The story of the creation of the Messiah is followed by a close unpicking and rhetorical analysis of the biblical text as presented to Handel by his friend Charles Jennens. Then Handel's setting of the text to music is described, showing how devices such as word-painting, repetition, questions and exclamations portray and enhance the Christian message and add to its impact on the listener. This is followed by a performer's guide to delivering Handel's ideas using rhetorical techniques of delivery; the book finishes with a review of the audience's reception of this great work, put into the context of contemporary ideas about what constituted the sublime, and revealing many layers of rhetorical craft beneath the familiar music.
Rhetorical ideas from Classical Roman and Greek authors are used alongside texts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which were written to help people to read and understand the Bible in the Protestant Church tradition. Judy Tarling's book The Weapons of Rhetoric introduced musicians and audiences to the connection between performing music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and the techniques of oratory. This book takes us from the general to the particular: not for nothing were many of the great works of Handel described as Oratorios.
This is a book for all lovers of Handel's Messiah, whether performer or listener, choir member or director, solo singer or orchestral musician.