Apr 15, 2015
At Christmas time, millions around the world enjoy George Friedrich Händel’s “Messiah.” Apart from carols, it ranks among the season’s most popular music. In addition to the Advent-Christmas section, there are two other parts, the Passion of the Suffering Servant (Part Two), and the Resurrection (Part Three). Unless these two parts are also sung at Christmas time, they are otherwise infrequently performed. In this Easter season, Part Three deserves more than a comment and repays listening.
Some Interesting Facts about Händel and His “Messiah”
Händel was born in Germany in 1685, the same year as J.S. Bach and only one hundred miles from him. They never met. In 1712, Händel traveled to England, and in 1727 became a naturalized British subject. “Messiah” is his greatest oratorio, defined as a large-scale religious or serious musical work for solos, chorus, recitatives, and orchestra, sung on stage but without actors, costumes, or sets.
“Messiah,” was composed in just twenty-four days. Clearly, it was an inspired work which Händel executed in feverish activity. It takes about three hours to perform even at breathless Baroque tempos. One of Händel’s biographers, Sir Newman Flower sums up the consensus of history: “Considering the immensity of the work and the shortness of time involved, it will remain, perhaps forever, the greatest feat in the whole history of music composition.” As a point of reference, it took Mozart six weeks to compose his last symphonies, 39, 40, and 41, taking about fifty minutes to perform, back to back. Mozart almost always worked at fever pitch and did not use an eraser.