Ludwig van Beethoven (1770- 1877)

Perhaps his best-known sacred music are the Missa Solemnis and Christ on the Mount of Olives.
Beethoven “Missa Solemnis” DVD trailer narrated
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBeRvZ9rl-E
Missa Solemnis – John Nelson, narrator
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SBGgaU7330
Missa Solemnis Benedictus
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5cOfF9ZDAM&feature=related

Missa Solemnis – Sir Colin Davis
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63sKnm-WJPE&feature=fvwrel
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKUT8e8dyGc&feature=fvwrel
Christ on the Mount of Olives
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0JOC4CquEJU

“Hallelujah Chorus” from Christ on the Mount of Olives
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgUj63KV1bs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTx3Wlr_kG8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVPQAqSAJlo

Mass in C Major
Kyrie
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CXpiIiaceg
Gloria
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYWiBaocqYI

 

 

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) is known to the world as the child piano prodigy  who was exploited by his father at age 5, entertaining royalty throughout Europe. He is also said to have been prodigious on violin and composing at the age of five.

Although he was to compose for only the next 30 years, his output is also prodigious.  Despite his popularity, he died a pauper.  The circumstances surrounding his death are mysterious in that he was commissioned by a an unknown person to write a Requiem Mass for the dead.  He had not finished before he died, but he was able to instruct a student to complete the task after his death.   Leaving no fund even for burial, he was buried in a common grave with other “un-notable commoners,” at an unidentified site.  There is little evidence to justify the notion of his rivalry with Salieri, a contemporary composer, but the movie in the latter part of the 20th century, Amadeus, suggests the rivalry as part of the mystery surrounding Mozart’s death.

Besides his numerous symphonies, operas, piano concerto’s and piano sonatas, he also wrote a number of masses. He was well-known,  for “Ave Verum Corpus.” a favorite of church choirs at least in the mid-20th century.

Ave Verum Corpus

Laudamus te – Renée Fleming

Et incarnatus est – Sandrine Piau

Magnificat

Great Mass in C Minor

Misa brevis en Do Mayor KV 220 – Kyrie y Gloria

Exsultate Jubilate
Kathleen Battle:

Alleluja from Exsultate Jubilate –
Cecilia Bartoli:

Requiem K 626 Latin Mass

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Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809)

Franz Joseph Haydn was born before the deaths of Bach and Handel. The Baroque era, generally reflected the manner and tastes of monarchical and aristocratic society.  It was highly embellished, harmonically organized and progressive with its characteristic circle of fifths, stately, formal, harmonically driven and its dynamics were  terraced. In the rococo period, embellishment lost its formality and stateliness and became mere frills. It did, however make a significant contribution at Mannheim. There, rather than dynamics in terraces, the “Mannheim crescendo” was introduced.

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809) was born to a wheelwright and his wife in the small Austrian town of Rohrau. His family was financially poor but musically rich in heritage and environment. His parents recognized his musical talents by age 6. Rohrau offered few opportunities to develop that talent, so they made arrangements with a relative, Johann Matthias Frankh, who was a choirmaster in nearby Hainburg, to take Franz Joseph as an apprentice for musical training.  Franz Joseph lived with him and sang in his choir. There, Karl Georg Reutter, a choirmaster in Vienna, discovered him and his extraordinary voice. Reutter took him to Vienna, where Franz Joseph sang in his choir. As Franz Joseph’s voice was about to change, Reutter made plans that he be castrated to preserve his voiceas a castrati. However, his father learned of, and foiled, the plan.

When at age 15 his voice did change, he could no longer sing in the choir.  He then began to compose music. Soon, he became well known as a composer and was employed by the Eszterhazy Palace.  He was one of the last composers to be employed in the patronage system. He wrote an opera, Orlando Palladino, for which he was best known during his lifetime. At Eszterhazy he developed the musical form called the sonata allegro form, in which a theme is stated, followed by a secondary theme, usually contrasting with the primary theme; there is a middle developmental section in which the themes are broken apart into primary pieces, which are repeated and varied; and a final section as a recapitulation. For an excellent graphic representation of the form, see
https://www.google.com/search?q=sonata+allegro+form+chart&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=w_erUODrEMfyyAGn3IDYCw&ved=0CDQQsAQ&biw=1103&bih=593 .

The sonata allegro form permitted the development of new extended sections of music, and Haydn used and developed that form to become known as “Papa Haydn,” composer of both the string quartet and the symphony. One of his more popular symphonies is the “Surprise Symphony.”

He married, but, given the instability of his childhood as he was moved from place to place, and not surprisingly with what we now know of bonding and attachment disorders, that marriage failed and they separated. It did not help that he married the sister of the woman that he really loved.

Haydn also wrote sacred music, including oratorio (e.g. The Creation), and the mass (e.g. the Nelson Mass). He was a close friend Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who was 24 years his junior, and who died 19 years before his own death. He made two visits to London in the 1790s which influenced his “London period.”

Oratorios:
The Seven Last Words of Christ – in three parts:

The seven last words of Christ – instrumental version

The Creation
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jewwiy8lTSQ&feature=fvsr – part one
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiaSFEH4gII – part two
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzJtanJ4SAc – part three
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czeCjF_61l4&feature=relmfu – part four
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpqByHQ7pxY&feature=fvsr – part five

Masses:
Nelson Mass

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George Friedrich Handel (1685 – 1759)

As Handel began his study of law, he was appointed as organist at a German Cathedral. He traveled to Italy, where, for a time, he composed sacred music. There, he wrote a number of operas, cantatas and oratorios, gaining some significant fame as a composer. In 1710 he moved to London to become Kapelmeister to King George I of Great Britain and Ireland. There he wrote operas in the Italian style, which was then en vogue, for audiences of aristocrats and royalty. He established three opera companies, but it seemed that his music was secondary in audience appeal to the popularity of the vocalists.

