The Messiah of a Significant Church Composer
The Messiah of Gottfried August Homilius was performed by the Sächsisches Vocalensemble and the Batzdorfer Hofkapelle under the conductor Matthias Jung at St. Anne’s Church in Dresden on the occasion of the three hundredth anniversary of the composer’s birth on 5 June 2014 and is now being released on CD by cpo. Homilius is regarded as one of the most significant church composers during the transition between the baroque and classical eras. He attended St. Anne’s School in Dresden and studied law in Leipzig. Homilius was a Bach pupil, the organist at the Church of Our Lady in Dresden, and the music director at the Church of the Holy Cross in Dresden from 1755 to 1785. He was also the music director at Dresden’s three principal churches. During their time Homilius’ compositions were extraordinarily popular and widely disseminated. Manuscript scores and performance materials for The Messiah are extant exclusively in the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern State Library and point to their employment in the performances of sacred works at the castle church (today: town church) in Ludwigslust, especially since printed part materials are also extant there. Despite its title, the work is not a Messiah oratorio continuing from Handel’s work, which then was beginning to enjoy popularity in Germany, but a passion oratorio of the type in use in many places in Protestant Germany during the second half of the eighteenth century. This work based on free texts completely meets the demands of a passion oratorio for performances during the Good Friday religious services. For the practice of the castle church in Ludwigslust, the work could also fulfill its task as a »sung poem« (as Homilius calls it in the dedicatory score) or as an »oratorio« (as it is termed in the printed libretto) only loosely related to the de tempore order.