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Every Valley: The Desperate Lives and Troubled Times That Made Handel's Messiah (Hardcover)

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From New York Times bestselling historian and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Charles King, the moving untold story of the eighteenth-century men and women behind the making of Handel’s Messiah

George Frideric Handel’s Messiah is arguably the greatest piece of participatory art ever created. Adored by millions, it is performed each year by renowned choirs and orchestras, as well as by audiences singing along with the words on their cell phones.

But this work of triumphant joy was born in a worried age. Britain in the early Enlightenment was a time of astonishing creativity but also of war, enslavement, and conflicts over everything from the legitimacy of government to the meaning of truth. Against this turbulent background, prize-winning author Charles King has crafted a cinematic drama of the troubled lives that shaped a masterpiece of hope.

Every Valley presents a depressive dissenter stirred to action by an ancient prophecy; an actress plagued by an abusive husband and public scorn; an Atlantic sea captain and penniless philanthropist; and an African Muslim man held captive in the American colonies and hatching a dangerous plan for getting back home. At center stage is Handel himself, composer to kings but, at midlife, in ill health and straining to keep an audience’s attention. Set amid royal intrigue, theater scandals, and political conspiracy, Every Valley is entertaining, inspiring, unforgettable.

About the Author

CHARLES KING is the author of eight books, most recently Gods of the Upper Air, a New York Times bestseller, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, and winner of the Francis Parkman Prize. His Odessa won a National Jewish Book Award. He is a professor of international affairs and government at Georgetown University

Praise For…

"Ecstatic, affecting, entirely weird, Handel’s Messiah indeed seems — as a listener wrote after its 1742 Dublin debut — “a species of music different from any other.”  With brio, Charles King pulls aside the curtain behind the work, to reveal the scandal and intrigue, opportunists and thugs, deep pain and soaring optimism, that Handel transmuted, in less than a month, into a sublime 130 pages.  A book of power and glory, brimming with emotion and dazzling in its reach."—Stacy Schiff, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Cleopatra and The Revolutionary

“A delicious history of music, power, love, genius, royalty and adventure. A study of creativity and humanism, beautifully told, filled with charm and worldliness, deeply researched and as compelling as a symphony with a full choir of amazing characters who sing their songs around the central figure of Handel himself. Unforgettable.”—Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of The World: A Family History of Humanity

"In Every Valley, Charles King shows in exquisite detail how George Frideric Handel’s epic work, the Messiah, sprang not from one solitary composer’s genius but out of the dramatic interplay of eighteenth-century lives and their times. Note by note, page by page, King takes us beyond an imagined Enlightenment to the sobering realities of a world that included the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade. Every Valley is a fascinating book, of interest to scholars and accessible to all readers."—Henry Louis Gates Jr., author of Stony the Road

"Vividly depicting life in Britain during the turbulence of the 1700's, Charles King celebrates Handel's Messiah as a glorious beacon of hope."—Elaine Pagels, National Book Award-winning author of The Gnostic Gospels

Product Details
ISBN: 9780385548267
ISBN-10: 0385548265
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: October 29th, 2024
Pages: 352
Language: English