picture of Frideric Handel
lab51 clef icon George Frideric Handel
Messiah
(Dublin, April 13, 1742)
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Selected Images

1. This portrait of Handel, from about the time of Messiah, shows him at his grandest. He wears his white wig (the book tells an anecdote about Handel's wig in performance), he is trying not to look too portly, and trying to look pleasant (Burney says that his countenance was generally somewhat sour).

 

 

 

2. This 18th-century map of Dublin shows the center of the city. The River Liffey flows to the right. The large buildings of Trinity College extend past the right edge. At the top of the picture is Abbey Street (1), where Handel lived while in Dublin; his house was in Abbey Street near Liffey Street, thus just at the top edge of this picture. Across the river to the south, Fishamble Street can be seen curving its way up towards the river. Mr. Neale's Great Music Hall, brand new in 1742, stood on the right just before the intersection with Copper Alley (2).

   

 

3. This photograph, taken from Fishamble Street in 1994, shows the site of Mr. Neale's Great Music Hall, whose principal entrance was just to the left of the present Kennan and Sons sign.

 

 

4. This is the interior of The Great Music Hall in Dublin, where Messiah was first performed. There are two galleries, a raked floor for the audience, an orchestra pit (note that the harpsichord in the pit is shaped backwards, with the high notes on the left: this often happens in engraving since what is on the plate gets reversed right to left in the printing process). The stage has two side entrances, and there is a decorated back curtain. Whether there was any space behind this curtain is not clear.

   

 

5. This is the first page of Handel's composing score, written in London before he traveled to Dublin. It shows the slow opening of the overture, and the beginning of the livelier imitative section that follows. Note that Handel's original tempo-mark for this faster section has been corrected to read Allegro moderato. At the bottom right, with crossings-out, Handel writes a monogram and the indication "Angefangen den 22 August 1741--" (Begun Aug. 22 1741.) For a detail of the top of this page, see below.

   

 

6. A closeup of the first line of Handel's autograph score (see the larger picture above). Across the top is written MESSIAH. AN ORATORIO. PART THE FIRST And below, the first movement--what we usually call the overture--is labeled with a name (SINFONY) and a tempo indication (GRAVE).

   

 

7. This is the title page of the word-book printed for audience members in Dublin (Price, a British sixpence). This book is enormously valuable, because it tells us that Handel made certain changes in Dublin. Some pieces composed as arias were, according to this book, sung as recitatives. And the owner of this book took the trouble to pencil in the names of the singers alongside the words they sang, and as a result we have a good idea of the roles of each of the solo singers in the first performance. Details of this information are available in the book.

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