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Handel's 'Messiah'

Synopsis

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CAROLINE HATCHARD
EDITH FURMEDGE
FRANK TITTERTON
JOSEPH FARRINGTON
THE SHEFFIELD CHOIR
THE WIRELESS SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, conducted by Sir HENRY COWARD
I DID think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself ! ' cried Handel, when ho had written the last notes of the Hallelujah Chorus, thus completing the Second
Bart of Messiah. This great Oratorio was written in no more than twenty-four days in the summer of 1741, yet, nearly two centuries after its composition, it is generally regarded as Handel's supremo achievement and one of the greatest musical works in existence.
Messiah is written for the usual four Soloists, Chorus and Orchestra. The whole work is subdivided into Three Parts. Considerable 'cuts' are usually made in it, but for the sake of completeness, the opening words of every number are here quoted.
PART I.
1. The First Part opens with an Overture, in two distinct sections, the first broad and dignified, the second quicker, strong and spirited. Then follow Isaiah's prophecies of the coming Messiah.
2-3. Tenor Solos. 'Comfort ye My people'; and 'Every valley shall be exalted.'
4. Chorus. 'And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.'
5-6. Bass Solos. 'Thus saith the Lord... I will shake the heavens and the earth'; and 'But who may abide the day of his coming? ...For he is like a refiner's fire.'
7. Chorus. 'And he shall purify the sons of Levi.'
8-9. Contralto Solos. 'Behold! a virgin shall conceive'; and 'O Thou that tellest good tidings.' Chorus takes up these last words.
10-11. Bass Solos. 'For behold, darkness shall cover the earth ...but the Lord shall arise'; and 'The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.'
12. Chorus. 'For unto us a Child is born.'
13. There comes here a beautiful contrast, as very softly the Orchestra plays the simple, dream-like Pastoral Symphony, a picture of the shepherds keeping their night-watch in the fields. (This is not, of course, a 'Symphony' in the modern sense of a big-scale independent orchestral work, but only a short instrumental interlude.)
14-16. Soprano Solos. 'There were shepherds. And lo! the angel of the Lord came.
... And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host.'
17. Chorus. 'Glory to God in the highest.'
18. Soprano Solo. 'Rejoice greatly!'
19-20. Contralto and Soprano Solos. Contralto, 'Then shall the eyes of the blind'; and 'He shall feed His flock.' Soprano, 'Come unto Him, all ye that labour.' (It is usual for these Solos to be sung thus, instead of the whole being sung by Soprano, as given in some of the older scores.)
21. Chorus. 'His yoke is easy.'
PART II.
The opening of the Second Part speaks of the Atonement.
22. Chorus. 'Behold the Lamb of God.'
23. Contralto Solo. 'He was despised.'
24. Chorus. 'Surely He hath borne our griefs.'
25. Chorus. 'And with His stripes we are healed.'
26. Chorus. 'All we, like sheep, have gone astray.'
27. Tenor Solo (Short Recitative). 'All they that see Him laugh Him to scorn.'
28. Chorus. 'He trusted in God.'
29-30. Tenor Solos. 'Thy rebuke hath broker His heart'; and Behold, and see if there be any sorrow, like unto His sorrow.'
31-32. Tenor Solos. 'He was cut off'; and 'But Thou didst not leave His soul in hell.'
33. Chorus. 'Lift up your heads, O ye gates. ...Who is the King of Glory? The Lord strong and mighty..... The Lord of Hosts.
34. Tenor Solo. (Short Recitative) 'Unto which of the angels said He, "Thou art my son?"'
35. Chorus. 'Let all the angels of God worship him.'
36. Bass Solo. 'Thou art gone up on high.'
37. Chorus. 'The Lord gave the word; great was the company of the preachers.'
38. Soprano Solo. 'How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace.'
39. Chorus. 'Their sound is gone out into all lands.'
40. Bass Solo. Why do the nations so furiously rage together?'
41. Chorus. 'Let us break their bonds.'
42 43. Tenor Solos. 'He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh them to scorn'; and 'Thou shall break them with a rod of iron.'
44. The Hallelujah Chorus. 'Halleluiah! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.'
PART III.
45. Soprano Solo. 'I know that my Redeemer liveth.'
46-49. Chorus. These next four numbers are, perhaps, the most dramatic part of the whole work. The subdued, solemn, 'Since by man came death,' is answered triumphantly with ' By man came also the resurrection of the dead'; similarly, 'For as in Adam all die,' is answered by 'Even so in Christ shall all be made alive.'
50-51. Bass Solos. 'Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep'; and 'The trumpet shall sound.'
52. Contralto Solo (Recitative). 'Then shall be brought to pass the saying "Death is swallowed up in victory."
53. Contralto and Tenor Duet. 'O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?'
54. Chorus. 'But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory.'
55. Soprano Solo. 'If God be for us, who can be against us?'
56. Chorus. ' Worthy is the Lamb... Blessing and honour be unto Him.'
57. Chorus. 'Amen.'

Contributors

Unknown: Caroline Hatchard
Unknown: Edith Furmedge
Unknown: Frank Titterton
Unknown: Joseph Farrington
Unknown: Sir Henry Coward

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