Friday, January 14, 2011

Handel's Messiah: Comfort for God's People, by Calvin Stapert


This. Book. Is. Incredible. The book gets off to a bit of a slow start with about 60 pages of history (not Stapert's strong suit, which makes sense since he's a music professor), then picks up a bit when Stapert delves into the deism Messiah was created to combat. The real strength of the book, however, is in the commentary on the music of Messiah. Stapert walks through each part, scene, and piece in the whole oratorio and points out the stylistic and symbolic choices Handel made in the music to drive home the content of the words. I've always loved Messiah--the words are powerful and the music delights the ears. But this book allowed me to interact on an intellectual level with the music itself, rather that just the words. I don't think I'll ever listen to Messiah in quite the same way ever again. I will definitely be re-reading this one.

NOTE: The audiobook, available as a free download at in December 2010, features a few (admittedly mediocre) recordings of notable pieces from Messiah. Also, the narrator is British. Then again, some of the musical discussions may be easier to follow on the written page, so choose your your own adventure.

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