Handel composed Messiah in just 24 days – he began the masterwork on August 22 1741 and completed it on Sept 14. In these three weeks he created a work that still enjoys immense popularity more than 275 years after it was written.
Messiah was premiered as a charity benefit on April 13, 1742, in the Great Music Hall, Fishamble Street, Dublin.
The assembled press unanimously praised the performance: “Words are wanting to express the exquisite delight it afforded to the admiring and crowded Audience” and “This work far surpassed anything of that Nature which has been performed in this or any other Kingdom.”
Handel’s most significant musical innovation in Messiah, and his other oratorios, was his use of the chorus, which was given a much greater role than in the opera, enjoying equal status with soloists. This enhanced use of the chorus had a marked impact, not only because Handel could write for choir with tremendous flair and imagination, but because audiences could experience a more personal connection to the music when a choir was involved.
The chorus has the greatest role of any actor in Messiah, thanks to the power and variety of Handel’s choral writing.
George Frideric Handel’s Messiah has become one of the most popular works in the choral/orchestral repertoire. This magnificent work continues to speak to people of many cultures and faiths around the world. It has become one of the best known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music, proclaiming “peace on earth, and goodwill towards men” – a message that continues to be timely and universal.