This year the Festival will make Reformation and Counter-Reformation as its topic. But rather than initiating a teological discussion, we want to take a closer look on cultural and, in particular, musical ramifications and results of a rupture within Catholic Church, that took place 500 years ago.
The year was 1517, when Augustinian friar Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of Wittenberg church – an act, which is widely considered as the symbolic start of the Reformation movement.
Emerging from one and the same liturgical tradition, two confessions gradually grew apart and had developed characteristic musical and literary forms, as well as specific educational and propaganda forms, with music at its core. These forms more often than not have emphasized differences between them, such as aspect of national languages usage, function of the congregation, or a way instruments are being used (along with specific role of the organ).
Music was often used as a weapon in religious debates: translated contents of faith or provided with teological exegesis, supporting debatable issues; showed triumfant splendor or expressed folk piety and devotion. Music forms have emerged from inherited medieval traditions and were, at the same time, an answer to ideological needs. Thus, on one side we have Martin Luther and his views on music, as well as him being an author of simple chants, which later became exemplary for many composers, and a basis for concertante or dramatic compositions (cantatas, passions). On the other side we have Catholic approach, along with a distinctive role of Council of Trent within Counter Reformation movement (1545-1563), which set out the basis of Catholic church music and commissioned development of new liturgical chant books. Additionally, we can observe a strong emphasis on a figure of the Holy Mary in post-Trent Catholic works of that period.
Supporting, as well as recognition of the importance of music in a religious worhsip by both Catholic and Prostestant hierarchs resulted in many magnificent works. Some of the greatest composers, like Michael Praetorius, had written his compositions to answer the needs of both disputing sides.