Younger classical critics at the New York Times are traditionally subjected to a kind of hazing ritual in which they are directed to attend multiple performances of Messiah around the city. (I hasten to add that more than a few of these renditions are excellently played and sung, and keep many a free-lance musician solvent through the holidays.) Zachary Woolfe is the latest to run the gauntlet, and is kind enough to quote my own effort, from 1993. Back then, I observed that the text of the Hallelujah Chorus is derived from the Book of Revelation, which paints a picture rather different from the wholesome scene of celebration that most Messiah performances evoke:
I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth....
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
Perhaps the Messiah organist on crack was trying to recapture some of that apocalyptic atmosphere.