BOOKS

TITLE: HANDEL'S MESSIAH: A CELEBRATION
AUTHOR: RICHARD LUCKETT
PUBLISHER: HARCOURT BRACE & COMPANY
ISBN (HARDCOVER): 0151384372
ISBN (PAPERBACK): 0156001381
UPC/EAN: 9780151384372
LCCN: ML410.H13L8; 93-22069
YEAR: 1992
SERIES: N/A
PAGES: 258 P.
PUB. LOCATION: GREAT BRITAIN
DDC: 782.23
EXCERPT: CLICK HERE FOR SAMPLE PAGE (.PDF)


DESCRIPTION:  Richard Luckett, librarian at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and an acknowledged authority on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music, explores the background and composition of Messiah; the often stormy relations between Handel and his librettist, Charles Jennens; the colorful lives and personalities of the original soloists; and the circumstances of the first performances in Dublin, 1742, at which ladies were asked not to wear hoops or gentlemen their swords, so there would be more room.  Luckett also gives the complex subsequent history of the work - its success in small town and among humble people, its grand Victorian spectacle in Westminster Abbey, with thousands on stage and tens of thousands in the audience, and its "restoration" in the twentieth century.  Paintings, engravings, caricatures, and facsimiles of Handel's autograph score illustrate a text written with erudition and wit.  Handel's Messiah: A Celebration is a fascinating account of a great and beloved work of music.

SITE RATING:  5/10
SITE REVIEW: I wish that I enjoyed this book more - it's chock-full of information, it's highly literate, and the author, Richard Luckett, has obviously put a lot of research into it.  But for all the information and knowledge, Luckett lacks a writer's felicity with language - his prose is pedantic and stale, and more often than not, he sounds like the dustiest college professor on campus, droning on and on without ever engaging his students' interest.  This stuffiness begins with the table of contents, which harnesses the chapters with titles that seem ripped from the bodices of Elizabethan drama: "To th' Hibernian Shore", "The Ravished Ear: The Music of Messiah", "The Benevolent Design: The Birth of an Institution" - and "The Universal Song: The Apogee of Messiah" - none of which whetted my appetite for what was to follow.  The author spends a great deal of time on each moment of Messiah's creation - seventeen pages on Jennens's libretto, twenty-one pages on Handel's music; a further twenty-one pages on the Dublin premiere, and so on, but it's such a chore to wade through, that even a huge admirer of Messiah like me found myself skipping pages, looking for something of interest.  Luckett's vast garden of facts and anecdotes withers and dies under the white glare of his dull, scholarly writing.  In trying to create a celebration of Messiah, Luckett's roots as a college librarian unwittingly show themselves; Handel's Messiah: A Celebration is like the whited sepulchre; lovely and elegant on the outside, but the heart and soul of it - the written word - is full of dead men's bones.


The Compleat Messiah All Content Copyright 2015 Bret D. Wheadon
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