Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Wolff, Christoph. "Mozart's Messiah: 'The Spirit of Handel' from van Swieten's Hands." In Music and Civilization: Essays in Honor of Paul Henry Lang, ed. Edmond Strainchamps and Maria Rika Maniates, 1-14. New York: W. W. Norton, 1984.

Mozart became director of Baron van Swieten's oratorio concerts in 1787. One of the pieces he was asked to arrange was Handel's Messiah. For this he was provided with a skeleton version of Handel's score that was condensed and translated into German by van Swieten with lines left blank for Mozart to add extra parts. Van Swieten expected Mozart to arrange the work to fit musical taste of the time, which involved extensive changes in orchestration including the addition of several extra wind parts with mostly new material. Mozart also added material so that the instrumental parts would more directly reflect the text. The declamatory style and basso continuo parts were also changed in some sections. Baron van Swieten specifically suggested some of these additions. During this arrangement process, van Swieten and Mozart represented conflicting aims, van Swieten wanting to make dramatic alterations and Mozart wanting to stick closely to Handel's original. Mozart executed all of these ideas, however. This arrangement served as the basis of the German performance tradition of the work throughout the nineteenth century and led to further reworkings of baroque compositions by German Romantic composers.

Works: Mozart/Baron Gottfried van Swieten/Handel: Messiah (1-14); Mozart: Requiem (2).

Sources: Handel: Messiah (1-14).

Index Classifications: 1700s

Contributed by: Danielle Nelson

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