Wednesday, 11 January 2006

Essential compositions for theologians

Our local classical music aficionado, Jim West, has created a list of essential compositions for theologians. Here’s Jim’s comment, followed by his list of 15 essential compositions:

It’s a well known fact that Karl Barth began his day with breakfast, coffee, the newspaper, and Mozart. In my estimation that’s why he was the theologian he was: his wisdom in listening to Mozart each day before he began his work. Productive minds spring from the ground of productive soil. And nothing feeds the mind like excellent music (and it also feeds the soul). So, which compositions are essential for theologians? What are the compositions not only without which theologians cannot do their work, but without which life itself becomes frivolous and empty?

1. Mozart’s Requiem (KV 626)
2. Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, 4th Movement (Ode to Joy)
3. Michael Haydn’s Divertimento In C Major For Violin, Cello, & B.C. (P99) [3] Menuet
4. Mozart’s Symphony in No. 32 in G major (KV 318)
5. Michael Haydn’s Symphony Number 18
6. Michael Haydn’s Symphony Number 26
7. Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto A Major, (KV 622) - I. Allegro
8. Mozart’s Les petits riens, KV App. 10/299b
9. Johann Christian Bach’s Amadis des Gaules
10. Johann Christian Bach’s Symphony Number 1 in D Major
11. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto Number 5
12. Mozart’s Don Giovanni
13. Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro
14. Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutte
15. Martin Luther’s Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott

25 Comments:

Michael F. Bird said...

Ben, where O where is Andrew Lloyd Weber? Or even Stephen Sondheim?

Deep Furrows said...

Luther but no Hildegarde? Maybe Luther should wait for the essential list of hymns . . .

Jim said...

Hildegarde? That's not music- its monastic mumbling moans.

T.B. Vick said...

I personally enjoy Vivaldi, Handel, and Mozart.

Of course there is some wonderful Baroque music from Albinoni, Corelli, and Rosler as well.

Good list though.

dsg said...

Brahms German Requiem. 'Nuff said.

Stijn said...

I have six masterpieces to add:

1. J.S. Bach, Matthäus-Passion!
2. Josquin des Prez, Missa Pange Lingua: I've never seen the part in the creed on the Incarnation set to music more beautifully, and down to earth.
3. J. Haydn, Die Schöpfung, because it makes God's love audible.
4. J.S. Bach, Cantato 'Aus der Tiefe', a beautiful setting of Ps 130.
5. O. Lassus, poenitential psalms: Penitence and forgiveness put to music.
6. G. F. Händel, the Messiah, if not fot the brilliant music, than at least for the interesting treatment of biblical texts.

But I am very glad to see the Da Ponte-opera's on the list: It's hard to imagine pieces that better show the nature of man.

kim fabricius said...

On this one - classical music - all you guys definitely have me at a cultural advantage.

I began to get to know the grammar and the greats when my daughter was growing up: her piano is in my study, and she also practiced the violin, the oboe, and, latterly, her cor anglais there as background music to my own compositions (viz. sermons!). But the only "night at the opera" I've ever spent was with the Marx Brothers!

In heaven, I'm afraid I'll be heading to the rock section of the music department. That is, if a tin ear doesn't constitute automatic exclusion and immediate transposition to the other place -where, no doubt, I'll be forced to listen to Wagner for all eternity. (Lord, have mercy!)

steph said...

With five more you'd have the perfect score, so:
1. Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony No.6
2. Vivaldi's Four Seasons
3. Elgar's Cello Concerto preferably with Jacqueline Du Pre
4. Dvorak's Cello Concerto in B minor
5. Sex Pistols, "God Save the Queen"

But where is Dylan?

Ben Myers said...

Hi Steph. Don't worry about Bob Dylan -- I might have to honour him with his own entire "essential list". The only problem, though, is what not to include. (It would hardly be fair to have a list of his "essential 500 songs"...)

