articles / Chapman Challenge

Chapman Challenge: The Story Behind Handel’s “Messiah”


KUSC’s Alan Chapman has a lot to say about music, but can he say it in 60 seconds? That’s the Chapman Challenge. We ask a question and Alan has a minute to answer it.

Today’s question is from Laura in Costa Mesa. She writes, “It’s the big season for Handel’s Messiah. What can you tell me about Handel’s oratorios in sixty seconds?”

Hit play below to listen to this week’s Chapman Challenge on Arts Alive.
 

Chapman Challenge: The Story Behind Handel’s “Messiah”

 
 
First I can tell you that Handel encountered oratorios during his four years in Italy. Italian oratorios usually had an Old Testament story which was set to music in the operatic style, with recitatives and arias. While he was in Italy, Handel composed an oratorio, but on a New Testament subject, the Resurrection.

When Handel got to England, he wrote a work based on the biblical story of Esther. It was different from the Italian oratorios because it included choruses. And this work, from 1718, would be the first English oratorio.

By the 1730s, Handel’s oratorios had become quite profitable and that was very fortunate for him. The vogue for Italian operas in London had diminished and throughout the decade Handel used his oratorio income to subsidize his opera losses.

Finally, in 1741, Handel decided to call it quits as far as Italian opera was concerned. And it was in the summer of that same year that Handel was presented with a new libretto for an oratorio called Messiah.

That’s today’s Chapman Challenge. Is there a question you’d like to have answered in 60 seconds? Send it to us at [email protected].

Written by:
Alan Chapman
Alan Chapman
Published on 12.18.2020

MORE LIKE THIS

Chapman Challenge: What’s the Story Behind the Gewandhaus Orchestra?

Chapman Challenge: What’s the Story Behind the Gewandhaus Orchestra?

In this Chapman Challenge, Alan explains the origin of the Gewandhaus Orchestra's name, its connection to Leipzig's textile trade, and its evolution as a musical center since 1781.

Chapman Challenge
05/24/2019
The Story Behind Mozart’s “Bonus” 41st Symphony

The Story Behind Mozart’s “Bonus” 41st Symphony

"Alan Chapman explains the confusion around Mozart's symphony numbering, revealing Symphony No. 37 was mistakenly attributed to Mozart, affecting subsequent numbering."

Chapman Challenge
09/18/2019
Chapman Challenge: What’s the Spookiest Instrument?

Chapman Challenge: What’s the Spookiest Instrument?

In this Chapman Challenge, Alan discusses the spookiest instruments in honor of Halloween, highlighting the eerie sounds of the theremin and the scary potential of violins.

Chapman Challenge
10/26/2021
Chapman Challenge: What Is a Rondo?

Chapman Challenge: What Is a Rondo?

Explore the rondo, a popular musical form often used in concertos and symphonies, known for its recurring refrain and contrasting sections. Learn how composers play with its structure for listener enjoyment.

Chapman Challenge
04/01/2019
Chapman Challenge: What Is a Chaconne?

Chapman Challenge: What Is a Chaconne?

In this Chapman Challenge, Alan Chapman explains the chaconne, a Baroque musical form built on a repeated series of chords, using Henry Purcell's work as an example.

Chapman Challenge
04/01/2019
Chapman Challenge: What is a Sonata?

Chapman Challenge: What is a Sonata?

In this Chapman Challenge, Alan Chapman explains the origin and evolution of the term 'sonata' in music, from its Italian roots to its use in the Classical and Baroque periods.

Chapman Challenge
04/01/2019