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Oratorio As Exegesis: The Use Of The Book Of Isaiah In Handel’s Messiah

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Chapter Summary

Handel's Messiah is among the best-known musical compositions of all time, and it is also heavily dependent upon the Bible for its theme and content, thus making it an ideal source for a study of the Bible in music. This chapter is about two of the great icons of world culture, the Bible and Handel's Messiah, and what they have in common. Handel's contribution to the work is in itself as significant a piece of biblical interpretation as that of Charles Jennens, and it is deserving of serious analysis and critical examination, so after some methodological observations, the chapter concludes with a short 'reading' of one of the oratorio's favourite choruses as a piece of exegesis. There is much to be said concerning the libretto first. The oratorio begins not with the gloom and destruction of Isaiah 1, but with the consolation of Isaiah 40.

Keywords: Bible; Charles Jennens; Exegesis; Handel's Messiah; Isaiah; Libretto; oratorio



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