BOOKS

TITLE: JENNENS VS. HANDEL: DECODING THE MYSTERIES OF MESSIAH
AUTHOR: SHAWN E. CHARTON
PUBLISHER: PUBLISHAMERICA
ISBN (HARDCOVER): N/A
ISBN (PAPERBACK): 978-1451228021
UPC/EAN: 9781451228021
LCCN: N/A
YEAR: MARCH 23, 2011
SERIES: N/A
PAGES: 142
PUB. LOCATION: USA
DDC: UNKNOWN
EXCERPT: CLICK HERE FOR SAMPLE PAGE (.PDF)


DESCRIPTION:  "Handel's great oratorio, Messiah, has been a favorite among audiences since its premier performance. As a work of art its choruses and arias (such as Hallelujah!) have grown to be household names among classical music lovers. However, few people realize the precarious politics into which Messiah was born or the clashes that it caused between the librettist, Mr. Charles Jennens, and Handel. Jennens vs. Handel attempts to look at Messiah from both points of view in an effort to better understand the structure and true intents and compromises of the work."

SITE RATING:  6/10
SITE REVIEW:  The author, a vocal performance and music theory graduate, has penned this short, densely-packed book which takes as its main thesis that Jennens, being a "nonjuror" (i.e., a member of the benificed clergy in England or Scotland who refused to make an oath of allegiance to William and Mary or their heirs) in his political/religious life, and who purposely shaped Messiah's libretto to mirror that stance, placing Handel in a somewhat precarious situation.  That, coupled with the possiblilty of both Handel and Jennens being accused of heresy by the reigning ecclesiastical powers-that-be for staging a sacred text in a theatrical venue (with singing actors instead of respectable singers), is the main thrust of the book.  Unfortunately for the author, there's no first-hand evidence to support this theory, and he's left to piece it together through inference, conjecture, and supposition - although he supports his own ideas through similar research done by Hogwood, Tobin and others.  The author also dips his hand into musical symbolism, the structural drama of Messiah, and other closely associated concepts.  I found the initial idea of Jennens' nonjuror leanings intriguing, but unsustainable through the entire course of the book, and as the author got further away from this main idea, my interest waned.  Charnin's prose is littered with musicological phrases which will mean nothing to casual readers, and is otherwise dry, with most chapters being only a few pages in length.  The nonjuror aspect is intriguing, but unless more concrete evidence of this scandalous pretext is uncovered, the supposed "mystery" of Messiah is best left to the dramaturge.

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