Handel's Messiah

Discussion in 'Music Ministry' started by Dr. Bob, Oct 8, 2010.

  1. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob
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    For years I was taught a story that always sounded so super-human as to be questionable. Wonder if others have "drunk the kool-aid" on this as well -

    Handel began composing the Messiah on August 22 in his little house on Brook Street in London. He grew so absorbed in the work that he rarely left his room, hardly stopping to eat. Within six days part one was complete. In nine days more he had finished part two, and in another six, part three. The orchestration was completed in another two days. In all 260 pages of manuscript were filled in the remarkable short time of 24 days. Handel never left his house for those three weeks.

    Last Sunday I heard a duetto da camera in the Italian tradition established late in the seventeenth century by Scarlatti. Bawdy Italian poetry (No, I do not want to trust you, blind Love, cruel Beauty; you lie too much - forgive my rough translation) didn't seem like Handel.

    But the melody was unmistakable - "For Unto Us a Child is Born". Got me searching and found that Handel's "miraculous" writing of the Messiah was a fascinating case of self-borrowing, involving much re-composition besides re-texting in a different language and re-scoring on a grand scale.

    From these earlier works of Handel we see original versions of pieces later modified and inserted into the Oratorio we love. These were all written in the year BEFORE the Messiah and only revised for his "new" work.
    • “For unto us a child is born” from inner theme of No, di Voi non vo' fidarmi


    • [*]“His yoke is easy” from Quel fior che all’alba ride


      [*]“O Death, where is thy sting?” from Se tu non lasci amore"
      [*]“And He shall purify” from Quel fior che all’alba ride


      [*]"Hallelujah” chorus from the
      motif for So per prova

      [*]“All we like sheep have gone astray” from the outer movements of No, di Voi non vo' fidarmi

      (These are the six I've seen so far; there are more)
    Will continue to research this but a lot of the texts are in Italian and German. Grrrr.

    That Handel was a great composer and the Messiah one of my personal favorites is not questioned. But that he just "locked himself in a room and came up with 53 unique pieces of music" might be a tad hyperbolic.
     
  2. ktn4eg

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    Such practices as you mentioned were common among composers of the Baroque era, and Handel was no exception.

    I've been told that composers of that day and age actually considered such borrowings as a compliment.

    No telling what Messiah would have sounded like had he attempted to compose such a work in this age of licensing agreements, royalty fees and copywrite infringement laws--especially due to the fact that Handel was facing the threat of being placed in a debtors prison at the time he composed that oratorio.
     
  3. SaggyWoman

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    Shoot. Preachers do it with their sermons all the time. They lock themselves in the steeple and copy....
     
  4. Tom Butler

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    And, I'm sure many are aware that in many parts of the world, when the Hallelujah Chorus is sung, the audience stands.

    This tradition is said to have started with the London performance of The Messiah, with King George II part of the audience. Then the Hallelujah Chorus began, the King rose to his feet. Of course, when the King stands, no one sits, so audience and orchestra all rose and stood until the end of the section.

    No one is certain why the king stood, but there's plenty of speculation.

    (From Wikipedia)

     
  5. Zenas

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    Very interesting, Dr. Bob. I rarely read through the posts on this board without learning something. Thanks for sharing. :wavey:
     
  6. John Toppass

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    This is very interesting but should not this be posted in the Music forum?
     
  7. Dr. Bob

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    I wanted it to be read!! Will move it in a couple days.
     
  8. John Toppass

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    OH OK, I just thought the rules applied to everyone. I guess, I was wrong.
     
  9. jaigner

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    Great post. As a singer, music teacher and conductor, I have a great interest in this.

    I agree that it might be "hyperbolic," but it was mostly melody that was borrowed, and a lot of them were from early art songs, which would have only been accompanied by harpsichord. To borrow pieces of melody is one thing, but to harmonize and orchestrate like he did is the brunt of the work.
     
  10. Gina B

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    Neat post, my daughter will be interested in it.

    A couple years ago I had the pleasure of joining in singing it downtown at the annual Christmas tree lighting, that was pretty neat!

    It's by no means a favorite of mine, but it's fun to see other people enjoy it.
     
  11. Alcott

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    Handel's Messiah? We ought to be more concerned about the Messiah's handle.
     
  12. SaggyWoman

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    Actually, I am really caught up on Beethoven's Ode to Joy.
     
  13. Dr. Bob

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  14. Bro. Curtis

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    I guess Frank Zappa would be as close to a contemporary American "Handel". Frank borrowed from his work all the time. Bach would enter improv contests as a young man and use what he came up with in future works.(Probably had some ideas stolen, as well).

    This is interesting, it is still a great piece of music. I performed in in a huge choir, singing the bass part, when I was a young man. I agree with Jaigner, the bulk of the work is the orchestration, but I had no idea about the early work of Handel.

    Thanx, Doc.
     

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