Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Handel's Messiah: Comfort for God's People

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Handel's Messiah: Comfort for God's People

Article excerpt

Handel's Messiah: Comfort for God's People. By Calvin R. Stapert. (Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2010, Pp. xiv, 173. $15.00 paper.)

As I read this book, I was reminded of Jaroslav Pelikan's Bach As Theologian (1986), in which the author analyzes many of J. S. Bach's choral works, both theologically and musically. Calvin Stapert's work is less intense and focuses upon only one of Handel's works, the monumental oratorio Messiah (1741). Both these books could well be read alongside studying a score or listening to a recording. Not only will they heighten one's enjoyment of the music, but also they will intellectually stimulate and connect spiritually with the composers' intentions.

Stapert is professor emeritus of music at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a Bach scholar. He brings sensitivity, careful scholarship, and, most engagingly, a personal love for and devotion to Handel's great work. It is difficult to write something fresh about such a work since so much has been written already about it. Its universality in every performing venue, especially around Christmas and Easter, makes the oratorio something of a "usual" thing. It is not, Stapert firmly believes. Even though performances of Messiah are done in recent memory by massed choirs with huge orchestras, the work is best performed with small choral and orchestral forces, utilizing one of the carefully edited scores that are available, along with period instruments and a counter-tenor singing the alto recitatives and arias. Some of the illustrations show how far musical performances have come from the "mob chorus" days in the 1930s to the present day. …

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