In 1741, in just 24 days, the German-born, British-naturalized composer George Frideric Handel wrote an oratorio rich in tuneful arias and choruses of robust grandeur. Coolly received in London at first, after Handel's death Messiah enjoyed an extraordinary surge in popularity: it was performed at festivals across England; other composers rushed to rearrange it; it would be commercially recorded on more than 100 occasions. Jonathan Keates tells the story of the composition and musical afterlife of Handel's masterpiece: he considers the first performances and its place in Handel's output; he looks at the oratorio itself and its relationship with spirituality in the age of the Enlightenment; and he examines why Messiah became such an essential element in the national culture of Britain. Illustrated with beautiful images, including the original score of the work, Messiah is a richly informative and affectionate celebration of a high-point of Britain's Georgian golden age.
'A brilliantly lucid guide to Handel's evolving art' Independent. 'Keates appraises his works with passionate scrutiny' The Sunday Times. 'Simmers with an unashamed passion for the music itself' Sunday Telegraph.
Jonathan Keates is a distinguished and prize-winning biographer, novelist and travel writer, and author of lives of the composers Handel (1985) and Purcell (1995). He is chairman of the Venice in Peril fund.