Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sacred Choral Music In Contemporary Culture

Congratulations to living composers William Bolcom, Morten Lauridsen, and Krystof Penderecki; and to conductors Laurence Equilbey, Stephen Layton, Kent Nagano, Leonard Slatkin, and Antoni Wit for receiving Grammy Award nominations for best recorded choral performance of 2005! Congratulations also to the associated choral directors and choral masters who properly share in these Grammy award nominations: Simon Halsey, Kai-Uwe Jirka, Richard Grant, Lynne Morrow, Jerry Blackstone, William Hammer, Jason Harris, Christopher Kiver, Carole Ott, Mary Alice Stollak, and Henryk Wojnarowski.

(And you think about the difficulty of librettists ever seeing their names in print!)

My guess is that it will be a difficult decision for the judges to choose one from these five choral music projects -- perhaps especially from between the Bernstein Mass, under Nagano; the Bolcom Songs Of Innocence And Of Experience, under Slatkin; and the Penderecki Polish Requiem, under Wit.

The Arena Chapel [Scrovegni Chapel] in Padua, Italy. ca. 1305

"The fresco decorations in the Arena Chapel at Padua have long been considered the greatest of Giotto's works, and one of the major turning points in the history of European painting. He was probably about forty years old when he began work on the chapel.

His Paduan patron, Enrico Scrovegni, was a wealthy, politically ambitious merchant who in 1300 had acquired the ruins of the old Roman arena at Padua as a site for his palace and adjoining chapel....

Owing to the small size of the chapel, fit by six windows on the right wall, Giotto had at his disposal a wall-space that was both restricted and asymmetrical. In order to carry out the extensive iconographical scheme, he took as his point of departure the areas between the windows, planning to depict in each of these two scenes one above the other. Using this as the basic unit of measure, he divided up the walls of the chapel into panels of a special arrangement. The stories narrated by the frescoes (Scenes from the Life of Joachim, Scenes from the Life of the Virgin and Scenes from the Life of Christ) are fitted into this arrangement. The location of the frescoes (with the exception of Last Judgement) in the chapel is shown on a schematic map:

Photo and text credit: Emil Kren and Daniel Marx


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