Sunday, September 23, 2012
Since MOJ readers may be tiring of my occasional musical interjections, I thought it might be fun to create a little structure and inaugurate a tradition. So here's something new about something old: each Sunday, I'll post about a work that belongs in the musical canon of classical religious music. What is the canon? It's comprised of the pieces that are on my list! I invite informed and elegantly composed comments about the music.
Here's a worthy lead-off hitter: Bach's magnificent, soaring, mighty Sanctus from his powerful B minor Mass, finished late in his life for the services at St. Thomasschule in Leipzig. (It says in one of my reference works that Bach left his previous post as Kappelmeister at Cöthen because his patron's marriage "brought about a change of musical values. The serious and the artistic were now shunned."). His time in Leipzig was not happy, and included the death of no less than six children. Somehow neither his industry nor his sheer brilliance ever flagged. As my book says, "He lived but to worship God and to write music."
My favorite part of the Sanctus is right at the beginning, before the six-parts break out into the typical Bach beauty. The B minor Mass is, in my view, the greatest Mass ever written and one of the greatest works in all of music. This recording is by Otto Klemperer (himself a very interesting figure), who conducts it a little bit faster than you sometimes hear it, which is a good thing.