When he was nearly blind, yet within 23 days, he wrote Messiah for the benefit of the Foundling Hospital.

For a BBC documentary in five parts of his life and contributions, see

Hallelujah – Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

http://bibleasmusic.com/composers/george-handel/

Messiah – Amen

Solomon

Overture from Solomon

Making of Samson

Israel in Egypt — SERAPHIC FIRE
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSg5LBY8go8

 

 

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Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750) was a German composer who wrote in the old polyphonic style, perfecting it. In an age when there was greater travel throughout Europe, and printed music was available, he was greatly influenced by the music of several regions from Italy to Great Britain. I, personally, love his music because, to my ear, it is as a riveting dialogue between individual voices: declaring, asserting, responding, imitating, inverting, countering, and ultimately resolving in solidarity and repose. He was a numerologist.  Many experts see significance of certain numbers in his compositions.  Some find significant musical moments at numerically significant points in his music.

Bach wrote during a time when keyboard tuning became “well tempered:” if the division of an octave into separate steps and half steps is strictly mathematical, there are some keys that will sound good and others that will sound out of tune or conflicting. It was discovered that if the keyboard was tuned slightly out of tune, then all keys would sound “the same.”  Piano tuners know that they have tuned the notes “perfectly,” or sufficiently out of tune, when they can play two differently pitched notes which create “beats,” much as interference pattern of waves created by casting two stones in water.  Bach demonstrated this new value of this method of tuning in his Well Tempered Clavier, which systematically explored each of the keys for various numbers of “voices,” or parts.

He is known for a common inscription on his music manuscripts, roughly meaning “to the glory of God and edification of the soul.”  To my mind, Bach’s music has a strong spiritual component reflecting that dedication of all his music, both sacred and secular.

He was also an organist and served a Lutheran church, St. Thomas, writing one cantata each week for church services. In his “spare time” he wrote secular music, one of the most popular sets being the Brandenburg Concertos.  Whatever he composed had a contextual relationship with a set, such as Preludes and Fugues in each key, Inventions for keyboard in each key, a set of unaccompanied sonatas for violin and another set for cello.  I suspect that thoroughness was another expression of his fascination with numerology.

Among his most impressive works is the oratorio, St. Matthew Passion. I understand that it was not so much intended for performance as to demonstrate his skills, in hopes of obtaining a better position than that which he enjoyed at St Thomas. It is immense in scope and its demands for resources and for audience endurance.  The following YouTube post is exemplary of Bach’s beauty, skill and power’ his sensitivity, even intimacy:

Organ Toccata e Fuga BWV 565-Karl Richter

David Garrett – popular interpretation of Air on the G string

Wachet auf – Strathmere Festival Orchestra – Blanche Moyse Chorale

organ: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme

J.S. Bach Magnificat Ton Koopman BWV 243

Motet BWV 227 ‘Jesu, meine Freude’ – Vocalconsort Berlin

Motet BWV 229 ‘Komm, Jesu, komm’ – Vocalconsort Berlin

Brandenburg Concertos,

 

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Jean Philippe Rameau (1683 –1764)

Jean Philippe Rameau (1683 –1764) was one of the most important French composers and theorists of the Baroque era. He wrote Treatise on Harmony, which was revolutionary for that day. In it, he explores the philosophical underpinnings of music, and its mathematical and scientific foundations, giving musical criticism and pedagogy some objective foci.  He gained notoriety for his departure from what had become conventional harmonies of John-Baptiste Lully for much more adventurous harmonies, which, in their turn, soon became accepted as convention. He was forgotten until rediscovered in the 20th century.

His harmonies are much more familiar to the modern ear, and to my mind, he makes a quantum leap from the past which he inherited. Having written that, I note that the early 20th century was, itself, a reaction against such harmonies.  Composers were then criticized for living in an ivory tower and being inaccessible to the common person. Nonetheless, as modern “serious music” explored new tonalities or none at all, tone clusters or minimalistic sonorities, some composers turned to the past through primitivism and neoclassicism.  Concertizing relied upon audience appeal, so that it tended to turn to music of the past which most related to that which was familiar in our churches and on the airways. One well-known example of such criticism was The Agony of Modern Music by Henry Pleasants.  The listening public of his time, on the other hand, related to Rameau.

Rameau – Motet, In convertendo / Part 1 ( William Christie )

Rameau – Motet, In convertendo / Part compositions 2

Rameau – Motet, In convertendo / Part 3

Beati qui habitant

Laboravi

Dominus virtutum

Rameau “Les Grands Motets”

Laboravi clamans – Herreweghe

Grand Motet – Deus noster refugium

 

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George Philip Telemann (1681 –1767)

George Philip Telemann (1681 –1767) left study of the law to become the most prolific German composer of his time, largely self-taught. He was an acquaintance of both George Friedrich Handel and Johan Sebastian Bach. By age 12, he had composed his first opera.  He also composed poetry, wrote his own libretti, and engraved covers and published his own compositions. His married life was marred by spousal death and debt. His compositional style brought together a number of international musical styles.

Last movement of Du aber, Daniel, gehe hin

St. Matthew Passion Aria: “Lass mich mein Teil bei deinem Sterben”

Except Singet dem Hernn – Coral del Siglo XXI

Brockes Passion – Passion Oratorio

Jan Dismas Zelenka: Miserere II

Matthäus-Passion – Part 1