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Handel's Messiah Case

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Handel's Messiah

Messiah is a famous oratorio composed by George Frederic Handel. It is a highly acclaimed example of baroque music. Though originally written in 1741, the piece has been rearranged by many notable composers and performed countless times. It is considered by many to be Handel's finest work. Messiah features an orchestra, chorus and soloists. The original composition typically lasts two hours. The story involves the life and plight of the Christian messiah, Jesus Christ. Handel's Messiah is commonly performed during the Christmas and Easter holidays, which mark the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

George Frideric Handel was born in Halle, Germany on February 23, 1685. He received musical training in Germany and Italy before traveling to England where he became a citizen. While in London, Handel provided the elite with Italian opera and oratorio work. He gained notoriety as a British Baroque composer and is well known for his operas, oratorios, and organ concertos. After the success of his oratorio, Messiah, Handel eventually gained a public audience through his English choral compositions. The Messiah remains as his most celebrated composition.

Messiah follows the typical structure of an Italian oratorio. An oratorio is a dramatic musical composition for soloists, a chorus, and an orchestra. They are usually based on a religious theme. Handel's oratorios included religious themes found within the Christian Bible. The structure is based on the descriptions of the life of Jesus Christ found in the Bible, as well as themes found in the other books of the New Testament. There are three main parts that express Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection, with the piece culminating with the ascension to heaven.

In this oratorio, singers do not undertake dramatic roles. The choir and soloists act in conjunction as a dominant narrative voice. Contrast is very evident throughout the piece. It works well as a means to progress from one event to the next. The contrast is noticeable between major and minor keys, tone, pace, and dynamics. Contrast is most notable through vocalizations and lyrics at the end of the second part. This is the famed Hallelujah Chorus. It serves as a direct vocal and instrumental representation of Heaven and Earth, as well as a definitive expression of the eternal life and teachings of Jesus.

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