The Great Works of Sacred Music

The Great Works of Sacred Music
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16 episodes in this series

Episode 1 Hallelujah, Amen: The World of Sacred Music
Begin by exploring the contexts in which Western sacred music developed, from its use in religious ritual to its emergence in the concert hall as edifying entertainment. Then encounter three…
Episode 2 From Chant to Early Sacred Polyphony
Trace the roots and origins of sacred music in the Christian West, beginning with the history of chant, a way of singing prayer unaccompanied by instruments. Using diverse musical examples,…
Episode 3 The Golden Age of Polyphony
Follow the rise to prominence of both the composer and their patron, observing how sacred music adapted to musical fashions. Explore polyphonic innovations in masses by Guillaume de Machaut and…
Episode 4 The Age of Reformation: Who Will Sing?
Delve into the religious reformations of the 16th century, and learn how the underlying theological debates shaped sacred music. In particular, grasp how changes in Christian ritual impelled William Byrd,…
Episode 5 Sacred Music in a Secular World
By the 17th century, fashionable music began to be equated with secular music. Through studying Claudio Monteverdi's masterpiece, the Vespro della Beata Virgini, and Heinrich Schutz's extraordinary Musikalische Exequien, learn…
Episode 6 Man and Meaning: Bach’s Cantatas
Bach's sacred works are perhaps the most celebrated in Western music. Learn about the chorale and cantata, musical forms famously used by Bach. Study his great Cantata No. 80, a…
Episode 7 Art for Art’s Sake: Bach’s Mass in B Minor
Trace the convoluted compositional history of the magnificent Mass in b minor, and explore Bach's motives for composing a work with no real practical function. Study how Bach blends older…
Episode 8 Handel’s Great Oratorio: Messiah
In the first of two lectures on Handel's Messiah, study the genre of oratorio, and see how Handel adapted it for his own purposes. Investigate the lives and partnership of…
Episode 9 Messiah: From Entertainment to Ritual
Learn about the sources and meanings of the Messiah's text, and witness the remarkable realization of the text in Handel's music. Explore Handel's brilliant compositional ingenuity in the oratorio, and…
Episode 10 Mozart’s Requiem: Praise and Memory
Learn the mysterious and romantic story behind this extraordinary masterwork. Study the musical traits of the Classical Era and the genre of the requiem mass, as ingeniously embodied in Mozart's…
Episode 11 Haydn’s The Creation
Take account of the influence of Handel in this beloved oratorio, and discover the integral role played in its creation by a noble patron and two Viennese institutions. Explore the…
Episode 12 God, Man, Music, and Beethoven
In the first of two sublime sacred works by Beethoven, his oratorio Christus am Olberge, grasp how he uses dramatic expressive means to emphasize the suffering of Christ--suffering with which…
Episode 13 Mendelssohn’s Elijah
In Elijah, Mendelssohn created a compendium of what the oratorio had been, balanced against what it could be. Through listening to compelling excerpts, observe how he includes evocations of Handel,…
Episode 14 Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius
Learn about the creation of Elgar's exquisite and very Catholic oratorio, against the musical and religious backdrop of 19th-century Britain. Study how Elgar infused The Dream of Gerontius with Wagnerian…
Episode 15 Sacred Music in the Late 19th Century
Beginning in the late 19th century, composers of sacred music began to question institutional conceptions of faith. Here, study one monumental yet very personal work, Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem; one…
Episode 16 Come, All Ye Faithful: Music of Christmas
Conclude with a look at the rich tradition of Christmas music. Explore music designed for yuletide religious services, as well as musical works that became associated with Christmas. Learn how…

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From Chant to Early Sacred Polyphony
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Sacred Music in a Secular World
By the 17th century, fashionable music began to be equated with secular music. Through studying Claudio Monteverdi's masterpiece, the Vespro della Beata Virgini, and Heinrich Schutz's extraordinary Musikalische Exequien, learn how both composers mixed sacred styles with elements from secular genres like opera to create music that was both reverent…
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