This week on Choral Concert, Peter Togni will bring you two pieces written by famous composers who were highly restricted in what they wrote, but still found a way to "colour outside the lines" and express themselves fully.

The first is by Palestrina, a church musician of the Renaissance famous for writing music so complex in its interweaving melodic lines that everyone started to complain that they couldn’t understand the words. In fact things got so bad that the clergy at the time were thinking of banning music from churches altogether.

So rather than let that happen, Palestrina responded by writing a mass that was very simple and precise, and the words rang out loud and clear. It was called Missa assumpta est Maria in coelum. The clergy loved it.

Fast forward to the 18th century and Franz Joseph Haydn. Again, the church was complaining that the masses of the time were too long, too complex and putting more focus on listening to the music than to paying attention to the service.

Haydn responded by writing a piece we now call the Missa Brevis or short mass. It pleased the clergy of his day because it did not seduce the senses of the faithful and could be used effectively in the church service.

In both of these pieces you hear genius at work. Both composers transcended these limitations, finding a way to express themselves within them, colouring just outside the lines, and creating works of exquisite beauty.

Choral Concert, the “don't tell me what to do” edition. Sunday, July 7, 2013, 9 to 11 a.m., (9:30 - 11:30 NT) on CBC Radio 2.


Listen to the top Canadian choirs in the National Competition for Canadian Amateur Choirs

Karina Gauvin performs Vivaldi Motets in a full album stream

Visit the Association of Canadian Choral Communities profile page on CBC music

posted by Jeff Reilly on Jul 04, 2013