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Thread: Instrumental religious music?

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    Default Instrumental religious music?

    I'm curious to know what purely instrumental religious pieces are out there in the classical music world. Music by Olivier Messiaen could be a good started point for sacred Christian music ("Illuminations of the Beyond..." immediately comes to mind) and another one I can think of is John Tavener's "The Protecting Veil" for cello and orchestra. As for earlier music I can't seem to think of anything apart from Biber's Rosary Sonatas.

    Hundreds of years ago, perhaps thousands, religious music was mainly vocal in order to sing liturgical or sacred texts in places of worship. The purely instrumental pieces I listed above got me wondering what religious music (any religion, not limited to Christianity) has been composed for instrumental forces only...pre-20th century music would be especially interesting because most religious music from then seems to be vocal or choral music.

    Anyway, suggestions please!

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    Quote Originally Posted by ComposerOfAvantGarde View Post
    I'm curious to know what purely instrumental religious pieces are out there in the classical music world. Music by Olivier Messiaen could be a good started point for sacred Christian music ("Illuminations of the Beyond..." immediately comes to mind) and another one I can think of is John Tavener's "The Protecting Veil" for cello and orchestra. As for earlier music I can't seem to think of anything apart from Biber's Rosary Sonatas.

    Hundreds of years ago, perhaps thousands, religious music was mainly vocal in order to sing liturgical or sacred texts in places of worship. The purely instrumental pieces I listed above got me wondering what religious music (any religion, not limited to Christianity) has been composed for instrumental forces only...pre-20th century music would be especially interesting because most religious music from then seems to be vocal or choral music.

    Anyway, suggestions please!
    Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross?
    Haydn string quartet.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

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    That Haydn piece came immediately to mind, and its a unique work of his or anyone else.

    One thing is the Sonata da chiesa or church sonata but its not really music for worship, more like music that was sometimes played in between the ceremony during the mass. Eventually it became merged with the sonata da camera, or ordinary sonata, and obsolete. The movement layout slow-fast-slow-fast is a remnant of the church sonata, Haydn used it in his Symphony #49 "La Passione" and composers well into the 20th century still used it (eg. Shostakovich's Piano Trio #2 is a famous example).

    Similar to that one I can think of is Francois Couperin's two Organ Masses, one written for the convents, the other for the parishes. Again this is music for playing in between the choral items during mass. I got it on two cd's played by Gillian Weir and they are about 40-45 minutes in length each, but no singing is included in that. In terms of putting this sort of thing in its proper context, Naxos has put out organ masses by the late Renaissance composer Claudio Merulo, which include his organ masses with Gregorian chant sung in between (2 cd's each). Another one like this is Marcel Dupre's Vespers, Op. 18. These are rarely if ever done as part of a mass now, however on disc and in concert performance there is sometimes playing of them with choral bits in between.

    That makes me think of organ music used before or after mass, eg. as accompaniment to processional or recessional. Again, it can be played apart from the mass, as part of a recital for example. Widor's famous Toccata from his Symphony #5 is often used at weddings, but he originally wrote all his solo organ symphonies as concert items.

    Puccini's Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums), for string quartet, was written in the space of one night to be played at a friend's funeral service the following day. It had some religious use when it was first performed, and fits the bill as pre-20th century (its an early work of his, late 19th century).

    & some more 20th Century concert hall works:

    Honegger's Symphony #3 "Liturgique" and Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem are two symphonies with movements named for the Requiem mass. Honegger's is a reflection on World War II and Britten's had something to do with that as well, and I know his father died around that time as well.

    Gubaidulina's Seven Words (Sieben worte), a chamber piece, was inspired partly by Haydn's work and also Schutz's one. This was originally performed without a religious title since that was a no-no under the Soviet system (early 1980's). But most people got the hint anyway (eg. 7 movements).

    I suppose the big picture shows that instrumental music used during mass eventually became independent of it fully.
    Last edited by Sid James; Sep-30-2013 at 07:51.

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    Johann Kuhnau Biblical Sonatas http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Kuhnau-Johann.htm http://www.allmusic.com/composition/...d-mc0002658135

    a lot of titles by Gubajdulina (including the major 7 Last Words)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sofia_Gubaidulina

    a lot of titles by Langgaard (one of the violin sonatas http://www.classical.net/music/recs/.../mpl24153a.php, several piano works and symphonies). He´s mostly using religious vocabulary in a rather old-fashioned or complicated way.

    Henze: Requiem for chamber ensemble
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Requiem_(Henze)

    Elizabethan instrumental music, such as "In Nomine"-fantasias http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Nomine

    Norman Dello Joio: Meditations on Ecclesiastes for orchestra
    http://www.newworldrecords.org/uploads/fileFncSA.pdf

    some Hovhaness titles - but he picks from many religions ! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...Alan_Hovhaness
    Last edited by joen_cph; Sep-30-2013 at 08:53.

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    Indian raga and Balinese gamelan spring to mind - both have been influential to western music but nothing that I know of in a specifically religious vein

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    Organ voluntaries?

    Try this by Locke

    Last edited by Taggart; Sep-30-2013 at 09:20.
    Music begins where words leave off. Music expresses the inexpressible.

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    those are the religious one to listen everytime. thanks for sharing them with us here

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    Takemitsu's Requiem for strings.
    I treat my music like I treat my pets. It’s something to own, care about and curate with attention to detail. From a blog by hjr.

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    There are also Mozart's Epistle Sonatas - not necessarily religious but used to fill in gaps in church.

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    Bach's Chorale Preludes seem like the kind of thing you're looking for.
    Last edited by Yardrax; Sep-30-2013 at 18:24. Reason: spelling mistake

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    Quote Originally Posted by Itullian View Post
    Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross?
    Haydn string quartet.
    Don't forget the orchestra version as which it originated, the quartet is a transcription of the original full orchestra setting. (Both are really great pieces of music, btw)
    Dis votisque reliqui
    - Ovid

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    Bruckner's symphonies are often described as instrumental liturgies. I wouldn't go that far, but there's no doubt that the chorales and pedal points throughout his works are in part a result of his being an organist for so long.

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    There are the 'Sacred Hymns' by George I. Gurdjieff brilliantly played by Keith Jarrett.
    'Small is Beautiful...'
    Leopold Kohr
    ------
    English isn't my mother language... please be patient.

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    Ives often quoted hymns in his work.

    This piece contains one very obvious allusion:


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    Quote Originally Posted by Mahlerian View Post
    Bruckner's symphonies are often described as instrumental liturgies. I wouldn't go that far, but there's no doubt that the chorales and pedal points throughout his works are in part a result of his being an organist for so long.
    This makes me think of Franck, another organist who brought "liturgical" elements into instrumental works like the magnificent Prelude, Chorale, and Fugue. Stephen Hough, who has a good performance of this piece on youtube, comments that "the further Franck moved away from specifically sacred music (his liturgical works are particularly lifeless) the clearer and more pure his spiritual vision seemed to become." I like his way of putting it. For a good essay--and some particularly ingenious analysis of Franck's use of some themes from Bach--check out Hough's blog:

    http://stephenhough.com/writings/alb...iano-music.php

    Here's Hough's performance of the PC&F:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crsgnAowZ2Y

    You can see what a devil it is to play!


    *PS* I appreciate the mention of Ives' sonatas, which are going on my queue: it's been a long time since I heard those!
    Last edited by Blancrocher; Sep-30-2013 at 22:54.

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