The trum+ets in the *men
de+ict the u+roar o" hea0en/
&'
De can obser0e that Handel did not com+ose a narrati0e drama about the li"e1 death and
resurrection o" Christ1 but instead elaborated on the idea o" Christ as the Messiah/ =nlike the rest
14 <HandelA Messiah/< The Musical Times and :inging Class Circular Hol/ &: +g/')E''J-&/
htt+:>>###/Istor/org>stable>%%-9,,' ?accessed May .1 $9&,@
15 Datkins :ha#1 Messiah/ Hocal :core /Bondon: No0ello !ublishing Bimited1 &..$
16 Datkins :ha#1 Messiah/ Hocal :core /Bondon: No0ello !ublishing Bimited1 &..$
o" his oratorios1 it did not ha0e de"ined characters and a clear narrati0e/ The soloists are only
used to e+itomi3e the relationshi+s1 7uarrels #ithin the oratorio1 as #ell as to dis+lay the 0irtues
o" their o#n 0ocal 7ualities/
*lthough it is di""icult to identi"y the +redominant key o" the com+osition1 the main
tendency is to#ards 4 maIor1 gi0ing a sense o" harmony and uni0ersal order1 #hich #ould
corres+ond to the idea o" a #orld created by the 5e#ish Christian God in #hich the Ne#
Testament is a logical and direct conse7uence o" the ld Testament/ He #as able to em+hasi3e
the di0ine atmos+here marking in the score da lontano e un +oco +iano ?7uietly "rom a"ar@1 and
ha0ing the trum+ets +er"orm o"" stage/ The trium+h o" God is e6alted #ith the entrance o" the
trum+ets1 #hich sends +ositi0e notions throughout the oratorio and concludes in the 0ictorious
"inale/
&-
Handel uses many tools to create a sense o" unity bet#een the music and the te6t/ ne o"
them is called te6t +ainting1 #here the musical notes em+hasi3e the lines o" the te6t/ *n e6am+le
o" that can be identi"ied in the tenor aria E0ery 0alley shall be e6alted/
17 Datkins :ha#1 Messiah/ Hocal :core /Bondon: No0ello !ublishing Bimited1 &..$
E6am+le &a: E0ery 0alley shall be e6alted:
&(

E6am+le &b: E0ery Halley shall be E6alted
&.

18 Datkins :ha#1 Messiah/ Hocal :core /Bondon: No0ello !ublishing Bimited1 &..$ +g/-E(
19 Datkins :ha#1 Messiah/ Hocal :core /Bondon: No0ello !ublishing Bimited1 &..$1 +g/(
Here each #ord de+icts a certain "eeling: the #ord 0alley arri0es on a lo# note and e6alted
gi0es an u+li"ting re+resentation/ The #ord mountain creates a clima6 in the melody #hereas
the
#ord hill is on a lo# note/ Four di""erent notes su++ort the #ord crooked as they mo0e in a
"ast "igure1 #hile one single note sustains the #ord straight/ Finally1 the rough +laces are
sung o0er short notes and the #ord +lain is s+read throughout 0arious measures/
$9
*nother illustration o" te6t +ainting can be located in Thus :aith the Bord #here on the
#ord shake there are marcato melismas and on the #ords hea08n and earth there is a dro+
o" an octa0e in the melodic line/
$&
Continuing1 in For 2ehold1 4arkness :hall Co0er the Earth and The !eo+le that
Dalked in 4arkness he uses descending notes as i" one #as to sink into darkness or the
under#orld/ ;n the +hrase Bord shall arise the melodic line is created by a long melisma o"
20 Datkins :ha#1 Messiah/ Hocal :core /Bondon: No0ello !ublishing Bimited1 &..$ +g/'E&9
21 Datkins :ha#1 Messiah/ Hocal :core /Bondon: No0ello !ublishing Bimited1 &..$1 +g/ &.E$9
si6teenth notesG the #ord glory gi0es a trium+hant e""ect as it is sung at the to+ range o" the
melisma and recitati0e/ Dhen the Handel #ished to de+ict light the singers are singing in the
to+ +art o" the register and are in a maIor mode1 #hereas #hen he #anted to de+ict darkness
the singers sing in the lo#er +art o" the register and are in a minor mode/
E6am+le $: The !eo+le That #alked in darkness
$$

Furthermore1 more te6t +ainting is obser0ed in the +hrase :urely He Hath 2orne our
Grie"s/ The #ord grie"s is em+hasi3ed #ith a diminished -th chord and the su""ering is
de+icted #ith a .E& sus+ension on the #ord #ounded1 bruised and chastisement/ Dhen the
singer sings t#o descending tritones in the +hrase Thy Cebuke Hath 2roken His Heart1 it
creates an e""ect o" des+air/
$%
;n the +hrase Their :ound is Gone out the melodic line begins "rom the lo#est note in
the scale to the end o" it1 em+hasi3ing and their #ords unto the ends o" the #orld/ Finally in
22 Datkins :ha#1 Messiah/ Hocal :core /Bondon: No0ello !ublishing Bimited1 &..$1 +g/)$
23 Datkins :ha#1 Messiah/ Hocal :core /Bondon: No0ello !ublishing Bimited1 &..$1 +g/.(E&9&J&$$
the Cage *ria E Dhy do the Nations so "uriously rage together1 the bass breaks out in a "urious
state #ith ascending and descending notes/
$,
E6am+le %: Dhy do the Nations so Furiously Cage Together
$)

