BOOKS

TITLE: GETTING A HANDEL ON MESSIAH
AUTHOR: DAVID W. BARBER
PUBLISHER: SOUND AND VISION
ISBN (HARDCOVER): N/A
ISBN (PAPERBACK): 0920151175
UPC/EAN: 9780920151174
LCCN: C94-9320315
YEAR: 1994
SERIES: N/A
PAGES: 128 P.
PUB. LOCATION: TORONTO
DDC: ML410.HI3B37
EXCERPT: CLICK HERE FOR SAMPLE PAGE (.PDF)


DESCRIPTION:  Chances are you've probably heard Handel's Messiah at least once, if not many times.  Maybe you've even performed it, as have countless musicians around the world.  After all, it's probably one of the best-loved, and certainly one of the best-known, works in the standard repertoire.  But if you thought you knew all there was to know about the great composer's famous oratorio, think again.  For example, it may surprise you to learn that:
  • Handel's first impulse to compose the work came not from religious or even musical inspiration.  It had a whole lot more to do with money.
  • The Hallelujah Chorus wasn't originally called that at all, but had a different name.
  • Although Handel was proud of Messiah, he didn't think it was his best work.  His favorite oratorio is one that hardly anyone has ever heard of, much less heard.
All these, and many more, entertaining (and entirely true!) facts await your discovery as bestselling author David W. Barber takes you on another delightful romp through the pages of musical history - as it ought to be taught.

SITE RATING:  7/10
SITE REVIEW:  A short, potent, and occasionally groan-worthy addition to the small-but-growing oeuvre of Messiah literature, David W. Barber's Getting A Handel On Messiah is a happy addition to most Messiah-lovers libraries.  Sporting no less of an introduction than by Handel expert Trevor Pinnock, I was expecting something rather droll and British in the humor found throughout, but the author, hailing from, and the book published out of Toronto gives this book a more Northern, and far snarkier flavor than the dry European wits would approve of.  It's a bit of a let-down, actually - I think that some Monty Python wackiness would have made this a far more enjoyable exercise in Handellian lore than it turned out to be.  As it is, Barber gets most of his facts correct, (although he notes in his preface that he didn't do any actual fact-checking on his own, leaving that niggling detail to the books and musical rags he took his facts from), he livens up the prose with little asides that are more snide than clever, and are more prone to induce smiles than outright laughter.  Most of these jokes come in the form of copious footnotes sprinkles onto almost every page, while the pen-and-ink cartoons (by Dave Donald) which grace each chapter are more perfunctory than humorous. The outline of the book is straightforward, with biographical information tied together into a natural timeline, along with some facts which probably won't suprise well-read Messiah enthusiasts.  Considering how revered and reverent a place which Handel and Messiah hold in music-lover's hearts, I personally think that a little irreverent reassessment is long overdue, but until the Pythons decide to tackle it head-on (and no, I'm not going to count Eric Idle's original work Not the Messiah: He's A Very Naughty Boy), then this gently humorous book will have to do.

The Compleat Messiah All Content Copyright 2015 Bret D. Wheadon
All Rights Reserved.