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Thursday, April 12, 2012
Catholicism in the Classical Period of Music

This article continues where Catholicism in the Baroque Period of Music left off.

By 1750, the style of music produced by the world's greatest composers began to shift noticeably.  Prior to this time, the composer was typically employed by a member of a royal family or the Holy Church.  Composers produced beautiful and uplifting music that transcended even themselves.

Yet, by 1750 the composer was now being seen as a celebrity in his own right.  By this time it was not uncommon for the composer to be a traveling entertainer across Europe and even the greater civilized world.  And with the transformation in image and style, so too the music shifted from primarily religious to secular music.

However, the secular music of the time still stands in stark contrast to the so-called "music" of the present era.  At least the music of the Classical composers could rightfully be said to still seek the Good, True, and Beautiful.  And many composers still found time to compose great musical treasures for the Church.  The Classical period lasted until approximately 1830.

Below is a summary of several key figures from the Classical period and with them, selections of music appropriate for a Catholic's ears.

JC Bach and CPE Bach - Assorted Works

The father of both JC Bach and CPE Bach was none other than the famous Baroque composer JS Bach.  JS Bach had over 20 children, many of which became musicians and went on to compose pieces in the Classical Period (1750 - 1830) that would also become quite famous.   CPE Bach (b 1714 - d 1788) wrote over 50 orchestral pieces and over 100 chorale pieces. 

Below is his Magnificat in D Minor.

Joseph Haydn- Assorted Works

Were it not for the following two composers, Joseph Haydn (b 1732 - d 1809) may have become the most renowned composer of the Classical period.  Over the course of his life, he composed 50 piano sonatas, 20 operas, and 104 symphonies.  Some of Haydn's most famous pieces include his Symphony #45 (Farewell Symphony), Symphony #94 (Surprise Symphony), Symphony #101 (Clock Symphony), and his 104th Symphony, one of the Lond Symphonies and his last one written.

He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these musical forms. 

It is inspiring to note that despite living in this Enlightenment period, Haydn was a devout Catholic who often turned to his rosary when he had trouble composing, a practice that he usually found to be effective. He normally began the manuscript of each composition with "in nomine Domini" ("in the name of the Lord") and ended with "Laus Deo" ("praise be to God"). 

Below is his The Heavens are Telling from the the Oratorio The Creation as sung by King's College, Cambridge.

Mozart and Beethoven- Assorted Works

What really could be said to add to the works of either Mozart or Beethoven?  Both are considered the two most well known composers in history.  Each has composed such a monumental number of pieces that to attempt a brief overview would do them both a great dishonor.  I simply wish to provide one video featuring Mozart's Coronation Mass and a second one featuring his Requiem Mass.  Both are among the great gems he has left to the Church.  May they be played for the honor of God in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass widely and often!


del_button April 22, 2012 at 3:52 PM
Barb Schoeneberger said...

CPE Bach is definitely his father's son. I am a JS Bachophile, Mozartophile, and remember singing "The Heavens are Telling" in high school choir. You are right that the composers of the classical period were still seeking the Good, True and Beautiful. Today it seems the raunchier the better for the pop culture. The question is, whose music from the 20th century will still be played and appreciated 300 years from now?

del_button April 22, 2012 at 5:48 PM
Matthew said...

Barb, thank you for the comment. Yes, the question truly is whether or not any music from the modern era survives 300 years. I have to say, if much of it does, I feel quite sorry for that culture.

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