Palestrina’s life and work centred around Rome. He was born in the nearby town of Palestrina, from which he took his name, trained as a choirboy in the Roman church of S. Maria Maggiore, appointed to prominent positions in the Roman musical establishment, and brought to international fame by his numerous publications, issued in the first instance from Rome. In 1551 he was appointed maestro of the Cappella Giulia, the choir of St Peter’s Basilica, and in 1555 he sang for a few months in the Sistine choir until the introduction of a celibacy rule by the new pope led to his dismissal as a married man. Periods of directorship at the church of St John Lateran, where Lassus had preceded him (1555–60) and at his old church of S. Maria Maggiore (1561–6) were followed by a return in 1571 to the Cappella Giulia, where he remained till his death. His stream of publications began with a successful book of madrigals in 1555; by the time of his death there were seven books of masses, six of motets, and sundry other volumes of liturgical music and madrigals. Sicut cervus
has always been one of the most familiar of Palestrina’s motets, frequently reprinted and anthologized since the nineteenth century, and justly held up as a model of Renaissance imitative polyphony, in this case expressive of serene but fervent spiritual yearning. Its psalm text was appropriately appointed as the first part of the Tract at the blessing of the font on Holy Saturday.
from notes by Collegium Records © 2009