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Choral Masterworks: A Listener's Guide Paperback – March 28, 2008
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The book begins with an insightful, rather moving essay on "Sacred Texts in a Secular World: A Word to Nonbelievers - and Believers." This is in fact a serious issue for many modern music lovers, for most choral music is Christian and many people today are not Christian - are nonbelievers, as the section title notes, or belong to other religions (Steinberg was Jewish, indeed a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany). Certainly if you wish to sing any of the great choral works, with very few exceptions you will have to join a Christian choir - I know I could not sing Handel's Messiah, or the Bach Passions or B-Minor Mass, or the Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms in synagogue (one of the unintended consequences of the legal restrictions on religious activities in public schools is the deprivation of Jewish students of the choral repertory of the Western world).Read more ›
I am giving Mr. Steinberg Four Stars for his good work.
Mr Steinberg says in his introduction that he regrets omissions, but does not intend to apologize for anything he DID include. Well, if I were him I would retract that; as I will show, he makes some inclusions that are hardly earth-shattering.
He omits Berlioz's Te Deum (one of the works he regrets leaving out), yet includes several of the smaller Brahms works! I'm not anti-Brahms, but why would you leave out a work like the Berlioz Te Deum in the first place? And however interesting it may be, why include the Mozart-Handel "Messiah"? If Mr. Steinberg had left that out, the smaller Mozart and Brahms, he would have had space to include Berlioz, Bruckner, Poulenc, Monteverdi, and at least one more Haydn mass, the "Nelson".
There are several great settings of the "Gloria" by Antonio Vivaldi which are wonderful. I would have suggested Vivaldi's "Dixit Dominus". Poulenc's "Gloria" is also a work which deserved to be included, as did Dvorak's Requiem...whatever George Bernard Shaw's opinion of it may have been.
One of the most unforgivable omissions was Monteverdi's "Vespro della Beata Vergine", but of course Mr. Steinberg doesn't apologize for it's omission like he did for obscure Pfitzner, Gerhard and [less obscure] Delius. Monteverdi's Vespers, even though it is a collection of pieces, is accepted as one of the greatest choral works.Read more ›