An oratorio is a large musical composition including an orchestra, a choir, and soloists. Like an opera, an oratorio includes the use of a choir, soloists, an ensemble, various distinguishable characters, and arias...
composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel
George Frideric Handel was a German-British Baroque composer, famous for his operas, oratorios, anthems and organ concertos. Handel was born in 1685, in a family indifferent to music...
, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens
Charles Jennens was an English landowner and patron of the arts, who assembled the text for five of Handel's oratorios: Saul, Israel in Egypt, L'Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, Messiah, and Belshazzar...
from the King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer
Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer is the short title of a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion, as well as by the Continuing Anglican, "Anglican realignment" and other Anglican churches. The original book, published in 1549 , in the reign of Edward VI, was a product of the English...
. It was first performed in Dublin on 13 April 1742, and received its London premiere nearly a year later. After an initially modest public reception the oratorio gained in popularity, eventually becoming one of the best-known and most frequently performed choral works in Western music.
Handel's reputation in England, where he had lived since 1713, had been established through his compositions of Italian opera.