Thursday, November 01, 2007

Verdi as secular music

Recently, I had a wonderful opportunity to sing in the chorus of Verdi's Requiem. It is a fabulous work of art...very exciting and dramatic...
There was a presentation before one of the performances, and the remark was jibingly made (is that a word?) about how Pope Pius X decreed (or whatever it's called) that this particular piece of music could not be used (performed) at Mass. (of course, the thrust behind that statement was probably something like, "how silly. The Church not allowing "Classical" music!")
but...perhaps, Verdi's Requiem as a piece of music IS very "showy," and definitely written in the popular style of that day and therefore NOT appropriate for Mass!
What is different in Pius X outlawing that from those of us who have current disdain for "popular style music" being used in church? (and we certainly think it should not be allowed!)
but then...where is the line to be drawn? Traditional Renaissance polyphony? (Croce) Baroque? (Bach) Classical? (Mozart, Beethoven-I'm not even sure who wrote Masses and who didn't) Romantic or later? (Verdi)

(ok, not sure if this post made much sense. It worked out in my head!)

1 comment:

Cantor said...

I think you’re hitting the nail squarely on the head: just where are the lines of appropriateness, and what is their rationale?

I would keep Verdi Requiem out of the Mass, too, actually - it’s so theatrical and bombastic, esp. in the sequence. There is something about its Sanctus that doesn’t quite jive with my idea of the sacred, awesome, and indescribably beautiful.

I think we who are the “heirs” of the 20th-century liturgical movement would do well to look into just what it was against which St. Pius X and his contemporaries were reacting. I don’t have answers there - wasn’t it stuff kinda like the more operatic sections of the Verdi Requiem, e.g. the A major section of the Kyrie?

Beethoven wrote two Masses - both of which, I believe, were written for concert rather than for the liturgy. I personally have a hard time envisioning any of the Classical Masses at an actual liturgy; the style seems, to me, so strongly associated with concert performance in our day and age.