Cover image for Celestial music? : some masterpieces of European religious music
Celestial music? : some masterpieces of European religious music
Mellers, Wilfrid, 1914-2008.
Publication Information:
Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK ; Rochester, NY : Boydell Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xv, 320 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3865 .M45 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The late Wilfrid Mellers, who occupies a special place among music critics, described himself as a non-believer; but his preference for music that "displays a sense of the numinous" (in his words) will strike a chord with many who listen to religious music nowadays, and who share his view that music that confronts first and last things is likely to offer more than music that evades them. The essays form five groups, which together offer a survey of religious music from around the first millennium to the beginning of the second, in the context of the difficult issues of what religious music is, and, for good measure, what is religion? The parts are: The Ages of Christian Faith; The Re-birth of a Re-birth: From Renaissance to High Baroque; From Enlightenment to Doubt; From "the Death of God" to "the Unanswered Question"; and The Ancient Law and the Modern Mind. Musical discussion, with copious examples, is conducted throughout the book in a context that is also religious - and indeed philosophical, social, and political, with the open-endedness that such an approach demands in the presentation of ideas about music's most fundamental nature and purposes. COMPOSERS: Hildegard of Bingen; Perotin; Machaut; Dunstable, Dufay; William Corniyshes father and son; Tallis; Byrd; Monteverdi; Schutz; J.S. Bach; Couperin; Handel; Haydn; Mozart; Beethoven; Schubert; Bruckner; Berlioz, Faure; Verdi, Brahms; Elgar, Delius; Holst, Vaughan Williams, Howells; Britten; Janacek; Messiaen, Poulenc; Rachmaninov; Stravinsky; Part, Tavener, Gorecki, Macmillan, Finnissy; Copland.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. ix
Prologue: What is religious music?p. xi
Part I The Ages of Christian Faith
1 The Meanings of Monody (Oneness in Hildegard of Bingen's Symphonia armonie celestium revelationum)p. 3
2 The Meanings of Polyphony (Many-in-oneness in Perotin's Viderunt omnes and Sederunt principes)p. 9
3 The Antique and the Novel in Ars Antiqua and Ars Nova (Machaut's Messe de Notre Dame and Le Lai de la Fontaine)p. 16
4 From the 'Gothic Desperation' to Harmonic Congruence (Dunstable's Veni Sancte Spiritus and Dufay's Ave Regina Celorum)p. 23
5 Sacred and Profane in the music of the William Cornyshes, father and son (The father's Magnificat and the son's Adieu mes amours, Ah, Robin, and Woefully arrayed)p. 29
6 The Tudors and the Church Re-formed ('False relation' in Tallis's Lamentations of Jeremiah)p. 36
7 Byrd as Roman-Anglican, Elizabethan-Jacobean, Double Man (His Mass in five voices (1588) and his Psalm-Sonet, 'Lullaby, my swete litel baby' (first version for solo voice and viols [1588], second version for a cappella voices [1607]))p. 42
Part II The Re-birth of a Re-birth: from Renaissance to High Baroque
8 The Opera-house as Church (Monteverdi's Vespers and Magnificat (1610), as a Fare-well and as an Annunciation of the Renaissance)p. 51
9 Reformation and Opera in Church (Crucifixion and Redemption in Schutz's Passion according to St Matthew (c. 1665))p. 60
10 The Glory of God and a Man's Glory (J.S. Bach's High and Solemn Mass (1747))p. 66
11 A Rara Avis at the seat of Power (Francois Couperin at the Chapelle Royale of Versailles: his Quatre Versets d'un Motet (1703), his Motet de Ste Suzanne (c. 1705), and his Troisieme Lecon des Tenebres (between 1713 and 1717))p. 78
12 The Democratization of the High Baroque (God and the Common Man, from the youthful virtuosity of Handel's Dixit Dominus (1708), by way of the Old Testament morality of Saul (1739), to the democratic universality of Messiah (1742))p. 84
Part III From Enlightenment to Doubt
13 Light in the Church's Darkness (From Haydn's early roman Masses to The Creation (1798))p. 97
14 From Enlightenment to Vision (Mozart as ecclesiastical successor to Haydn and as precursor to Beethoven: his Litaniae de venerabili altaris sacramento (c. 1772) and his Requiem Mass (1791))p. 105
15 'God's Kingdom is in Ourselves' (The High Baroque and the Sonata Principle in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis (1819-22))p. 113
16 Nostalgia and the Dream of God (Liturgy and Romanticism in Schubert's Mass in A flat major (1822))p. 124
17 Faith and Doubt in Mass, Symphony, and Symphonic Mass (Bruckner's Mass in E minor (1866) and Mass in F minor (1867))p. 132
18 God and Classicism, Agnosticism and Romanticism (Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts (1837) and Faure's Requiem (1887))p. 143
19 Two more Agnostic Requiems (Verdi's quasi-Roman Requiem of Life (1874) and Brahms's quasi-Lutheran Requiem of Death (1857-68))p. 156
Part IV From 'the Death of God' to 'the Unanswered Question'
20 The Victorian Crisis of Faith (The Roman Church, Science, Cardinal Newman, and Elgar's Dream of Gerontius (1900): Delius's pagan Mass of Life (1904-5) and his pagan Requiem (1914-16))p. 173
21 Cosmic, Social, and Personal Mysticism and Apocalypse (Holst's Hymn of Jesus (1917), Vaughan Williams's Sancte Civitas (1925), and Howells's Hymnus Paradisi (1938))p. 186
22 Twilight of the Gods (Life, War, and Death in Western Civilization and in Britten's War Requiem (1961-2))p. 204
Part V The Ancient Law and the Modern Mind
23 Earth Transcendent (Fertility rites and Christian liturgy in Janacek's Glagolitic Mass (1926))p. 221
24 Un saint sensuel and 'Le Jongleur de Notre Dame' (Messiaen's Quatuor pour la fin du temps (1940), Cinq Rechants (1948), and Chronochromie (1960): Poulenc's Gloria for soprano solo, chorus, and orchestra (1959))p. 230
25 The Ancient Law and the Romantic Spirit (Rachmaninov's Russian Orthodox Vespers or all-night Vigil (1916))p. 244
26 The Ancient Law and the Modern Mind (Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex (1927), Symphony of Psalms (1930), and Requiem Canticles (1965-6))p. 253
27 God and Gospel (Arvo Part's Passio Domini nostri Jesu Christi secundum Joannem (1982), John Tavener's Fall and Resurrection (2000), and works by Gorecki, Macmillan, and Finnissy))p. 270
28 A Plain Man, a Private Woman, and First and Last Things (Aaron Copland's 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson for voice and piano (1950))p. 289
Epiloguep. 307
Indexp. 311