The Missa Surge propera
is a parody Mass, based upon a motet of the same title by Palestrina, which was published in Rome by Alessandro Gardane in 1583. The motet was written for the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (falling on 2 July). The text of the motet is taken from the Song of Songs, a biblical source of superb love poetry. As Michael Noone has pointed out, Victoria’s choice of this motet is consistent with his predilection for motets with texts taken from this source; no fewer than four of his fifteen parody Masses are based on motets whose texts are drawn from this controversial (at least in the sixteenth century) source of inspiration. It is interesting to note that, though the great bulk of Palestrina’s output was of sacred music, and he evidently thought of himself as primarily a composer of religious music, he nevertheless wrote a few books of secular and spiritual madrigals, and his fourth book of motets, published in Rome by Alessandro Gardane in 1584, was devoted entirely to settings of poetry from the Song of Songs. To judge by the many reprints of it that appeared, it was to prove one of his most popular works. The work was dedicated to Pope Gregory XIII and in the celebrated preface to it Palestrina excoriates ‘the love songs of men dominated by passion’ and says that he blushes and grieves to think that he was once one of their number, adding that though he could not change the past and undo what had been done, he had mended his ways. This, however, did not prevent him publishing a second book of madrigals a couple of years later.
from notes by Jon Dixon © 2011