Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday music: selections from Handel's "Messiah"

Here is a pair from Handel's Messiah, presenting Isaiah's prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. First, Isaiah 7:14, with 40:9.

Once you hear these Scriptures sung in The Messiah, it's hard to read them any other way. For instance, here is the London Symphony Orchestra's rendition of "For Unto Us A Child Is Born," from Isaiah 9:6.

Great Old Testament scholar Edward J. Young, author of a three-volume commentary on Isaiah, told the story of a time when he preached on Isaiah 9:6. He preached that the name of the Child is likely four pairs in Hebrew, thus equalling "Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace," rather than "Wonderful, Counselor" (i.e. two titles).

After the sermon a lady admonished Professor Young that he was in error. It couldn't be Wonderful Counselor; and to prove her point, she sang Handel's "Wonderful... Counselor... the Mighty God," and so forth.

I agree with Dr. Young... but I sympathize with the anonymous woman.


Gov98 said...

Handel's Messiah is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. It absolutely boggles my mind.

It does mess with one's reading of Scripture. I Corinthians 15 when read just keeps playing Handel's Messiah in my head.

What amazes me is that Handel's Messiah does a very good job of presenting the Gospel, walking through Biblical Doctrine after Biblical Doctrine.

Michael said...

Just yesterday my wife and I were able to experience the 5th annual "sing along" performance of the Messiah by the Michael O'Neal Singers at a local church. I had learned and performed it when I was in high school, and it was so cool to experience it again. I love the scripture references Handel included, and the music is amazing. As much as I love the "Hallelujah" chorus, I think my favorite part of the Messiah is still "Comfort Ye" at the very beginning.

Son Followers Blog

NoLongerBlind said...

Thanks for sharing this wonderful performance of an amazing piece.

And to think that Handel composed the music for this treasure in a little over 3 weeks!

Quoting from Wikipedia: "In the summer of 1741 Handel, depressed and in debt, began setting Charles Jennens' Biblical libretto to music at a breakneck speed. In just 24 days, Messiah was complete (August 22 - September 14)."

Steve Drake said...

Could it be possible that the four pairs are accurate in the German as taken from the Hebrew, and were Handel's intent, yet somehow got lost in the correct translation and wording in composition to music in English? OT scholar Edward J. Young was correct, the Christ is indeed a 'Wonderful Counselor'.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

That was fast! Though, (to amend Michael's comment) Handel didn't write the text, he set it to music. Still a wonderful feat.

He basically locked himself away, in isolation, and was inspired - he believed he had seen the face of God.

When Handel's Messiah premiered in London he was complimented by an aristocrat for having entertained the audience. He is said to have replied,
My lord, I should be sorry to say that I only entertained. I wished to make them better.

Amen :D

Michael said...

What I actually said was that he included scripture references. :)

Son Followers Blog

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Touche, Michael :D

And I love that aria as well. Though I think my favorite is, "I know that my redeemer liveth".


Robert said...

@Steve, the "four pairs" (a view I also hold) are separated by the punctuation of the KJV that Handel would have used as a point of reference.

Susan said...

Totally random thoughts:

1. I told myself that I would not spend $$ on a "Messiah Sing-Along Concert" this year (last year was the first time I did that). Didn't miss a got me singing here while the clips played! :) (I also got to sing along to the "Hallelujah!" chorus while attending the GCC Christmas concert this past weekend. Wasn't supposed to, perhaps, because the choir was performing, but couldn't help it! Wasn't the only one, either.) :)

2. It's interesting to see contraltos (men) singing with the altos in the second video. You can hear the difference, though.

3. In the first video, the alto aria is the perfect warm-up tune to the high soprano part in the chorus! (I was surprised by the alto's sudden "flourish" in her last phrase, however.)

Just had a thought: Why don't you post one different aria or chorus a day for us? (And why didn't I think of this sooner?? It would be the ultimate "Messiah" countdown to Christmas day. Oh well, I guess you can still do it if you count Epiphany....) :\

word verification: subbilk (reminds me of shibboleth for some reason)