George Frideric Handel: Behold, A Virgin Shall Conceive

Messiah Part I


George Frideric Handel’s Messiah has remained one of the composer’s most beloved works. Incredibly, Handel completed this 260-page oratorio in just 24 days during the summer of 1741. The scriptural text was compiled by Charles Jennens, with the source being the King James Bible. The first performance of Messiah was on 13th April 1742, to celebrate Easter. 

Initially the oratorio garnered a lukewarm reception from audiences, however the work began to gain popularity over some years, with it now being the go-to work to perform during the Easter period. During this new Messiah exploration on Classicalexburns, blogs will be posted regularly to cover all of the pieces involved in making up this much-loved oratorio. 


The Lyrics

Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son,

and shall call his name Emmanuel,

God with us.

(Isaiah 7:14)


The Music

This very short alto recitative opens Scene 3 and sets the scene for the next chorus piece. The rich timbre of the alto voice is the first time this soloist sings. Accompanied by the harpsichord and a small selection of strings, the soloist sings through the words taken from Isaiah 7:14, which tells us what is to come in this famous story. Standing at around 30 seconds in duration, Behold, A Virgin Shall Conceive is one of the shortest recitatives in the whole oratorio. 


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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