Handel's Messiah: A Celebration

Handel's Messiah: A Celebration

by Richard Luckett, Luckett
     
 

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Luckett explores the background and composition of Messiah--the often stormy relations between Handel and his librettist, the colorful lives and personalities of the original soloists, and the circumstances of the first performance in Dublin, 1742. Paintings, engravings, caricatures, and fascimiles.

Overview

Luckett explores the background and composition of Messiah--the often stormy relations between Handel and his librettist, the colorful lives and personalities of the original soloists, and the circumstances of the first performance in Dublin, 1742. Paintings, engravings, caricatures, and fascimiles.

Editorial Reviews

Mary Frances Wilkens
Though the author calls this book a "use of rather than a contribution to scholarship," the audience for Luckett's detailed historical account of how the most popular oratorio of all time came into being will no doubt be mostly academic. There is still room here, however, for both general classical music buffs and "Messiah" aficionados to revel in the extensive background information provided--along with juicy tidbits of gossip from this most proper of times, the eighteenth century. Luckett, a librarian at Magdalene College, Cambridge, illustrates his fondness for and dedication to Handel and his great work by citing frequent misrepresentations that appear in the countless biographies on Handel, particularly in the voluminous work of Charles Burney, a contemporary of the composer himself. The often stuffy writing fortunately does not undermine the thoughtful, intelligent approach taken, and is even less noticeable next to the beautiful, varied illustrations.
Kirkus Reviews
A joyous but far from superficial paean to Handel's beloved masterwork. Only very occasionally does there appear a book about great music that doesn't wind up somehow diminishing the music itself. This is such a book. Luckett, the librarian at Magdalene College, Cambridge, modestly disclaims breaking any new scholarly ground, but the wealth of erudition that illuminates his description of the backdrop (musical and social), composition, and performance history of Messiah is truly impressive. All the familiar material is here, and a good deal more besides. Even the more quirky references (e.g., Dr. Johnson's patronizing remarks about Dublin, which heard the first performance in 1742) add to the superb texture. And the writing is beyond praise: Describing Handel's retreat from opera to the new form of oratorio, Luckett articulates the difficulties of saying farewell to "...the irrational element, the pull of opera for its own ephemeral sake, the love affair that persists despite and because of the sweat and the greasepaint, the squalls and squalor, the cliques and cabals, for the sake of that one shudder of the realized dream." By the time that the aging, financially beleaguered master combines his earthy sense of rhythm and melody with a lifetime of musical learning to create his immortal treatment of the most sacred of religious subjects, the reader understands what makes "classical" music a living as well as lively art. Moreover, Luckett, going past Handel's death, provides a smart, wry history of emendations, "improvements," and performances up almost to our own day. A book worthy of its subject and its subtitle, and one that deserves far more than a specialist readership. AHandelian home run.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780151384372
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
09/13/1993
Edition description:
1st U.S. ed
Pages:
258
Product dimensions:
6.19(w) x 9.29(h) x 0.77(d)

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