Poster SPCO Messiah
The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra performs Handel's 'Messiah' with the Singers.
Classical Basics

More great choral works, as suggested by Choral Stream listeners

We recently offered a playlist of 10 great choral works, and listeners responded with their own choices. Here are some of their favorites.

Messiah (George Frideric Handel, 1741): This is the one that everyone knows — at least that one really famous movement. The oratorio had modest popularity in its day but has become one of the most-performed choral works. Handel wrote Messiah for a more intimate vocal and instrumental presentation; it has been adapted for the larger-scale productions we most often hear today. You probably know the “Hallelujah” chorus — so here’s “For Unto Us a Child Is Born.”

Mass in B Minor (Johann Sebastian Bach, 1749): Completed a year before his death, this work was based by Bach largely on earlier works, such as the “Sanctus” he had composed in 1724. This section, “Et Incarnatus Est,” was composed just for the Mass.

Requiem (Gabriel Fauré, 1887-90): The composer wrote of this work, “Everything I managed to entertain by way of religious illusion I put into my Requiem, which moreover is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.” Fauré’s version differs from the usual requiem format in that it omits the usual “Dies Irae,” subbing in this “Pie Jesu:”


Requiem (Maurice Duruflé, 1947): Duruflé was among the French composers commissioned in 1941 by the collaborationist Vichy regime to write works for a monetary award. Asked to write a symphonic poem, he decided to write Requiem instead, and he was still working on it when the regime collapsed in 1944. He got the last laugh, eventually collecting three times the agreed-upon price.

“The Ground/Agnus Dei” (Ola Gjeilo, 2008): The composer defines this final movement from his Sunrise Mass with the terms “resolution,” “release” and “relief.” Indeed, it is a respite from the tension and emotion of all that goes before. Listen and feel the tranquility come over you.

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