Judas Maccabaeus, Handel's victory oratorio of 1747, and its development in London performances until 1744

Channon, Merlin George Charles (1995). Judas Maccabaeus, Handel's victory oratorio of 1747, and its development in London performances until 1744. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e059


By the time of Handel's death in 1759, Judas Maccabaeus had become the composer's second most popular oratorio: it received thirty-three London performances during the composer's lifetime, and continued to receive regular performances in London from 1760 until 1774.

This thesis begins with a review of the historical and social, events which led to the composition of Judas Maccabaeus in 1746. Then the evolution of the libretto and music up to the first performance on 1 April 1747 is traced. The form of Handel's first performing version is reconstructed, involving the interpretation of early sources and the correction of errors found in available published editions of the work.

Chapters 4-6 trace the subsequent versions of the work, as presented by Handel and his immediate successors in London. Evidence from the conducting score used by Handel and J. C. Smith the younger, and from early manuscript copies of the score and contemporary word-books, is linked with information about successive casts of solo singers. Newlyfound material has enabled a revision to be made of previous assumptions concerning Handel's performing versions during 1747-1750.

The content of Judas Maccabaeus from 1751 until the composer's death in 1759 is charted season by season, and the continued development of Judas Maccabaeus from 1760 until. 1774, previously ignored by commentators, is dealt with comprehensively. Finally the critical reception of the oratorio between 1747 and 1774 is reviewed.

This study clarifies many details relevant for future performances and new editions of Judas Maccabaeus, and presents a history of the work's development in performance, comparable to the published studies of Messiah.

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