Music: Let the Secrets of Glory Open

Two major new works elevate the sacred over the profane

In the secular 20th century, the religious impulse that in the past produced such musical masterworks as Bach's St. Matthew Passion and Beethoven's Missa Solemnis has been in short supply. Many contemporary composers, it seems, regard themselves as too sophisticated to write frankly sacred music, or are simply unmoved by the realm of doctrine or liturgy. At a time when nothing is too shocking to be put onstage, spirituality has replaced sexuality as the last taboo.

Significant premieres by two of today's leading composers might...

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