Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Soli Deo Gloria"

Kevin DeYoung's blog posts this morning a guest entry by Ben Falconer encouraging believers to learn to appreciate and enjoy the enormous body of classical music that is part of the Christian heritage. "...[T]here is much in the classical repertoire that brings great honor to the Lord through the Biblical and Christ-centered lyrics that are set to soaring melodies.":
...[W]here would I encourage a believer to begin listening? I would start with a genre called oratorio. .... The reason I am drawn to oratorio is that we have so many to choose from that are explicitly Christian in their lyrics. As I review some of my favorite music, I am again amazed how composers took straight Bible passages and set them to incredible music. Composers like Bach, who made his living as a young man employed by various churches, truly were the worship leaders of their day.
And he lists his "top 5." (I inserted the YouTube performances):
5. Joseph Haydn’s The Creation – Of the top 5, this is the only one that is not primarily a biblical text set to music. Instead, Haydn’s libretto is almost entirely an interpretive extrapolation of the brief Scriptural account in Genesis 1. This work can be fun and lighthearted as God calls into existence all of his wondrous creation.


4. Johannes Brahm’s German Requiem – Brahms departed from the typical Latin requiem text and chose instead passages from Luther’s German Bible as the basis for his glorious funeral work. Brahms is at the top of my list of romantic composers and I love listening to any of his music....


3. Felix Mendelssohn’s Elijah – .... The music is not as intricate or interesting as either earlier baroque or later romantic works, but what Elijah lacks in musical depth, it more than makes up for it in terms of conveying the drama of the events in Elijah’s life. The showdown between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is worth listening to over and over. It helps that this work is in English, so it is easy to follow.


2. George Frideric Handel’s Messiah – .... From the opening tenor recitative “Comfort ye my people” all the way through to the closing chorus “Worthy is the Lamb”, I am taken up in the prophecy, life, death, and resurrection of my Lord. ....


1. Johann Sebastian Bach’s St. Matthew Passion – .... The recitative text comes straight from the Gospel account and involves mainly the evangelist (narrator) and Jesus. This music is accompanied with minimum instrumentation and moves the drama of Jesus’ last hours along. Bach then inserts solo arias and chorus numbers to comment on the unfolding drama (you will recognize “O sacred head now wounded”). ....


Falconer also suggests how parents can teach young children to appreciate the music:
One of our practices we began a number of years ago is to give each child a different classical music CD for Christmas. Our aim is twofold: 1) to expose them to and encourage a love for a variety of different music from a young age, and 2) to give them an assortment of some of the great works of musical art so that by the time they leave our home, their musical collection is stocked with the classics. Thus far, our kids’ favorites have been:
  • Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, a playful introduction to a number of key instruments in the orchestra with memorable melodies and a plot the kids all love.
  • Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, the popular baroque violin concertos are thoroughly entertaining for children and adults alike. It’s no surprise this is a classic!
  • The Classical Child at the Opera, which has selections from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado, and one of my all-time favorite songs (of any genre): Lakme’s “Flower Duet.” This is a staple in our car for any length of trip. [more]
An Ear for the Classics – Kevin DeYoung