The German composer George Frideric Handel (1685 - 1759) composed Messiah in 1741 and it remains his best-known work, with its famous 'Hallelujah Chorus' performed by choirs the world over.
Handel enjoyed enormous commercial and artistic success during his lifetime, particularly in England where he settled and later became a citizen.
He was initially best known as an opera composer but, as public taste changed and his operas did not succeed he concentrated on composing oratorios. Like operas, these told a story using solo singers, a chorus and an orchestra, but without staging or actors who played a consistent role throughout. Despite this development Handel’s work during the 1730s received mixed reactions, and by 1741 it was rumoured that he would leave England.
In July, however, Handel received an invitation to visit Ireland, and this prompted him to start work on his friend and collaborator Charles Jennens’s idea for a ‘scripture collection’ on the subject of ‘Messiah’. Handel completed the work in September of the same year and it was performed in April 1742 in Dublin to an enraptured audience. Its first performance in London was not so favourably received until a performance at Thomas Coram's Foundling Hospital in Bloomsbury.
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Amongst our collections of printed and recorded music you can admire music manuscripts written by renowned composers. Here are some of our most famous, starting from the 13th century.