Michael De Sapio

About Michael De Sapio

Michael De Sapio is Senior Contributor at The Imaginative Conservative. A writer and classical musician from Alexandria, Virginia, he attended The Catholic University of America and The Peabody Conservatory of Music. He writes Great Books study guides for the educational online resource SuperSummary, and his essays on religious and aesthetic topics have been featured in Fanfare and Touchstone, among other publications.

“Christ on the Mount of Olives”: Beethoven’s Passion Oratorio

By |2020-04-09T02:08:16-05:00March 25th, 2020|Categories: Beethoven 250, Easter, Ludwig van Beethoven, Michael De Sapio, Music|

While many artists and composers have depicted the Passion of Christ, Beethoven carried an especially weighty cross in the form of his privation of hearing, which isolated him from society and forced him to compose music from his “inner ear.” Like Christ in the Garden, he found himself alone and forsaken, wrestling with a tribulation [...]

The Music of Harold Shapero: Tradition and Innovation

By |2020-03-12T15:56:41-05:00March 13th, 2020|Categories: Audio/Video, Culture, Michael De Sapio, Modernity, Music, Senior Contributors|

We owe it to ourselves to get to know Harold Shapero, who showed that strikingly inventive things still could be done with the perennial tools of tonal music. His works crackle with intelligence and sing with rare melodic beauty. They are both timeless and of their time. For despite its classic foundations, Shapero’s music [...]

Beethoven’s Apollonian Beauty

By |2020-03-24T00:55:46-05:00February 24th, 2020|Categories: Audio/Video, Beethoven 250, Ludwig van Beethoven, Michael De Sapio, Music, Senior Contributors|

Apollo and Dionysus coexist throughout Beethoven’s work. Much musical commentary seems to imply that only a titanic wrestle with Fate or an emotional cataclysm qualifies as profound. Laying aside for a moment Beethoven the Myth and listening attentively to his works, we are reminded of the depth of emotion that resides in solidity and perfection [...]

Maurice Denis: Keeping the Flame of Artistic Tradition

By |2020-02-20T13:29:28-06:00February 20th, 2020|Categories: Art, Christian Humanism, Culture, History, Michael De Sapio, Senior Contributors|

Maurice Denis reengaged with myth, symbol, and the human figure at a time when Impressionists had narrowed their focus to mundane subject matter. He showed that there could be an art that incorporated the best insights of abstraction, and the psychological focus of expressionism, but remained wedded to the canons of beauty, harmony, and [...]

Of What Value Is a Dead Language?

By |2020-01-09T14:58:16-06:00January 8th, 2020|Categories: Books, Culture, Education, Michael De Sapio, Senior Contributors, Western Civilization, Western Tradition|

The prestige of studying classical languages like Latin and Greek is greatly eroded today. This is no mystery; but how did we get to this point? Linguist Nicholas Ostler, in his book Ad Infinitum: A Biography of Latin, chronicles how Latin remained the one constant during the growth of Western culture. The claims he [...]

Hector Berlioz and the Art of Musical Storytelling

By |2019-12-30T22:23:42-06:00December 30th, 2019|Categories: Hector Berlioz, Hector Berlioz Sesquicentennial Series, Michael De Sapio, Music|

Music with extra-musical subtexts has existed for a long time, but it was the Romantics who first combined story and music in a close synthesis. Their pioneer was Hector Berlioz, who dove into the art of musical storytelling with a daring never before seen, yet with an artistic integrity rarely achieved since. Berlioz first saw [...]

“Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day”: A Christmas Carol for All Seasons

By |2019-12-25T02:32:05-06:00December 24th, 2019|Categories: Audio/Video, Christmas, Culture, Michael De Sapio, Music, Senior Contributors|

“Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day” hearkens back to an era when theological ideas were part of everyone’s mental awareness, ripe for poetry and song. Though the idea of Christ and humanity being united as bridegroom and bride is a classic Christian motif, we are surprised to find it in a popular Christmas carol, [...]

The Transcendent Beauty of Icons

By |2020-01-27T10:42:12-06:00December 7th, 2019|Categories: Art, Beauty, Christianity, Culture, Michael De Sapio, Orthodoxy, Western Civilization|

While much Western art immerses us in the richness of this world with its spacial and emotional realism, the Eastern Orthodox tradition uses only painted images, with icons of Christ, Mary, and the saints functioning as “windows into heaven,” by way of stylized forms that convey a Platonic ideal of beauty and truth. Virgin [...]

Triumph: How Two Dutch Girls Survived World War II

By |2019-11-26T22:10:06-06:00November 26th, 2019|Categories: Books, Film, Michael De Sapio, World War II|

In "Dutch Girl," Robert Matzen describes how the young Audrey Hepburn survived both famine and fighting in World War II. But what brings this history home for me personally is the connection with a third woman, less well-known, who also lived in Holland during those times. I feel a special interest in her story since [...]

Berlioz’s “Te Deum” & Chateaubriand’s “Genius of Christianity”

By |2019-12-10T13:37:19-06:00November 13th, 2019|Categories: Christianity, Hector Berlioz, Hector Berlioz Sesquicentennial Series, Michael De Sapio, Music|

Hector Berlioz's version of the "Te Deum" surpasses them all in its colossal scale. The French composer has often been accused of bombast, but here the gigantic forces required are completely fitting for this cosmic hymn of praise. “[I]t was enthusiasm itself that inspired the Te Deum...[A]mid clouds of smoke and yet reeking blood, a [...]

The Beauty and Mystery of the Unaccompanied Violin

By |2019-10-17T22:30:03-05:00October 17th, 2019|Categories: Culture, J.S. Bach, Michael De Sapio, Music, Senior Contributors|

Playing violin unaccompanied is the most exposed sort of music-making, with a vulnerability that is both technical and emotional. Its music seems to bring out a personal quality in composers that one doesn’t always get from music for large forces. The purity of the medium and its limitations call forth a challenge to the [...]

Why Letter-Writing Is Essential to the Good Life

By |2019-10-10T12:06:28-05:00October 10th, 2019|Categories: Culture, Michael De Sapio, Modernity, Senior Contributors, Writing|

In an age when we have come to expect things to happen for us instantaneously, letter-writing is a school for patience. Letter-writing also has the mysterious power to convey not just the words but the presence of the person. It has been the nourishment of romantic love for ages. In writing letters, we participate [...]

“Il Poverello”: Saint Francis’ Piety for Man and Animals

By |2019-10-04T10:34:46-05:00October 3rd, 2019|Categories: Christianity, Culture, History, Michael De Sapio, Senior Contributors|

Saint Francis of Assisi took no created thing for granted, finding them all reflections of God and reasons to praise Him. For Francis, even the birds themselves praised God by their singing—an action we perform consciously with the assent of our reason and will. Some of the earliest literature in the Italian language owes [...]

In Time of War: Arthur Honegger’s Symphony No. 2

By |2020-03-19T17:21:39-05:00September 19th, 2019|Categories: Culture, Michael De Sapio, Music, Senior Contributors, War, World War II|

Arthur Honegger’s war symphonies, a synthesis of tradition and modernity, are powerful mementos of a heroic period. There was a sense that, with a moral menace to be defeated in World War II, digging into the depths of tradition was essential. As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of various milestones of World War II, it [...]