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Matthew Dubourg: Leader for the premiere of 'Messiah'

Updated: Feb 22, 2023

A drawing of Fishamble Street from 1884


Matthew Dubourg (1703 - 1767) is most well-known today for leading the orchestra for the premiere performance of Handel's 'Messiah', in Dublin in 1742.

Born in London, Dubourg showed a talent for the violin from a young age and began studying with Francesco Geminiani in 1714, at the age of just 11. This was at a time when Handel's artistic relationship with Geminiani was flourishing; Geminiani played his violin sonatas at the court of George I in 1715, with Handel at the keyboard.

From 1728 to 1764 Dubourg held the post of 'Chief Composer and Master of the Music attending His Majesty's State in Ireland' at Dublin Castle. Dubourg had worked with Handel from around 1719 in London, and Handel's arrival in Dublin in 1741 would have been welcome news. Handel directed the first performance of 'Messiah' from the keyboard, with Matthew Dubourg leading the orchestra from the first violin seat. This inspired further collaboration between the two, with both men returning to London together in 1742 and Dubourg leading performances of 'Samson', 'L'Allegro ed il Penseroso' and the London premiere of 'Messiah' at Covent Garden.

Peter Whelan and the Irish Baroque Orchestra explored Matthew Dubourg's work in the 2019 release 'Welcome Home Mr Dubourg' on Linn Records. This includes a version of Corelli's Violin Sonata Op.5 No.9 featuring Dubourg's own ornamentation, as well as his 1739 'Ode for Dublin Castle'. His fondness for working with Irish folk tunes is also heard here with 'Ciste nó stór'.

Discover the full album on Spotify, Apple Music and via the IBO Store, and hear more about 'Welcome Home Mr Dubourg' from Peter Whelan below.

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