Surrexit pastor bonus
is of the very finest quality. Like the earlier setting by Jean Lhéritier which Palestrina may have known, it is in the minor mode, giving it a sombre magnificence. Much use is made of antiphonal repetition, with the second choir shadowing the first either at the same pitch (as in the opening phrase) or lower as a form of echo technique. Usually sections are completed by both choirs coming together to iterate the text once more. ‘Et pro grege suo’ (‘and for his flock’) is set in short, homophonic antiphonal phrases, following which the crucial text ‘mori dignatus est’ (‘he deigned to die’) is stretched out to provide a meditative moment before the first half is completed with an increasingly energetic Alleluia. The secunda pars, equitably enough, begins with the second choir and, following another reminder of Christ’s death, rejoicing begins with running melismas at ‘epulemur’ (‘let us feast’), before the music of the closing Alleluia mirrors that of the prima pars except with the choirs reversed.
from notes by Stephen Rice © 2013