Various Artists

100 Best Sacred Works

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AllMusic Review by

Any recording that proclaims its contents as the 100 best sacred works is going to attract potshots, but the fact is that this six-disc set might be a useful thing for churches and the like to have on hand. The set takes on the ambitious task of assembling pieces from the era of plainchant up to the present day; the most recent pieces come from the widely performed The Armed Man: A Mass for Piece, composed by Britain's Karl Jenkins and based on the Renaissance tradition of masses based on the song L'homme armé (The Armed Man). There are several things buyers should know. Especially considering the British origins of the set, the Renaissance and Medieval eras are underrepresented, and the Romantics overrepresented with two full discs, one devoted to French music and the other to "Romantic Sacred Masterpieces." The perorations of Elgar and Karg-Elert notwithstanding, the nineteenth century was not a high-water mark for sacred music. The "Modern Sacred Favorites" on disc 6 are conservative in orientation, with Barber, Rutter, Lloyd Webber, Vaughan Williams, Tavener, Pärt, and Górecki represented along with Jenkins; the progressives, who are none too progressive, are Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein. Non-Christian forms of spirituality are not included at all. The selection of pieces is intelligent, resisting the temptation to squeeze in every hit and instead programming lesser-known works from time to time if they fit the sequence of events. Best of all are the performances, which draw from various segments of the EMI catalog. They come from between the early '60s and the 2000s, with most from the 1970s and 1980s, and the remastering of such a variety of sound sources is reasonable. The listener receives not only a collection of attitudes toward sacred music but also a group of diverse performer approaches to the problem of performing sacred music. Disc 1, for example, is neatly divided between the stark sounds of the Hilliard Ensemble and the quiet, tradition-encrusted performances of English church choirs. Whatever debates it may start, this is an undeniably useful box set.

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Gloria, for 3 solo voices, chorus, trumpet, oboe, violin (ad lib), 2 violas, 2 cellos, strings & continuo in D major, RV 589
1
2:29
2
2:28
Magnificat, for 5 voices, 5-part chorus, orchestra & continuo in D major, BWV 243 (BC E14)
3
3:02
Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56
4
4:20
Weihnachtsoratorium (Christmas Oratorio), in six parts, BWV 248 (BC D7)
5
5:33
6
5:20
Mass in B minor, for soloists, chorus & orchestra, BWV 232 (BC E1)
7
4:25
8
4:30
9
5:25
Cantata No. 140, "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," BWV 140 (BC A166)
10
4:47
St. Matthew Passion (Matthäuspassion), for soloists, double chorus & double orchestra, BWV 244 (BC D3b)
11
6:24
Cantata No. 147, "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben," BWV 147 (BC A174)
12
3:31
13
2:22
14
2:14
St. Matthew Passion (Matthäuspassion), for soloists, double chorus & double orchestra, BWV 244 (BC D3b)
15
2:46
16
3:43
Messiah, oratorio, HWV 56
17
6:42
18
4:01
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