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Missa Nasce la gioja mia
based on Primavera's six-voice madrigal
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

'Palestrina: Missa Benedicta es' (GIMSE402)
Palestrina: Missa Benedicta es
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'Palestrina: Missa brevis' (CDGIM008)
Palestrina: Missa brevis
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Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2: Gloria
Movement 3: Credo
Movement 4: Sanctus and Benedictus
Movement 5: Agnus Dei

Missa Nasce la gioja mia
The model for Nasce la gioja mia has never been in doubt, though it remains a slight curiosity, for Palestrina rarely used secular music as a starting-point for his Masses. Of the 104 Masses by him so far catalogued (there may be others in manuscript), fifty-three are of the parody type. Of these, nine are founded on secular polyphonic works – madrigals in the case of eight of them, the remaining one a chanson. Their composers were Domenico Ferrabosco (two), Cipriano de Rore (two), Palestrina himself (three), Lupi or Cadéac for the chanson, and Primavera, who was, in some ways, a strange choice. His contemporary reputation was for writing light napolitane for three voices to texts in Neapolitan dialect, and Palestrina never showed much interest in this kind of music.

Then there is the question of where Palestrina found this unusual example of a Primavera madrigal. Since it was not in print until 1565, by which time it is generally reckoned that Palestrina had given up this kind of composition, he must have sought it out in manuscript, which would make it one of the latest, if not the latest parody Mass in his output. The madrigal is not in print in modern edition; it had to be prepared especially for this recording from part-books in Kassel.

Primavera was born between 1540 and 1545. He spent most of his life working in Naples, though for about ten years after 1565 he worked in Milan. He probably died in Naples around 1585. His napolitane are full of popular melodies and famously contain chains of consecutive fifths in the part-writing. He dedicated his seventh book of madrigals to Carlo Gesualdo, though his music shows no influence from that wayward genius. Palestrina did well to find this work, for it is a fine example of the larger-voiced madrigal – stately in effect and full of sonorous writing, which Palestrina knew very well how to make the most of. Indeed, Primavera’s music here consists largely of well-spaced chords in compact phrases, and the whole piece is cast in ABB form, the repeat coming at ‘O sol’.

The main differences between the Mass-setting and its model are the length of Palestrina’s phrases and an increased brilliance in the overall sound caused by raising the tessitura of the two tenor parts. With little imitation in the original to show him the way, Palestrina nonetheless managed to extend the ingredients of this material into one of the longest and most magnificent of all his settings. For instance, the opening of the madrigal uses a figure of three notes which is continued for four bars before a new phrase starts. Palestrina immediately leads off in the first Kyrie with eleven bars of this, returning to its basic outline at the beginning of every subsequent movement. Another motif which features regularly in the Mass is the powerful leap up a fourth at ‘e la mia vita’ in the first soprano part, imitated in the madrigal immediately by the second tenor. This was parodied for the first time by Palestrina at the beginning of the second Kyrie, and most memorably at the beginning of the second Agnus Dei. However, in general Palestrina did not try to preserve strict imitative schemes in this Mass, no doubt partly encouraged by the nature of his model, but partly also because his mature style, despite what the text-books tell us, often ignored this procedure. Both works are scored for SSATTB.

from notes by Peter Phillips © 1986

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Details for GIMSE402 track 11
Sanctus and Benedictus
Recording date
11 January 1984
Recording venue
Merton College Chapel, Oxford, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Steve C Smith & Peter Phillips
Recording engineer
Mike Clements
Hyperion usage
  1. Palestrina: Missa Benedicta es (GIMSE402)
    Disc 1 Track 11
    Release date: May 2006
    Gimell (budget price)
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