Variations on a Theme: Easter


Handel’s Messiah was originally written for Easter and premiered in Ireland April 13th, 1742. It’s hard to imagine a time when Handel was not well known or well received, but London had given a tepid response to his music the season prior, so Ireland became the spot for the debut. 
It was a hit, to say the least. Over the years, Handel added more pieces and reworked it for different choirs and orchestrations. 

If you’re someone who observes the Eastern Orthodox calendar, Easter won’t arrive until May 5th, 2024. The Russian Orthodox tradition falls into this category. Russian or Eastern or Orthodox follows the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian, which is why their Easter is later, although it’s the same number of days in the period of Lent.

In the United States of America, hymns like Amazing Grace have passed into folksong status, no longer just tied to religious meaning. Although the first version was written by an ex-slave-trader-turned-Anglican-priest, it was subsequent uses of the songs during religious revivals in America that strengthened the song into it’s popularity today.

Mahler’s Symphony no. 2 “Resurrection” was more than just a token of the Christianity that Mahler converted to in 1897. A discerning commentator, Mahler used the piece as a reflection on life and death, in general. Some report that it was proof of his dedication to Christianity, although Mahler always felt the societal pressures of coming from a Jewish family in an anti-Semitic environment. A similar situation faced Felix Mendelssohn’s family.

Bach wrote monumental music for Easter, including Passions for Good Friday. You can read more about Bach’s music here.

Beethoven wrote his Hallelujah rather hastily. This was written during the time when his deafness was increasing. He studied Handel and Bach and all great Baroque music, but kept the flavor distinctly Beethoven. This movement begins with Jesus singing with the larger chorus being angels. 


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