Friday, December 25, 2015

George Frideric Handel, Messiah (HWV 56), "12. For unto us a child is born"


Anonymous said...

Isaiah 9:6
King James Version (KJV)

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

CP said...

Though his work is almost universally known within the English-speaking world, Charles Jennens is virtually unknown. He was a brilliant librettist — a writer of texts to be put to music by others. Born in the year 1700, Jennens inherited his father’s vast estate and wealth, attended Oxford University, and became a gentleman scholar. He published a controversial interpretation of William Shakespeare and lived a life of extravagance and eccentricity. That could have been the end of his story, but it was not.

His emergence as a brilliant librettist was driven by a sense of theological and spiritual urgency. Jennens was greatly concerned to confront the deism that was then spreading so quickly among the educated classes in England in the wake of the Enlightenment. Deism rejected the self-revelation of God in the Bible, the need of humanity for salvation, the deity of Christ, Christianity’s message of salvation, and any divine judgment to come. Deists rejected the very idea of a personal God who can be known, the intervention of God into human history, and all of the Bible’s claims of miracles, prophecies, and divine promises.

Jennens was determined to defend orthodox Christianity, and he was driven by two great impulses — a sense of the threat to the spiritual health of the people by the encroachments of deism and a profound sense of personal grief over the death of his own younger brother, Robert, who, as a young student, had committed suicide after falling into a deep depression. Robert’s depression was rooted in his having fallen into deep doubt about his Christian commitment, aided and abetted by correspondence with a professed deist.