The Messiah was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742 and was an immediate success. Handel had been writing oratorios since 1720 and was an established composer of this genre, but it was in Messiah that Handel placed the chorus most prominently to the fore, in a work that abounds in superb music.
The work is in three parts. Part 1 takes the audience from the prophecies to the birth of Christ. Part 2 is the dramatic heart of the work, telling of Christ’s passion, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension and ends on a gloriously optimistic note with the Hallelujah chorus. Part 3 consists entirely of reflective commentary, principally on the resurrection and the theme of Christian redemption.
It is remarkable that this masterpiece was composed in just 24 days. More than 275 years have passed since its first performance, yet Messiah remains one of the most loved, well known and powerful pieces of choral music in the western world.