The Messiah (HWV 56) is an English-language oratorio
composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a
scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennens from the
King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer.
The three-part structure of the work approximates to
that of Handel's three-act operas, with the "parts"
subdivided into "scenes". Each scene is a collection of
individual numbers or "movements" which take the form
of recitatives, arias and choruses.
In Part I, the Messiah's coming and the Virgin Birth
are predicted by the Old Testament prophets. The
annunciation to the shepherds of the birth of the
Christ is represented in the words of St Luke's Gospel.
Part II covers Christ's Passion and his death, his
Resurrection and Ascension, the first spreading of the
Gospel through the world, and a definitive statement of
God's glory summarised in the "Hallelujah".
At the end of his manuscript Handel wrote the letters
"SDG"?Soli Deo Gloria, "To God alone the glory". This
inscription, taken with the speed of composition, has
encouraged belief in the apocryphal story that Handel
wrote the music in a fervour of divine inspiration in
which, as he wrote the "Hallelujah" chorus.