Just in case you're curious, though, my favourite of all Bob Dylan songs is "Desolation Row". I think heaven will either be an endless Mozart piano concerto, or a performance of "Desolation Row" with an infinite number of verses.

What then will hell be? A John Cage composition, perhaps?

steph said...

I'm relieved about Dylan - although I think hell would be pure eternal silence - even the 'silence' of sound used by John Cage - disturbing that it is (weird stuff!) would be a relief from silence. I hope heaven would have more variety and maybe even freedom to choose? But no Cage in heaven!

Jim said...

Hell will most definitely be the Beatles- and Wagner.....

steph said...

But Jim, Wagner was Hitler's favourite composer - he even kept original scores in his bunker.

kim fabricius said...

Cage was at Wesleyan University (Connecticut) when I was an undergraduate ('66-'70). Wesleyan itself wasn't hell - but the one Cage concert I attended certainly was. I have a tin ear? In Cage's case it was solid lead!

By the way, Ben, did you know that Barth once drew Mozart and Wagner together in a single sentence, referring to "a divine spark in the[ir] genius"? Mind, he was a teenager at the time!

Chris T. said...

Oh, you've left off the greatest piece of music in Western history—Bach's Mass in B Minor! :-)

steve harris said...

Well, as a classical list, I'm sure this is fine. One treasure of choral music I ran across years back: "Holy Radiant Light: Sacred Songs of Russia" by Gloriae Dei. This is, hands down, the most beautiful Christian album I own. If interested, you should probably just type in to Amazon "Sacred Songs of Russia," which is the same thing. There's pricey import version out with the title I bought it under, but the other is about half that price.

On now the non-classical side of things (which may be the subject of another list):

Buddy & Julie Miller

Lifeline, by Iris DeMent

Clinch Mountain Country, Ralph Stanley

Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, by Ralph Stanley

Joshua Tree, U2

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow, by Alison Krauss & the Cox family

Ohio, by Over the Rhine

Shot of Love, by Bob Dylan

Boatman's Call, No More Shall We Part, Nocturama, Nick Cave

Universal House of Prayer, by Buddy Miller

And probably a greatest hits of Van Morrison

kim fabricius said...

There is only one band: The Band.

Nate Custer said...

There is a whole lot of Mozart on the list, how about a few more modern choices:

Requiem, Op 48 - Gabriel Faure
Vespers - Sergei Rachmaninoff

wiserblog said...

If I may, I'd like to add Estonian Composer, Arvo Pärt's Magnum Opus: "Te Deum" It is a piece that enables your ears to relish like never before, especially in a solemn worship context. An amazon reviewer said, "It's what God listens to on His ipod."

Great Series!

--MLW

stormface said...

What's with the Wagner hate? Sure, he was a wildman, but who, even the greatest philistine, cannot admit to being inspired by the beauty from the Overture to Tannhauser (for example). Listen to Lohengrin before you perform/participate in a wedding that inevitably contains "Here Comes the Bride" so you can hear how pagan the piece is!

BTW, the Hitler thing is silly, considering that he loved Beethoven quite a bit as well.

Andrew L said...

On the comment on Wagner, his music drama Parsifal was unfairly left out of the list as well. With its Prelude on the theme of love, faith, and hope, the temptation and spiritual awakening scene of Act 2, the Good Friday Music of Act 3 and the ethereal music of the final Holy Communion scene, Parsifal deserved to be listened to and watched by every Christian.

Tim said...

Not a bad start, but I would certainly add Bach's Mass in Bm, and/or st Matthew's passion, Rachmaninoff's vespers, and something (everything) by Arvo Part.

Jim said...

Hildegarde? That's not music- its monastic mumbling moans.

Deep Furrows said...

Luther but no Hildegarde? Maybe Luther should wait for the essential list of hymns . . .

steph said...

But Jim, Wagner was Hitler's favourite composer - he even kept original scores in his bunker.

dsg said...

Brahms German Requiem. 'Nuff said.

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