The syllabic style not only appealed to the reforming cardinals of the Council of Trent, however. The avant-garde composers of the later sixteenth century were moving fairly unanimously towards a harmonically based, word-orientated idiom in which the craze for madrigals played a central role, thus paving the way for the Baroque. The syllabic movements of the Missa Papae Marcelli
were early in this change: later in his life Palestrina took up the method more consistently. His Stabat mater
is the supreme example of this. Almost his last datable composition, it was written around 1589/90 in the antiphonal style between two separated choirs which is associated with Venetian music: perhaps Palestrina as an old man was keen to show that he was fully abreast of all the latest developments. Whether it was seen as being Venetian or not, when the Stabat mater
was presented to the Papal choir it was instantly recognized as being a masterpiece and, like Allegri’s Miserere
, jealously guarded as an exclusive possession, to be performed uniquely by them every Palm Sunday.
from notes by Peter Phillips © 2007