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Specially recorded by the BBC Singers (the BBC's own full-time professional choir, and one of the world's great vocal ensembles) conducted by their Conductor Laureate Stephen Cleobury, the timeline gives a bird's eye view of some of the peaks of the choral repertoire, of the developments in choral writing over the centuries, and of the music of some of the modern-day composers.

Richard Strauss (1864 - 1949)

This classic of the late Romantic choral repertoire is very rarely performed in concert, due to its extreme technical difficulty. It requires a large number of voices, soloists and chorus, with unusually large ranges.

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In Strauss' day only opera-houses could muster the number of voices and expertise required, so it isn't surprising that the Deutsche Motette is dedicated to the Berlin Opera chorus. Strauss conducted operas for most of his life, and maybe thought that the chorus-members needed some compensation as he rarely used them in his own works.

One of the hardest tonal choral works ever written, with a dynamic range and complexity greater than any other choral work of the period, the Deutsche Motette divides into a staggering 23 parts as opposed to the more conventional 4 or 8.

The piece sets ecstatic and visionary words by the great German poet Friedrich R�ckert, and these embrace a universal theme, asking the whole of Creation, for all eternity, to keep watch over the sleeping poet. This is Strauss at his most luxuriant and characteristic.

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