Music is an agreeable harmony for the honour of God and the permissible delights of the soul
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Texts dedicated to the Virgin Mary have inspired many composers throughout the centuries. One of the earliest true masters of the Renaissance, Josquin des Prés, pays homage to Mary in his most famous motet: ‘Ave Maria… Virgo serena’. The moving prayer to the Virgin Mary was revolutionary of its time with ground-breaking counter-point and imitation. Perhaps thanks to des Prés, the prayer, ‘Ave Maria’, is still today the most reproduced text praising the Virgin Mary. Later in the Renaissance period in a Catholic Church in England, Peter Philips wrote his moving rendition. We then skip forward to the Romantic era with Schubert, Brahms and Gounod all writing their own respective interpretations. The Schubert and the Gounod remain two of the most recognisable pieces of religious sung music today. Lesser-known contemporary composer Pawel Lukaszewski writes an equally stunning a cappella choral arrangement, rich with luscious harmonies.
Antonello da Messina,Virgin Annunciate, circa. 1475, Palermo, Galleria Regionale della Sicilia.
Texts dedicated to the Virgin Mary have inspired many composers throughout the centuries. From the sweet and poignant Stabat Mater by Vivaldi, to Bach’s triumphant Magnifcat explore the evolution of sacred music with Vialma, right up to today. Listen to the great choral contemporary composer Pawel Lukaszewski and his magical Ave Maria. To discover our entire musical selection you must be subscribe to Vialma by clicking here.
Titen, Assumption of the Virgin, 1516, Rome, Church of the Santa Maria dei Frari.
From the baroque period, Monteverdi praises Mary in his masterpiece, Vespro Della Beata Vergine commonly referred to as Vespers of 1610. The work is monumental in scale and difficult to perform, requiring two large choirs who are skilful enough to cover up to 10 voice parts accompanied by an orchestral ensemble. The service, written for the evening concludes with a Magnificat, a canticle sung to the Gospel according to Mary. Bach is an undisputed master of sacred choral music and his Magnificat marks an evolution of the genre. Each of the twelve movements Bach treats differently by creating a new vivid character. He wrote the work in 1723, during his first year as cantor at the Church of St. Thomas in Leipzig, a prestigious but time-consuming position. In some months, he would have to compose a cantata every week. Even the prolific composer Telemann, who wrote 1,034 sacred cantatas, turned down the position!
The text of the Stabat Mater is more poignant. It portrays Mary’s suffering during the crucifixion of her son Jesus. Inspired by a 13th Century poem, it was promoted by the Franciscan order during the counter-reformation. Facing the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church encouraged the worship of Mary. Some years later in 1712, Vivaldi put the Stabat Mater to music with great expressiveness. 24 years later, fellow Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi composed his version which went on to become his most famous work. Written in the final weeks of Pergolesi’s life when the composer was dying from tuberculosis, the music is bursting with suffering and melancholy from the very first note.
Michelangelo, Pietà, 1499, Marble, Vatican, St. Peter’s Basillica
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