ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “The Messiah” was a gift. George Frideric Handel’s masterpiece premiered in Dublin in 1742 in a benefit for three charities.
The New Mexico Philharmonic will join the Coro Lux Chamber Chorus in three performances of the legendary oratorio at Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Saturday, Dec. 14; Sandia Presbyterian Church on Sunday, Dec. 15, and at Rio Rancho’s V. Sue Cleveland High School on Friday, Dec. 20. David Felberg and Bradley Ellingboe will conduct.
The composer wrote “Messiah” in Dublin while he was facing the demise of his operatic career. For a new approach, he was determined to adopt the new English tradition of oratorio. In doing so, he created one of the most popular and oft-performed pieces in classical music history.
In the years after Handel’s death, the work was adapted for performance on a much larger scale, with giant orchestras and choirs, a practice that often proved overblown and unwieldy, Coro Lux conductor Ellingboe said.
“In Handel’s day, the music was based on dance forms, so it had a lot of verve and bounce,” Ellingboe said. “It became such a warhorse that people would do it with 800 people in the crowd.
“The issue is to strip away all the buildup that’s historically inaccurate to make it as bouncy and joyous as it was meant to be,” he continued. “It (became) an obligation, and it should be a blast.”