Tainted Glory in Handel's Messiah: The Unsettling History of the World's Most Beloved Choral Workby Michael Marissen
Every Easter, audiences across the globe thrill to performances of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” but they would probably be appalled to learn the full extent of the oratorio’s anti-Judaic message. In this pioneering study, respected musicologist Michael Marissen examines Handel’s masterwork and uncovers a disturbing message of… See more details below
Every Easter, audiences across the globe thrill to performances of Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus,” but they would probably be appalled to learn the full extent of the oratorio’s anti-Judaic message. In this pioneering study, respected musicologist Michael Marissen examines Handel’s masterwork and uncovers a disturbing message of anti-Judaism buried within its joyous celebration of the divinity of the Christ.
Discovering previously unidentified historical source materials enabled the author to investigate the circumstances that led to the creation of the Messiah and expose the hateful sentiments masked by magnificent musical artistryincluding the famed “Hallelujah Chorus,” which rejoices in the “dashing to pieces” of God’s enemies, among them the “people of Israel.” Marissen’s fascinating, provocative work offers musical scholars and general readers alike an unsettling new appreciation of one of the world’s best-loved and most widely performed works of religious music.
Any work of art is, in large part, a result of the time in which it was produced. Marissen (Daniel Underhill Professor of Music, Swarthmore Coll.) is no stranger to studying musical works employing a decidedly theological slant. This work, in many ways serves as a companion in ideology to his 1998 Lutheranism, Anti-Judaism, and Bach's St. John Passion, and shows painstakingly cited original research. The book springs in part from the author's April 8, 2007 New York Times article, "Unsettling History of That Joyous 'Hallelujah,' " which suggested that the "Hallelujah Chorus" does not so much rejoice over the birth and resurrection of Christ as it celebrates the destruction of nonbelievers. The subsequent flurry of responses, both positive and negative, allowed for the more detailed text that followed, tracing the semantic roots of the Messiah via the King James Bible of the period, Charles Jennens's original libretto, and copies of noted biblical research material of the time. The original essay is republished, as is a line-by-line analysis of the Messiah libretto. VERDICT This work will find its best home in institutions with strong theology and/or musicology programs.—Virginia Johnson, Weymouth P.L., MA
- Yale University Press
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Meet the Author
Michael Marissen is the Daniel Underhill Professor of Music at Swarthmore College. His publications include Lutheranism, Anti-Judaism, and Bach’s St. John Passion and articles in Musical Quarterly, Harvard Theological Review, and the New York Times.
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