Mr Harris’s Score’: A new look at the ‘Mathews’ manuscript of Handel’s ‘Messiah’

Burrows, Donald (2005). Mr Harris’s Score’: A new look at the ‘Mathews’ manuscript of Handel’s ‘Messiah’. Music & Letters, 86(4) pp. 560–572.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/ml/gci105

Abstract

The manuscript score of Handel’s Messiah copied by John Mathews, now in the collection of Archbishop Marsh’s Library, Dublin, incorporates musical material derived from early sets of performing partbooks, but also includes references to a score (now lost) that was owned by James Harris of Salisbury, an amateur musician who was an acquaintance of the composer’s. From these references it is possible to reconstruct many features of the musical content of Harris’s score. Recently published correspondence between Harris and John Christopher Smith, Handel’s principal music copyist, has revealed that Harris borrowed the composer’s own performing materials for Messiah in 1743 and 1744, apparently with a view to performance in Salisbury. The ‘Salisbury’ partbooks to which Mathews refers as one of his sources may therefore have greater authority than has previously been supposed, as reflecting the music of Messiah as it stood after Handel’s first London performances.

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