As a follow-up to last week's post featuring the unjustly maligned composer Antonio Salieri, here is the "Agnus Dei" from Salieri's Requiem in C Minor. There is some beautiful music here: I especially like the oboe part that weaves through it (and I have to admit that there are a few brief moments where the strings remind me of Mozart's Don Giovanni, which premiered a year earlier).
Of course, it's all too easy for us here in the 21st century to think of pieces like this as simply music to be performed, which is in fact how they are usually treated today. We forget that a work such as this is not only religious in inspiration, but an actual act of prayer; it is not simply a "mass" but a Mass, intended to be used in the highest form of worship available to us in this world (and, in this particular case, as an offering for the dead). Like religious painters and the builders of the great cathedrals, composers of sacred music strove to make their work as beautiful as possible to honor their Lord and Creator. In other words, this is not just a work of art: it is an expression of Love.