*lthough the +remiere o" this o+era in &-,$ #as a "ailure due to the +ublic "inding it
tedious soon it gained a great re+utation1 generating the curiosity o" the most notable music
lo0ers o" its era1 among them illustrious +ersonalities such as King George ;; o" England/ Today
it is one o" the most +er"ormed oratorios and emblematic com+ositions o" the classical music
re+ertoire/ ;n many +arts o" the #orld it became a tradition to +er"orm The Messiah near the
Christmas 4ay/
24 :immons 2ro#n1 Gretchen / HandelAs Messiah/ : Fruitbearer !ublishing1 BBC1 $9&9/
25 Datkins :ha#1 Messiah/ Hocal :core /Bondon: No0ello !ublishing Bimited1 &..$1 +g/ &))
Handel e6hibited grand ins+iration in the com+osition o" this #ork1 not only because he
#as ahead o" his time in demonstrating both the contra+untal and 0ocal com+ositional abilities
he had1 but because he incor+orated techni7ues1 such as te6t +ainting1 that #ere mostly
associated #ith com+osers o" earlier +eriods/ The melodic lines +resent throughout this #ork are
among the most +o+ular in the classical re+ertoire o" all times/ The choral +arts throughout the
Messiah are genius1 gi0ing s+ecial signi"icance to the "inal HalleluIah1 #here he makes use o"
the cantus "irmus1 intensi"ying the +resence o" God and his sanctity/ He incor+orated "ugues and
"ugal moments throughout the oratorio1 thus creating many harmonic te6tures/ The te6t in
combination #ith the music creates a mystical and meta+hysical atmos+here1 and an entrancing
Iourney/
Handel achie0ed immortality be"ore com+osing The Messiah1 but The Messiah ga0e him
a +lace in the hall o" "ame o" the classical music1 #here com+ositions such as 2eetho0en8s Ninth
:ym+hony1 Mo3art8s 4on Gio0anni1 Herdi8s Tra0iata and Dagner8s Halkyrie #ill li0e "or the
rest o" times/
2ibliogra+hy:
4aniel ;/2lock1 <Handel8s Messiah: 2iblical and Theological !ers+ecti0es/< Becture1 5ohn C/ :am+ey !ro"essor o"
ld Testament ;nter+retation1 Bouis0ille1 Kentucky1
Gretchen :immons 2ro#n / HandelAs Messiah/ : Fruitbearer !ublishing1 BBC1 $9&9
*nthony Hicks/ <George Friedrich Handel/< Gro0e Music nline/ 6"ord Music nline/ 6"ord =ni0ersity !ress1/
htt+:>>###/o6"ordmusiconline/com>subscriber>article>gro0e>music>,99'9 ?accessed May &91 $9&,@/
*nthony Hicks / <George Friedrich Handel/<Gro0e Music nline/ 6"ord Music nline/ 6"ord =ni0ersity !ress1 /
htt+:>>###/o6"ordmusiconline/com>subscriber>article>gro0e>music>,99'9+g%/ ?accessed May &91 $9&,@
*nthony Hicks/ < George Frideric Handel/< Gro0e Music nline/ 6"ord Music nline/ 6"ord =ni0ersity
!ress1 1htt+:>>###/o6"ordmusiconline/com>subscriber>article>gro0e>music>,99'9+g) ?accessed May &91 $9&,@
*nthony Hicks/ < George Frideric Handel/< Gro0e Music nline/ 6"ord Music nline/ 6"ord =ni0ersity
!ress1 1htt+:>>###/o6"ordmusiconline/com>subscriber>article>gro0e>music>,99'9+g' ?accessed May &91 $9&,@
<HandelA Messiah/< The Musical Times and :inging Class Circular Hol/ &: +g/')E''J-&/
htt+:>>###/Istor/org>stable>%%-9,,' ?accessed May .1 $9&,@
Datkins :ha#1 Messiah/ Hocal :core /Bondon: No0ello !ublishing Bimited1 &..$
Ho#ard E/ :mither/ <ratorio/< Gro0e Music nline/ 6"ord Music nline/ 6"ord =ni0ersity !ress1 accessed May
&,1 $9&,1 htt+:>>###/o6"ordmusiconline/com>subscriber>article>gro0e>music>$9%.-
4a0id Hickers/ <Messiah < * :acred ratorio</< / htt+:>>g"handel/org>messiah/html ?accessed May &91 $9&,@