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Handel's Messiah

George Frederic Handel began composing Messiah on August 22, 1741. He completed the first part by August 28, the second part by September 6, and the third part on September 14, an incredible 23 days!

If that isn't astounding enough, at that time he started work on setting the libretto for the oratorio, Samson, completing Act I by September 29, Act II by October 11, and Act III by October 29. Two HUGE works in 68 days. What a phenomenal creative output!

The premiere performance of Messiah was a benefit "For the relief of the Prisoners in the several Gaols, and for the Support of Mercer's Hospital in Stephen's Street, and of the Charitable Infirmary on the Inns Quay..." Messiah started its public career as a vehicle for fund raising!

In May of 1750, Handel made the work available to the Foundling Hospital in London for fund raising purposes, and continued to do so until his death in 1759. In his will, he left a score and a set of parts to the Foundling Hospital so that they could continue to use the work.

Messiah was not an immediate success. Ecclesiastical authorities objected to a playhouse not being a fit venue for such a sacred subject, and that it was sacrilege to put Scripture into the mouths of such immoral persons as actors and actresses. The objections were so severe that it had to be billed as "A New Sacred Oratorio" on the few occasions that it was performed in London in the 1740s. Later, it was simply "A Sacred Oratorio," no longer being "new." Even then, attempts were made to enjoin performances. Starting in 1750, the public came to accept the work, and it grew steadily in popularity during the remainder of the composer's life.

Other resource information about Handel's Messiah:



Full text of the libretto is here