Introduction

While Italian opera set the standard in the Baroque era, German composer George Frederic Handel quickly gained popularity for his oratorios, which put operatic techniques to work in the service of sacred music. Handel’s Messiah premiered in Dublin on April 13, 1742, and remains popular to this day. Harvard’s Thomas Forrest Kelly (Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music) guides learners through Messiah’s musical highlights, while detailing Handel’s composition process, the preparations and rehearsals, and the premiere performance.

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Learners in this module of First Nights need not have any prior musical experience. In this unit, you will learn the basics of musical form and analysis, the genres and styles used in Messiah, the circumstances of its first performance, and its subsequent history. 

What you'll learn:

  • Get to know some wonderful music
  • Identify genres and subgenres of 18th-century opera and oratorio
  • Understand text-music relationships in the Baroque period
  • Distinguish basic aspects of musical texture and musical form
  • Appreciate cultural context and performance circumstances of Handel’s Messiah

 

Meet The Faculty

Thomas Forrest Kelly

Thomas Forrest Kelly

Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music, Harvard University

Thomas is the Morton B. Knafel Professor of Music at Harvard University. He received his B.A. from UNC-Chapel Hill, and his Ph.D. from Harvard. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an honorary citizen of the city of Benvento, and a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Artes et Lettres of the French Republic.

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