If you want to enjoy and appreciate Handel’s beloved Messiah more deeply, this informed yet accessible guide is the book to read.
Here you will find fascinating historical background to Messiah, including its unlikely inception, and learn about its reception and impact from Handel’s day to our own. Calvin Stapert devotes most of his book to scene-by-scene musical and theological commentary on the entire score, demonstrating how the music of Messiah beautifully intertwines with and illuminates its biblical text. Through these pages Handel’s popular and much-loved masterpiece will be greatly enhanced for listeners old and new alike.
A superb study of one of the most widely performed pieces of Western music. As we have come to expect from this author, the writing is profound and scholarly as well as lucid and accessible. This is destined to be a classic guide to a classic work.
—Jeremy Begbie, Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology, Duke University
Calvin Stapert observes that oratorio, like opera, was written to entertain. Messiah certainly does that. But it does more. It proclaims good news. This fascinating, informative book will enrich the hearing of one of the world’s musical masterpieces. It will also deepen and enhance appreciation of one of Christianity’s true treasures.
—John Buchanan, former pastor, Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago
Although Handel’s Messiah is known and loved by many, the composer’s intentions and purpose in creating this unique work are either unknown or underappreciated . . . In this book Calvin Stapert’s aim is not merely to give his readers information about this remarkable oratorio; he wants them to understand it—an aim admirably achieved with clarity, conviction, and charm.
—Robin A. Leaver, visiting professor, Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Queen’s University Belfast
Messiah is ‘the classic,’ not only in the West but even in Japan. I have been performing this magnificent work with Bach Collegium Japan every year in the past decade, but it still makes us exuberant each and every time we perform it. When it comes to Bach cantatas, we oftentimes cannot help but be earnest and vigilant performing them, but in Messiah we can pour our hearts out as we please! According to Reformer John Calvin, music can deliver words deeply into our hearts, as through a funnel wine is poured into a vessel. Messiah must be one of the best funnels distilling God’s words to the depths of our hearts. In this book my friend Calvin Stapert helps us understand this masterwork from manifold points of view, pouring deeper appreciation for the work into our hearts through the funnel of his words. Thank you very much, Cal!
—Masaaki Suzuki, founder and director, Bach Collegium Japan
A superb general treatment of a cornerstone in Western cultural history, Stapert’s book is a work of great intelligence and devotional warmth. Highly recommended.
—Stephen A. Crist, associate professor, Emory University
Calvin R. Stapert is professor emeritus of music at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His previous books include My Only Comfort: Death, Deliverance, and Discipleship in the Music of Bach; Handel’s Messiah: Comfort for God’s People; and A New Song for an Old World: Musical Thought in the Early Church.