When Italian opera fell out of favour in London during the 1730s, Handel turned instead to composing oratorios. Handel had already gained some experience in this genre in Rome, where the pope had banned opera for some time. Messiah, written in 1741, was his eighth oratorio and used texts from the King James Bible and the Coverdale Psalter. Handel’s Messiah is the Anglo-Saxon counterpart to Bach’s Matthäus-Passion and is widely performed around Christmas and Easter. Originally composed for a relatively small instrumentation, a tradition developed through the 18th and 19th centuries of performing this oratorio with increasingly larger orchestras and choirs. For this performance, the Belgian National Orchestra is joined by the Chœur de Chambre de Namur and British conductor Ian Page, who is abundantly familiar with the Anglo-Saxon tradition – from mammoth concerts in the Royal Albert Hall to performances using historical instruments.
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