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ACE2354 Great Works of Classical Music: From the Glories of Medieval Plainchant to Handel’s Messiah (Evening, UCC on-campus delivery only) is a Course

ACE2354 Great Works of Classical Music: From the Glories of Medieval Plainchant to Handel’s Messiah (Evening, UCC on-campus delivery only)

Starts Jan 31, 2023

Sorry! The enrolment period is currently closed. Please check back soon.

Full course description

Course Overview:

This course is the first in a series of short courses which will take the participant on an entertaining and instructive journey through the different periods of classical music, from the medieval period to the present day. Each course highlights the music of key composers in their cultural context by reference to the art, literature, history, science, etc. of each period. This first course covers the Medieval to the Baroque period. Medieval music is varied and full of surprises and features such composers as the polymath Hildegard of Bingen (abbess, mystic, philosopher, poet, etc.) as well as amazing composers such as Machaut, Dufay and de Pres. The Renaissance in turn brings new developments in instrumental music and a plethora of stunning composers such as Palestrina and Monteverdi, Tallis and Byrd. The ensuing Baroque period features such well known composers as Vivaldi, Albinoni and the English composer Henry Purcell. The late Baroque includes the dramatic musical world of Handel and the sublime, visionary masterpieces of J S Bach. 

Participants will gain an overview of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music and their respective cultural backgrounds. He/she will come to appreciate (and be entertained by) key works by some of music’s greatest composers. Apart from the music, course participants will encounter artists such as Giotto, Breughel, Titian, Caravaggio and Rembrandt; literary figures such as Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Defoe and Dean Swift and personalities from history such as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Martin Luther, Ann Boleyn, Louis XIV, Isaac Newton, Samuel Pepys etc. 


Course Schedule

This course will take place for eight weeks between 7-9pm 31 January to 21 March 2023.

Location- Western Gateway Building, room G09, UCC.

Closing date for applications Monday 23 January 2023 

Lecture 1 From Plainchant to Polyphony.

We move from the medieval world of Gregorian chant to the later glorious polyphony of the Notre Dame School of Paris. We encounter the visionary music of Hildeberg of Bingen and colourful, original composers such as Machaut, Dufay and De Pres as well as the vibrant secular music of the time.

Lecture 2 Madrigals, Motets and Masses.

With the coming of Reformation and Renaissance we experience a variety of musical worlds, from the serene masses of Palestrina to the glorious music of Gabrieli’s Venice. We encounter the madrigals of the tempestuous composer Gesualdo and the revolution of Monteverdi’s operas.

Lecture 3 The Trials and Tribulations of William Byrd.

Byrd was a Catholic composer in the reign of Elizabeth I yet managed to survive and write glorious music. The Elizabethan Renaissance produced a range of outstanding composers such as Tallis, Dowland and Morley as well as dramatic geniuses such as Shakespeare and Marlowe.

Lecture 4 The Violin Concerto and Vivaldi.

We delve into the Baroque world of the dazzling concerti grossi of the virtuoso Arcangelo Corelli before turning to the dramatic violin concertos of Vivaldi and Albinoni and the world of Renaissance Venice.

Lecture 5 The World of Henry Purcell.

Isaac Newton, Samuel Pepys and Restoration England form the background to the sublime music of England’s Henry Purcell.

Lecture 6 J S Bach: Dance to the Music of Time.

Despite his Lutheran upbringing Bach’s music is full of dance rhythms and exuberance as seen in his Brandenburg Concertos, Sonatas for Solo Violin, Violin and Keyboard Concertos and the Cantatas.

Lecture 7 The Glory of God: J S Bach’s Leipzig’s years.

To Bach the point of music was to glorify God - his sublime St Matthew Passion and Mass in B Minor reflect a visionary splendour unsurpassed in music.

Lecture 8 Music for the Royal Fireworks:

G F Handel. Handel’s colourful works extend from oratorios like Messiah to instrumental classics as the Water Music and his Concerti Grossi. To Beethoven Handel ‘was the master of us all’.


Course Lecturer:

Tony Hartnett holds a master’s degree in English literature on the fiction of Elizabeth Bowen and has taught English in many parts of the world including the UK, Ireland, the USA, Spain, Luxembourg, Belgium, Bahrain, China and Mexico. He has also taught Geography and History and has a special interest in teaching across the disciplines linking such subjects as art, music, literature, history and science.


Entry Requirements

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement.


Short courses are not assessed. Students will receive a UCC Certificate of Attendance upon completion.

Contact Details for Further Information