John Terauds, Toronto Star
No one expects a stopgap to turn into a masterpiece. But that’s what happened to George Frideric Handel when one of his collaborators, Charles Jennens, handed him some texts to set to music.
Messiah has, since its premiere in Dublin at Easter time 275 years ago, become one of the best-loved pieces of classical music in the English-speaking world. Toronto is no exception, becoming a virtual shrine to Messiah at this time every year.
The city’s two flagship orchestras — the Toronto Symphony Orchestra on modern instruments, and Tafelmusik Orchestra on historical ones — present multiple performances every December. The two-hour oratorio, either in part or whole, is also heard in churches, cathedrals, schools and community concerts from the city core to rural villages.
“Handel says he will do nothing next Winter, but I hope I shall perswade him to set another Scripture Collection I have made for him, & perform it for his own Benefit (taking the bulk of the box office) in Passion Week. I hope he will lay out his whole genius & Skill upon it, that the Composition may excell all his former Compositions, as the Subject excells every other Subject. The Subject is Messiah,” wrote Jennens to a friend in July 1741.
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