MUSIC AND MORALITY: Messiah’s Tainted Glory? Philosophical Aspects of a Musicological
Quarrel on Alleged Anti-Semitism in Handel’s Oratorio

Jan Czarnecki 1
1 - Doktorant Uniwersytetów w Padwie i Warszawie
2015; 16 (3):
ICID: 1186007
Article type: Original article
IC™ Value: 3.00
Abstract provided by Publisher
In this paper I reconstruct M. Marissen’s claim that G.F. Handel’s Messiah (HWV 56) conveys
a palpable anti-Judaist message, in order to critically examine P. Kivy’s negative response
to it. What Marissen describes as ‘anti-Judaism’ are clear cases of anti-Semitism,
according to Kivy’s definitions. Kivy claims that in order to discover how a musical artifact
can possess a meaning (an anti-Semitic one) it should be made clear how a human artifact
in general can possess it. In the critical part of the paper, I argue that the Gricean model advanced
by Kivy does not fulfill this condition; namely, it fails to provide a correct analysis of
the meaning of an artwork (which in this case is a Baroque oratorio). I point out, however,
that after some reformulation of Kivy’s arguments it is possible to salvage their core. The intentionalist
conditions originally placed on meaning should now be regarded as conditions
of guilt. After this reformulation, even though the librettist and the composer can safely be
found not guilty of anti-Semitism, the theological, musicological and moral inquiry on the
Oratorio’s meaning must still be considered in a broader interpretive horizon.
DOI: 10.5604/20842937.1186007

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