Handel and Haydn Society to Present MESSIAH at Symphony Hall, 11/29-12/1
The Handel and Haydn Society (H&H), led by Artistic Director Harry Christophers, opens a musical celebration of the holiday season with its 160th annual performances of George Frideric Handel's masterpiece Messiah, November 29-December 1, 2013, at Symphony Hall. The celebration continues with A Bach Christmas, an intimate program of Baroque music; and Holiday Sing, a participatory family program of carols and choral music for the season.
Now in his fifth consecutive year leading H&H's performances of Messiah and carrying this cherished tradition forward, Harry Christophers promises to uncover fresh meaning, drama, and emotion in the work. "Above all, Messiah is an entertainment which, in our performance, will test your emotions and be an inspiration to both performer and listener alike," he says. "This year we will be performing the work with the added frisson of a live recording." Four acclaimed soloists, who have given superb performances with H&H in the recent past, return to perform and record the work with Christophers and the H&H Period Instrument Orchestra and Chorus: GillIan Keith, soprano; Daniel Taylor, countertenor; Tom Randle, tenor; and Sumner Thompson, baritone.
The history of Messiah in America is inextricably linked to the Handel and Haydn Society: H&H performed selections of Messiah at its first concert in 1815 and gave the American premiere of the entire work in 1818. It began its annual practice of performing the oratorio in 1854, thereby initiating an unparalleled, and unbroken, American musical tradition. Performance styles and ensemble sizes have changed over the years-the H&H amateur chorus numbered more than 600 in the late 19th century, for example, while today it comprises 40 professional singers-but H&H's commitment to performing this towering oratorio has remained constant. Under Christophers' direction, Handel and Haydn's keen, nuanced performances have won glowing reviews.
Composing Messiah in a brief, inspired burst in 1741, Handel premiered the oratorio in Dublin in 1742 to great acclaim. It was performed frequently in his lifetime, and he continued to tweak and rework the composition for the rest of his life. Setting a libretto by his collaborator Charles Jennens that used biblical passages to tell the story of Christ's birth, death, and resurrection, Handel originally intended Messiah to be performed at Easter. By the time Handel and Haydn Society brought the work to America, it had become widely associated with the Christmas season.