Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sacred Music for the Latin Mass

This is one of those good news, bad news classical music posts.

The good news is that one of the most beautiful and profound pieces of sacred music ever written is now available on magnatune. And given the number of Catholic friends I have who read this blog, it's a wonderful way to acquaint yourself with a priceless piece of your liturgical heritage. It's Bach's Mass in B Minor for the traditional Latin Mass on two CD's, or two downloads. It's on two CD's because it's very long - about two hours. It's so long that when it's performed in Church, usually only one or two movements are played.

It may be long, but there are few pieces of sacred music that rival it in beauty, power and scope. It also took Bach 25 years to write. He composed the first section, the Gloria, in 1724 and didn't finish the whole thing until 1749, a year before his death. Perhaps the good Lord was waiting for him to finish.

So, what's the bad news here, you no doubt are wondering? It's not really bad news, but more of a historical conundrum. Bach was a Lutheran, not a Catholic, and there's been considerable speculation as to why he wrote it without a specific commission from the Catholic church. It turns out though that the 18th century Lutherans often used parts of the latin mass (the Kyrie and the Gloria) as forms of choral music that the whole congregation would sing. This no doubt also made Catholic converts to Lutheranism feel more at home with the liturgy, just as the modern Episcopal liturgy is almost identical to the modern english Catholic mass.

So listen, enjoy and be uplifted.



Blogger SDG said...

I share your veneration for Bach's monumental Mass in B Minor! I hope you'll forgive a direct plug here, but I simply MUST recommend a recording, a high definition DVD production of Bach's Mass in B Minor, that was released on the Virgin Classics label last week. One of the things that makes this recording special is that it was filmed live at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris. I was at the Cathedral for a bit of the filming in March 2006 and I must say, the disc beautifully captures the sense of the sacred in that magnificent space. The recording was sponsored in part by an organization that I both direct and love, Soli Deo Gloria, which itself might be of interest for you to check out some time. In any case, there’s a video trailer of the DVD on at The DVD also features an interview with the Arch Bishop of Paris and a documentary on the Music and Liturgy of Notre-Dame de Paris.

Thanks for sharing!

Chandler Branch, Exe. Dir.
Soli Deo Gloria

11:47 AM  
Blogger Richard in NY said...

The trailer looked great, and I don't mind you plugging SDG and the DVD here.

Here's the link to order the DVD for anyone who's interested.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Soli Deo Gloria said...

Thanks, Richard!


12:18 PM  

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