Western classical music is one of humanity's most sublime artistic traditions. This musical language - encompassing genres from symphonic and instrumental music to choral works and opera - was created through the meeting of art and faith.
The lineage of sacred works produced some of the greatest masterpieces in Western art and created the foundation of the Western musical canon. This phenomenal tradition includes works of genius such as:
Josquin des Prez's Ave Maria, gratia plena, an exquisite polyphonic motet
Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Virgini, whose vocal pyrotechnics evoke the immensity of heaven
Mozart's Requiem, the final composition of the classical master
Beginning with medieval chant, discover how its single musical line evolved into polyphony (music with multiple simultaneous melodies). You'll also learn how the religious reformations of the 16th century compelled composers to create new musical genres and to make religious texts more intelligible. Additionally, observe how 17th-century composers blended sacred styles with genres such as opera, producing music of dramatic and unforgettable beauty.
As a fascinating counterpoint to the music itself, you'll explore the sociological background of its writing and performance. Sacred works were often commissioned by important clerical and aristocratic patrons, and composers were challenged to write music that was not only religiously edifying but also entertaining and publically successful. Over time, sacred music moved beyond church walls to become appreciated in secular venues as autonomous works of art.
You'll hear stunning musical excerpts covering over 1,200 years of music, from medieval chant to the massive sacred works of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.