Ev’ry valley shall be exhalted, and ev’ry mountain and hill made low (Part One)

The composer George Frideric Handel, who compo...

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As we have passed through the Thanksgiving Holiday, we now come upon the Christmas season.  This is the time of year that I usually dedicate to seasonally appropriate music, and this year shall be no different.  But I do this not out of requirement.  Some of the most wonderful pieces of music ever written were composed expressly for the Christmas holiday, and given the general historical focus of my program, I feel that I would be amiss if I failed to give this music the appropriate airing.

The focus of the next two weeks, owing to the length of the piece, will be Georg Friederic Handel‘s masterpiece Messiah.  Writing in just 3 weeks time, having started on August 22, 1741, completing the music by September 12th, and filling in the orchestration by September 14th, Handel premiered the work on April 13th, 1742 in Dublin, Ireland as a benefit performance for charity.  Handel revised the work on multiple occasions after its premiere (a common practice, also done by Bach and Mozart), often to make use of the musical resources at his disposal, and the version that we are most familiar with was finally heard at a similar benefit in 1754.

After Handel’s death there were a number of popular revisions of the work, including that by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1789 (he added a number of woodwind parts), that resulted in a trend towards larger orchestras and larger choirs.  However, the recent trend towards historically informed performance of Baroque era music has resulted in a number of scholarly editions of the score that reveal to us the true beauty and delicacy of the music, and bring us ever closer to the vision that Handel had.

Tonight’s recording is a wonderful 1970 rendition that features excellent singing by soloists Margaret Price, Yvonne Minton, Alexander Young and Justino Diaz, with the bosso continuo done by noted harpsichordist Colin Tilney.  Handel occasionally arranged the piece so that two sopranos would alternate between the soprano arias; while I have played a few recordings of such arrangements on The Galaxy in the past, this recording reverts to the standard SATB (soprano, alto, tenor, bass) arrangement.  Justino Diaz, in particular, is quite commanding in his arias.

Thus, I give you today’s playlist (the original can always be found here):

Composer Performer Title Genre Label
Margaret Price (sop), Yvonne Minton (contralto), Alexander Young (tenor), Justino Diaz (bass), Amor Artis Chorale, English Chamber Orchestra, Johannes Somary, cond., Colin Tilney, harpsichord and organ
Classical, Baroque era, music for choir with soloists and orchestra
Omega, 1990

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