Alma redemptoris mater
is a text of considerable antiquity and appears in several thirteenth-century motets. In the Roman liturgy it is an antiphon to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is sung during Advent and until the Feast of the Purification. Palestrina made three settings of this text, a paribus vocibus setting for four high voices, which was included in his second book of four-part motets published in Venice in 1596, and two eight-part settings, which were not issued in printed editions in Palestrina’s lifetime. These were later transcribed by Haberl in the nineteenth century from manuscripts then in the archives of the Cappella Giulia and of the Collegium Romanum. The version sung here is the Cappella Giulia setting, which is written in a fuller and more polyphonic style than the other and, with its constantly changing textures and rich sonorities, achieves a great sense of strength and spaciousness.
from notes by Jon Dixon © 2003