My summer lectures at Lasell Village ended a week ago. If you remember, I was giving one lecture on "The Ten Greatest Choral Works" and another called "Modern Music: Why It's Not That Horrible." Overall it was a great experience; I learned a lot (such as how MUCH time lecture prep takes, holy COW) and I got to do some research and learning and listening I otherwise wouldn't have had the impetus to do.
At the end of the choral masterpieces class, I took a vote on which piece was everyone's favorite. Some people declined to vote, but here's how it shook out.
Missa Papae Marcelli by Palestrina - 0 votes
Bach’s Mass in B Minor - 1 vote
Handel’s Messiah - 3 votes
Haydn’s Creation - 1 vote
Mozart’s Requiem - 1 vote
Mendelssohn’s Elijah - 1 vote
Brahms’ Requiem - 1 vote
Britten’s War Requiem - 3 votes
Faure’s Requiem - 2 votes
Barber’s Reincarnations - 0 votes
I think the biggest surprise was that none of them went for Palestrina. As a Renaissance-lover, this was shocking to me! Renaissance music was one of the great revelations of my teenage years. I actually had one gentleman come up and tell me he thought he would have to quit the class because he couldn't stand the Palestrina that much; I told him to stick it out and he was happy by the time we got to Handel. But!!!
Also, the Barber probably didn't get as many votes b/c I played it in-class at the last class, so they didn't have a listening assignment with it the way they did with the rest, and they didn't get a chance to sit with it. It might seem like an odd choice, but I wanted to have something in there to represent the beauty of the small-scale. It was a tough choice between the Barber and Fine's Hourglass Suite.
In general, I was trying to choose a representative variety of pieces, no more than 3 from any one historical period, no more than one from any composer (this was to prevent Bach headaches, among other things), not dominated by the Germanic tradition (though how well I did on that front is debatable - after all, no Russians?), and I wanted to choose pieces where the chorus was the main event. (Hence the lack of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, which is arguably one of the ten best pieces ever, but not one of the ten best choral pieces ever because the chorus is not even present for 70% of it.) What pieces would you have added...and most importantly, what pieces would you have swapped out to make room? Verdi, Berlioz, Stravinsky, and Duruflé were all very close to making the cut for me.