Masterpieces of Sacred Music.

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Masterpieces of Sacred Music.

From Machaut to Poulenc and Britten, passing through a rich tradition of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert and many others, the repertory of great works of Sacred Music presents many aspects of the same themes but transcends the limitations of eras, providing a colourful panorama of profound visions through inspiring and glorious music.

The popularity and promotion of the instrumental music along with the genres related to the Theatre (e.g. Opera), did not allow the general public to attach, in an adequate way, the psychological and moral value to the Sacred Music in its development.

The Sacred Music, in liturgical, religious or simply spiritual form, has experienced a variety of musical expression, making the various works, through the ages, too difficult to compare. However, it is a sheer joy to dicover more of them, that represent different times, various musical languages and serving a particular purpose each time.

It is interesting to note that some of the most religious and liturgical works, such as the Requiem by Faure or the Messe des morts by Berlioz were composed by some resolute agnostics, while some of the scores by notably religious composers have a quasi "profane" character like Verdi's Requiem.

So, whoever wishes may contribute to pinpoint and define some of the masterpieces of Sacred Music in the development of Classical Music.

Parla

Serving a PARticuLAr purpose

How does one tell Faure’s or Berlioz’s is more religious and liturgical than Verdi’s?

Serving The Just rigHt purpose.

One can identify that Verdi's Requiem is performed almost exclusively in  concert halls, mostly as a great piece of Choral Music due to its almost entirely Operatic and Theatrical treatment of all the musical forces involved.

Faure's Requiem can and has often been performed in liturgy or in Church venues. Its solemn, austere and sometimes even plain character projects (almost like a Church Mass) the feeling of faith against the coming of the inevitable end of life.

The Messe des morts by Berlioz, despite its huge orchestral and choral forces retains a sense of the human feeling of faith, in a more individual, personal way, while he portrays the liturgical view of the Requiem, in a solemn writing of both the orchestral and choral forces, with respect to its crucial aspects such as the Judgement Day (Dies irae), the man's desire to acknowledge God's authority (Rex tremendae) or the transcedental peace one can find in his/her individual quest when life's end comes (Agnus Dei).

Having said that, we cannot overlook the fact that a composer can find immense ways to express aspects of sacred music (e.g. Poulenc's Gloria or Bernstein's Chichester Psalms).

Parla

Just like name,

it may be interesting, perhaps impossible, to pinpoint and define these masterpieces, in terms of musical, not psychological and moral, value.

 

Your basis for Fauré can be applied to any number of secular works.

 

Without text, your first Verdi paragraph would have almost no attachment to the topic of this thread.

 

Again, on Berlioz, I can’t see your conclusions arrived without knowing the composer’s intentions and/or the text.

 

Having said that, music with religious text is not necessarily sacred.

Just like a given name.

My "basis" for Faure is not exclusive. It is informative. If a number of secular works can project the feeling of faith (against death or otherwise), it would be fine (e.g. Schumann's Das Paradies und die Peri or Schubert's Lieder Der gute Hirt, D. 449 or Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe, D. 955). However, even if they might be performed in Church venues, they are not going to be for liturgical or religious purposes.

In Sacred Music, like in Opera, the text is given and it is a given (The music of Falstaff would mean much less and serve anything else, if there was not the libretto by Boito to guide us to the Theatrical purpose of the Operatic work in question) . So, the composer has to deal with and serve the given text, in his/her own way. 

In the same way, for Berlioz's work, we judge the music based on the purpose the given text provides. By the way, Berlioz' intentions were not that clear as for the quite religious and liturgical use of his work. The outcome went beyond his intentions...

I can agree with your last paragraph. However, Sacred Music is a genre of Music that is defined by the religious given text (Mass, Requiem, Magnificat, Stabat mater etc.). If the composer wishes to use the religious text in a different context, it will be fine and it could be the subject for another thread (some of the Schubert's Lieder, Schumann's secular Oratorios, Wagner's Parsifal etc.).

Parla

In the same way...by the way

Quote:

 

It is informative that, text and titles have some value and that, we can agree on the last paragraph of #4 .  Having said that, it is also informative that, you have yet to say on the first paragraph of that (post).

In the same vein...but not in vain.

The thrust of this thread is not to "define" these masterpieces "in terms of musical value" but to pinpoint some great works of musical value that, at the same time, serve the purpose of what the given (religious) text dictates.

In pure musical terms, one can define -or identify- a masterwork based on the score of the composer. A great masterpiece of sacred music is the one that can serve, as good as it gets, the purpose of the text in question (Mass, Requiem, Magnificat etc.) as well.

Mozart's Requiem, in pure musical terms, is a masterpiece in such a way that there is a transcription for String Quartet that projects the beauty of the music itself. However, it also serves perfectly the text of the Requiem and, thus, it is performed almost exclusively in its original form. Haydn's Seven Last Words exists in four forms, out of which only one has a religious text (the Choral form), while the other three , including the original one (orchestral), are instrumental (String Quartet and Fortepiano). Although the music can serve quite effectively the relevant text, it is often performed in one of the instrumental forms, demonstrating that it is one of the masterpieces of sacred music without a text (except for the titles of each movement).

In the past century, we encountered the masterful Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem, which uses three Latin titles of the Requiem for the three movements of the work, although it was meant to be a purely instrumental work. Much more, Takemitsu's Requiem for String Orchestra and Greif's Sonate de Requiem are completely secular instrumental works, although, at least the latter it is considered as one of the great Requiems of 20th century.

So going back to the purpose of this thread, I believe it would be interesting -and not impossible- to pinpoint some musical masterpieces that belong to the Sacred Music genre.

Parla

Frank Martin’s oratorio

Frank Martin’s oratorio Golgotha is possibly one of the 20th century masterworks. Although it is essentially a Passion, I don’t think it could be used in liturgy. But it is is a work of deep religious feeling and at times, of stunning beauty. I would recommend to those who don’t know the work to check it out.

parla wrote: So going back to

parla wrote:

So going back to the purpose of this thread, I believe it would be interesting -and not impossible- to pinpoint some musical masterpieces that belong to the Sacred Music genre.

Parla

I don't have much to add here, except the usual masterpieces......

Mozart Requiem and C Minor Mass, along with lots of other Mozart pieces (laudete dominum etc), Bach St Matthew Passion, Bruckner F Minor mass, Faure Requiem (only in small forces version), Vivaldi (Gloria, of course, but I like quite a few other pieces, such as the Magnificat RV610a).......

Are we counting Handel's oratoria? If so, Messiah, which I never tire of, along with Saul. I keep meaning to get to know other big Handel pieces (I've got Solomon and Theodora somewhere.........) but I never seem to get round to it.

There are many, many other masterpieces, of course........I'll mention just one now: the Beethoven Missa Solemnis. I listen occasionally, but I wouldn't say I have really found my way into this just yet.......

I forgot to mention the

I forgot to mention the Michael Haydn Requiem in C Minor, which i like a great deal.....

not "in terms of musical value" but works of musical value

If what distinguishes sacred music from other music has no musical value, what is the musical basis for this discussion?

 

 

Having said that, we should of course take into account any text associated with the notes, whether or not they are scored for voice.

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