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Monday, April 30, 2012
Catholicism in the Romantic Period of Music

This post continues where Catholicism in the Classical Period of Music left off

By 1830, the style of music had shifted again and the style of the Romantic period came into full bloom.  Lasting for seventy years until 1900, the Romantic Period was a further departure from the unequivocal Catholic music of the past; though for the most part, the music of the period was still acceptable.  After 1900, music began to quickly swirl into a downward decline as evident in the Rite of Spring in 1913.

Below is a summary of several key figures from the Romantic period and with them, selections of music appropriate for a Catholic's ears.  Keep in mind this is just a small selection of the many composers of the period.

Franz Schubert - Mass in G

Franz Schubert, despite living a short life that ended before 1830, had a tremendous impact upon the Romantic movement.  Johannes Brahms, for example, helped champion the work of Schubert after Schubert's death.

The Catholic Encyclopedia writes of him:
During 1811 and 1812 he produced many instrumental pieces, also a "Salve Regina" and a "Kyrie". He left the Choir School in November, 1812, and took up work as a schoolmaster in order to avoid conscription. His "First Mass in F" was finished on 22 July, 1814, and performed by the Lichtenthal choir under the direction of Holzer. Competent critics have pronounced this mass as perhaps the most wonderful first work by any composer save the case of Beethoven's "Mass in C". Schubert conducted the second performance at the Augustinian church on 26 October, his brother, Ferdinand, presiding at the organ. During the same year he produced a symphony and a "Salve Regina";, as well as some songs and instrumental pieces.

His famous "Erl King", dates from November, 1815, as does his "Mass in G" — wonderful for a boy of eighteen. His compositions for 1816 include a "Salve Regina", a "Stabat Mater", a "Tantum Ergo", and a "Magnificat", as also two symphonies, and some delightful songs including the "Wanderer". He conducted the music at high Mass at the Alterehenfelder church on Easter Sunday, 1820, and in the same year produced an Easter cantata and an opera. His productivity from 1821 to 1824 was enormous, "Rosamunde" and his "Mass in A flat" being of permanent value. His glorious "Ave Maria" dates from 1825, apropos of which he writes that at the time he was filled with overpowering devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

The three Shakespearean songs of 1826 are still of interest. In 1827 he was gratified with a eulogy from the dying Beethoven, whom he visited in his last illness, and whose remains he followed to the grave. He subsequently wrote an opera, a number of songs, and the second part of the "Winterrreise". Early in June, 1827, he was elected a member of the musical society of Vienna, and in 1828, produced his marvelous "Symphony in C", his "Mass in E flat", an oratorio, a hymn to the Holy Ghost, a string quartet, a "Tantum Ergo" in E flat, and a lovely "Benedictus".

His last appearance in public was on 3 November, 1828, when he went to hear his brother's new "Requiem": he died a fortnight later, and his obsequies were celebrated in the little Chapel of St. Joseph in Margarethen. On 21 November, the body was interred at Wahring, close to the grave of Beethoven, and on 23 December his solemn month's mind was celebrated in the Augustinian Church, when a "Requiem" by Huttenbrenner was performed. The corpse was re-interred in the central cemetery, Vienna, on 23 September 1888. Schubert produced a phenomenal amount of music, his songs alone numbering about six hundred and three.
Schubert died at the young age of 31 in 1828.  Over the course of his life, Schubert composed 2 Masses, 8 1/2 symphonies (the final one was half finished at the time of his death), and hundreds of songs.     Below is a playlist featuring his Mass in G.

Sir Edward Elgar - Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1

Despite living in England, Sir Edward Elgar was a Roman Catholic and not Anglican as many would incorrectly assume.  Edward was the fourth of seven children to William and Ann Elgar.  His mother, Ann, had converted to Catholicism shortly before Edward's birth, and Edward was baptised and brought up as a Roman Catholic, to the disapproval of his father, William.

For a number of years he was assistant to his father, William Elgar, as organist of St George's Roman Catholic Church, Worcester, and succeeded him for four years from 1885. During this period he wrote his first liturgical works for the Church, beginning with his three motets Op. 2 (1887) for four-part choir (Ave Verum Corpus, Ave Maria and Ave Maris Stella), and followed by a setting of Ecce sacerdos magnus for the entry of the Bishop on an official visit to St. George's in 1888.

Sir Elgar's wife was disinherited by her family for marrying a Roman Catholic.  But, Elgar remained a life long Catholic and a composer of beautiful music despite opposition.  He is well known and championed as the one to bring classical music back to England, since before him there were few prominent composers.  In fact, there had been a stretch of over a hundred years without such a prominent composer as Sir Edward Elgar in England.

Below is his well known Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1.


The Romantic Period also saw a rise in humanism and secularism.  For example, Johannes Brahms allegedly believed in no religion and was at best partial to Martin Luther.  This period, despite some great performances, existed in a culture that had grown further and further away from God and from the Church.


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