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Hyperion Records

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The Coronation of the Virgin by Guido Reni (1575-1642)
National Gallery, London
Track(s) taken from CDH55420
Recording details: March 1989
Westminster Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: February 1990
Total duration: 33 minutes 20 seconds

'Powerful and intensely moving' (BBC Record Review)

'For sheer sumptuousness of sound quality and clarity of text, the performance … ranks alongside the finest' (Classic CD)

Missa Ave Maria
composer
4vv; 1594; Missae Quinque, liber septimus
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

Kyrie  [3'45] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [6'13] LatinEnglish
Credo  [10'58] LatinEnglish

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Missa Ave Maria was published posthumously by Palestrina’s son Iginio in the Missae Quinque, liber septimus of 1594, though it would appear that the book was all but ready for issue on the composer’s death. Baini characterized this Mass as ‘simple, devout, and very clear’ (in Memorie storico-critiche della vita e delle opere di Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Rome, 1828, reproduced 1966), and indeed these are perhaps the best words to describe the work. Derived from the well-known Ave Maria prayer (though Jeppeson thought it was built on a polyphonic model, Fogliano’s motet Ave Maria—see Acta Musicologica XVIII–XIX, 1946–7, and Gustav Reese: Music in the Renaissance, New York, 1954, revised 1959), the chant appears throughout the Mass very clearly. Its distinctive melodic shape is what gives the Kyrie its strongly profiled opening, for example, and even more that of the Credo.

In contrast to the De beata virgine Mass, Ave Maria relies much more in its construction on long melodic lines. In that it is in four parts rather than six, there is much less opportunity for a variety of contrasts of reduced scoring—this means that there are rather fewer lengthy passages of homophony. The melodic element in this Mass is most clearly shown perhaps at the ‘Crucifixus’, a long, sustained meditation, or in the Sanctus, whose long lines are taken over by the three-voiced ‘Pleni sunt caeli’.

The variety of mood in this setting is the more impressive for its relative overall brevity. Particularly memorable passages occur at the ‘qui tollis’—a quiet, dignified moment in an otherwise strong and monumental Gloria; the moving, hushed ‘Et incarnatus’ of the Credo; the breathtakingly beautiful Benedictus, and the long-breathed, spacious final Agnus Dei. To list all such details would be to give an idea of the astonishing resource of Palestrina in all his settings of the Mass text: that each setting is so distinctively different from the others is another reason for the continuous esteem in which the composer has been held from his lifetime onwards.

from notes by Ivan Moody © 1990

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