Friday, May 15, 2009
Review of “Messiah: The Little-known Story of Handel’s Beloved Oratorio”, by Tim Slover
This account presents the remarkable story of the creation of the world-famous Messiah by George Frideric Handel. Revealing that the work was composed during a tumultuous period of Handel’s life and molded through many unlikely circumstances, this chronicle tells of how this musical masterpiece was crafted and how it became a glorious production that is now performed around the world every Christmas season. Images of significant sites and artifacts of note, including the church where Messiah was first performed, accompany the text to accurately place this rich tale in its historical context. A bonus CD featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s rendition of Messiah is also included.
I’ve just finished reading the most splendid little book! Messiah: The Little-known Story of Handel’s Beloved Oratorio, by Tim Slover.
Messiah is no scholarly version of how Handel’s oratorio came to be. Slover writes in such an intimate style that one feels as if one is actually in the concert hall, anticipating the first London performance of the famous composer’s mysteriously titled work, “”A New Sacred Oratorio”.
Slover presents us at the outset with a number of mysteries. Why the “veiled” title? Why does the librettist, Charles Jennens, look displeased as he waits for the concert to start? Why does the tenor soloist look ill, and the contralto “stricken”? And will the king attend the performance, after snubbing Handel’s music for the last four years?
After drawing so vivid a picture for the reader, Slover deftly backtracks to lay the groundwork for revealing the answers to each of these questions. The story that follows is as riveting as it is entertaining. And, in the end, touching, as well. For Handel’s Messiah is not only a great work of art (okay, that may be a bit of an understatement), but invoked a healing spirit upon many of his age, as it continues to touch and heal many hearts today.
Messiah is replete with drawings and artwork, many from Handel’s lifetime, that bring the age even more fully to life for the reader. The art designer for Messiah, Amy Orton, is to be applauded. (Art designers are too often overlooked in books like this.)
I cannot recommend Messiah: The Little-known Story of Handel’s Beloved Oratorio highly enough. If you are a music lover, do yourself a favor. Read this book! (And if you purchase a copy, remember that it comes with a free CD, as noted in the book description above.)
Messiah: The Little-known Story of Handel's Beloved Oratorio can be purchased on Amazon. (Scroll down my left sidebar and use the Amazon link to order books highlighted on this site.)