12 - 13 Dec '19

Tour III
12 - 13 Dec '19

Freiburger Barockorchester / Zürcher Sing-Akademie


Concert dates and locations

  • 12 December 2019 | Casino Bern | 19:30
  • 13 December 2019 | Victoria Hall Geneva | 20:00



Handel's Messiah includes some twenty choral numbers, fifteen recitatives and arias for soloists, two orchestral pieces and two vocal duets, all of which amount to about two and a half hours of music. Far from discouraging music lovers, this great musical fresco centred on the Christ already established itself during Handel's lifetime as one of the most popular choral works ever composed.
The libretto was drafted out in 1741, at a time when the London audience had turned its attention from Italian opera to epic Biblical stories. Handel was obliged to adapt to the local taste and therefore began once again to compose oratorios, a genre he had already approached in his younger years. Inspired by his former opera experience, the composer enhanced the model provided by the Italian oratorio with numerous choruses and a true dramatic dimension, thus creating from scratch the "English oratorio". Such productions enabled Handel to satisfy both the expectations of the moralistic Protestant middle class and his own desire to impress with grandiose compositions.
Although Handel's Messiah is by far his most famous choral work, it paradoxically occupies a marginal place in the composer's production, since it is one of the few Handelian oratorios based on Biblical texts. The "libretto" was prepared by Charles Jennens, a wealthy gentleman and patron of the Arts who had already conceived the librettos of several Handel oratorios, including Saul and Israel in Egypt. For Messiah, Jennens gathered passages from the Old and New Testaments, which refer to the Resurrection of the Messiah and Christian redemption. There is little direct narration: the work is far more the musical setting of a long sermon addressed to a mid-18th-century British audience for whom the reading of the Bible was common practice. Handel composed his Messiah at the end of the summer of 1741, within three weeks. The first performance took place the following spring in Dublin, one of the most active musical and literary centres in the 18th century. The success of this Irish premiere was not immediately repeated in London since devotees decided to contest Handel's oratorio: they considered the work's title far too sacred for a theatre performance of Messiah. However, the situation improved from 1750 onwards, when Handel became accustomed to conducting his oratorio in the chapel of one of the charitable foundations appreciated by the London high society. From then on, Messiah enjoyed an increasing success that kept pace with the rising number of performers on stage. Handel subsequently reworked the score on several occasions, according to the number of musicians and singers available.

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Good to know

Freiburger Barockorchester

The idea of launching an orchestra devoted to baroque music played on historical instruments was suggested in 1985 by a group of music students from the Freiburg Academy. The Freiburger Barockorchester finally gave its inaugural concert on 8 November 1987 with a very international programme gathering English, French, Italian, Austrian and Dutch composers. Over the past three decades, the ensemble has considerably expanded its repertoire, adding classical, romantic and even contemporary music to the early music, all of which being played on historical instruments. The orchestra pursues the Baroque tradition of performing mostly without a conductor. It nevertheless works with two Artistic Directors, Gottfried von der Golz and Kristian Bezuidenhout. Guest conductors are invited for the orchestra's more extensive projects. In addition to its own concerts in Freiburg, the Freiburger Barockorchester also performs at the Stuttgart Liederhalle and the Berlin Philharmonie and appears on numerous international stages.

Zürcher Sing-Akademie

Founded in 2011, the Zürcher Sing-Akademie is a professional chamber choir of about thirty singers. Florian Helgath, a German musician who also heads the ChorWerk Ruhr and appears with numerous choirs as guest conductor, heads this elite ensemble since 2017. The Zurich-based choir sings an extensive symphonic repertoire and is keen to promote Swiss composers, to whom it has already commissioned several works. The Zürcher Sing-Akademie is a privileged partner of the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra. Other partnerships include the Freiburger Barockorchester, the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, the Basel Chamber Orchestra and La Scintilla Baroque Orchestra. The ensemble has already undertaken several tours abroad (Europe, Lebanon, China), performing at prestigious venues such as the Philharmonie de Paris, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam or the BBC Proms.

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