can’t see the forest

Hallelujah and Happy Holidays to You

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(The choir Cantillation and the New Baroque Ensemble, Orchestra of the Antipodes (Sydney, Aus.), Antony Walker, cond.)

And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth. –Rev. 19:6

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. –Rev. 11:15

And He hath on His vesture and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. –Rev. 19:16

Although Händel’s Messiah was first performed in April 1742, not December, and though it in fact treats the entire life of Jesus, not merely his birth, still in Anglo-American culture the oratorio has become inexorably associated with the Nativity, particularly this most famous number of the work, No. 44, Hallelujah.

Legend has it that, upon completing this movement, Händel called for his assistant. The assistant found his master in tears, clutching a few pages of manuscript. Inquiring what was the matter, he was answered by Händel thrusting the papers at him and exclaiming, “I have seen the face of God!”

King George II is said to have stood when he heard this chorus performed for the first time, possibly to acknowledge Jesus Christ as his king just as subjects of the British king were required to stand when he did. An alternative theory postulates that his gout was simply acting up at that particular moment.

The performance above is the most credible I have found on Youtube. If you have a sharp ear, you may notice that the pitch sounds about a half-step low. This is because period instruments are being used, and in the Baroque period, standard tuning was significantly lower than it is today. Both the choral ensemble and the orchestra are small—today’s performances of Messiah tend to favor ever larger forces for grandiose effect, a trend that began as early as Mozart, who himself arranged the oratorio for a larger orchestra. But this performance is quite authentic and is the closest to how it might have sounded in Händel’s time as you are likely to hear.

Enjoy.

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6 Responses

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  1. Ann said, on 12/23/08 at 10:01 pm

    “An alternative theory postulates that his gout was simply acting up at that particular moment.”

  2. Ann said, on 12/23/08 at 10:02 pm

    Oops, the didn’t com,e out, prob because it looks like code

  3. Curtis said, on 12/24/08 at 5:10 am

    Is your gout acting up?

  4. peoplesgeography said, on 12/24/08 at 6:24 pm

    What can I say, I’m g-out of the closet now.

    The word that kept disappearing is guffaw, because < tags rather than parentheses were used.

  5. Curtis said, on 12/24/08 at 8:19 pm

    :-)

  6. Bluebear2 said, on 12/24/08 at 11:14 pm

    Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all!


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