Alternatives to Messiah: A Survey of Handel Oratorios

« previous episode | next episode »

Sunday, December 02, 2012


On today’s Choral Mix, we showcase four of Handel’s great oratorios that aren’t Messiah. We have new releases of Handel from the Choir of Trinity Wall Street and The Sixteen, a classic recording from John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir, and this week’s Choral Story.

Most composers die before they ever get much recognition. But not Georg Friedrich Handel. He was a superstar in his time and in ours – thanks in large part to his oratorios.

Oratorios retell great stories – usually from the Bible or from mythology – with music. And of the 29 that he wrote, Handel’s most famous oratorio is Messiah

Today’s show, though, is about some of the other oratorios. We’re playing the ones that aren’t so well known or performed so often: Israel in Egypt, Solomon, Saul and Alexander’s Feast.



Handel/Israel in Egypt/Orchestra and Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Julian Wachner

But as for his people

He Deliver’d the poor that cried



Handel/Solomon/RIAS Kammerchor, Akademie Fur Alte Musik Berlin, Daniel Reuss

With pious heart, and holy tongue

From the censer curling rise

Praise the Lord with harp and tongue!



Handel/ Saul/ The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

Preserve him for the glory

Oh, fatal consequence

Mourn, Israel, mourn thy beauty lost



Handel/Alexander’s Feast/Monteverdi Choir, English Baroque Soloists, John Eliot Gardiner

The many rend the skies with loud applause

At Last Divine Cecilia came

Let Old Timotheus yield the prize

Comments [6]

Oliver Dechant from Edmonton, Canada

This was a excellent broadcast, thanks for exploring Handel's lesser know pieces. I always look forward to this time of year when Messiah is being staged in my hometown and around the world.

Dec. 06 2012 12:58 PM
Sarah E. from Bronx

It was great to hear some of the other great works by Handel at this time of the year. The first work by him(and it was love at first note),that I ever heard was his'Saul, so playing that work was a speceicl treat. I would have loved for you to do his' Dixit; maybe at different time. Thank You

Dec. 04 2012 05:44 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

Thanks for covering some of these less-celebrated works. "Messiah" is dragged out and beaten to death, so to speak, every year around now (always well over with before Boxing Day), then packed up till Easter (when it is not as prevalent, surprisingly, since it was written, as I recall, for Easter). Ironically, the "HAllelujah" chorus, a central part of the Easter section, is almost always (and with annoying frequency) used by every choral group to advertise thir upcoming pre-Christmas concerts on WQXR, to the point where I sometimes feel compelled to run off the radio.

Dec. 03 2012 12:28 PM
Gary Ekman from Manhattan NYC

He wrote 29 oratorios ? ? ? And I barely know one. I am humbled.

Dec. 02 2012 07:09 AM
David from Flushing

I have always regretted that Handel's operas were not more like his oratorios. Regardless of its quality, having 2+ hours of solo singing can get you down compared to works "relieved" by choruses. I suppose this is an example of the evolution of opera.

Dec. 02 2012 06:52 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

HANDEL'S ORATORIOS ARE THE MOST REVERED OF HIS COMPOSITIONS. ONE THAT IS NOT AS OFTEN PERFORMED AS IT DESERVES TO BE IS HIS "JUDAS MACCABAEUS." ITS "SOUND AN ALARM"' IS STIRRING. IT'S MY CLOSING SELECTION ON MY SOLO DEBUT IN THE ISAAC STERN AUDITORIUM OF CARNEGIE HALL CONCERT "{LIVE" ON MY VALHALLA RECORDS CD AND MAY BE DOWNLOADED FROM MY THREE WEBSITES. MOST CLASSICAL MUSIC, INCLUDING CHRISTMAS CAROLS, THE MESSIAH, ELIJAH, BACH'S CANTATAS, HYMNS AND MOTETS AND OPERAS LIKE BOHEME AND TRAVIATA THAT HAVE ALLUSIONS TO CHRISTMAS AND COMIC OR JOLLY OPERAS LIKE THE BARBER, L'ELISIR, CENERENTOLA AND DIE MEISTERSINGER AND PARTICULARLY HOUSEHOLD "CHESTNUTS" ARE EXCELLENT INGREDIENTS FOR A MERRY XMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR !!! , My cousin MICHAEL BLANKFORT wrote both the books and screenplays for the 1953 film THE JUGGLER Hollywood film made in Israel starring KIRK DOUGLAS and the 1950 Hollywood film BROKEN ARROW starring JAMES STEWART and JEFF CHANDLER [Cochise]. The music for THE JUGGLER was composed by opera composer GEORGE ANTHEIL, in whose opera VOLPONE I sang the tenor leading role [Mosca] in its professional world premiere in NEW YORK in 1953. ANTHEIL, famous for his opera TRANSATLANTIC and BALLET MECHANIQUE looked exactly like Peter Lorre. I am a romantischer heldentenor. I have sung four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I opened my three hour concert with the Invocazione di Orfeo from Jacopo Peri's opera EURIDICE composed in 1600, the first opera, composed in the same year as Shakespeare wrote HAMLET. It can be heard from the live performance on my three websites,, ,, and It received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines. My voice teachers were the legendary MET OPERA singers Alexander Kipnis, Friedrich Schorr, Martial Singher, John Brownlee, Karin Branzell and Margarete Matzenauer. In another commentary on one commented about all operas that were once NEW but now not new anymore should be archived like museum pieces. That implies that just being new is better than old. As an opera composer myself ["Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare"] I fully comprehend the assumed urgency of recognition of the still living. However, I would not trade any living composer for Bach, Beethoven, Mpzart, Verdi, Puccini or Wagner. Revere and enjoy the MASTERPIECES of art, music, literature, architecture and science in its multiple formats. I am the director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute in Boonton, NJ where I train actors in all the Shakespeare roles and big-voiced singers in all the Wagner opera roles.

Dec. 02 2012 01:22 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.