O Sing unto the Lord: A History of English Church Music
by Andrew Gant
Messiah: The Composition and Afterlife of Handel’s Masterpiece
by Jonathan Keates
The Anglican choral tradition is one of the great successes of English cultural diffusion, to rank with Association Football (soccer), cricket, and the works of William Shakespeare. It has a cultural heft way beyond its parochial and very specific origins, and it turns up in the oddest places. The most incongruous example must surely be the upmarket gloss that Thomas Tallis’s forty-part motet Spem in Alium lends to a down-and-dirty scene in the film Fifty Shades of Grey.
Unlike Beethoven, Schubert wrote song compulsively, and achieved mastery in it as a teenager. It was as a composer of song that he first became famous; and his fecundity and sophistication in that genre, his gift for melody and his grasp of harmonic drama, both inner and outer, in turn lifted its status.