The 18th-century literary and musical movement called “Sturm und Drang” (trans. “storm and stress) led composers such as Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven to write music with a high emotional content. Although some music of almost all the great composers communicates emotion, the violent contrasts that characterize many pieces of the late Classical period are unique to the music that grew out of the Sturm und Drang movement. This leads us to Haydn’s lesser-known but rich and highly emotional choral work, “Insanae et vanae curae” which the Chancel Choir will sing for you this Sunday night. Here is the English translation:
“Vain and raging cares invade our minds,
Madness often fills the heart, robbed of hope,
O mortal man, what does it profit to endeavour at worldly things,
if you should neglect the heavens?
If God is for you, all things are favorable for you.”
This is a highly impassioned text that is undoubtedly worthy of the late 18th century. Haydn’s musical treatment of this text is no less than perfect.
Beethoven’s life was Sturm und Drang personified. He lived through great personal struggle and tragedy, and his often recalcitrant ways led him to treat his “betters” with irreverence. Beethoven sometimes makes me think of Jacob wrestling with God, at least emotionally. Now put the text of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Benedictus, and Agnus Dei) in the hands of this tempestuous but highly sensitive composer, and you are led on a unique and compelling musical and spiritual journey.
It is my hope that this Sunday’s concert of music of the great masters, Haydn and Beethoven, will deepen and enrich your thoughts and your faith.