Hyperion Records

Missa Ecce ego Johannes
6vv; model unknown
author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

'Palestrina: Missa Ecce ego Johannes & other sacred music' (CDH55407)
Palestrina: Missa Ecce ego Johannes & other sacred music
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55407  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2: Gloria
Movement 3: Credo
Movement 4: Sanctus
Movement 5: Benedictus
Movement 6: Agnus Dei I
Movement 7: Agnus Dei II

Missa Ecce ego Johannes
The six-voice Missa Ecce ego Johannes is based on an unknown model. The text ‘Ecce ego Johannes’, from the Book of Revelation, is used for the chapter (capitulum) at Vespers on All Saints’ Day, and it appears elsewhere (in the Sarum books, for example) as an antiphon at Matins for the same feast. The character of Palestrina’s setting, however, suggests that it might well have been based on a polyphonic model. It is a powerful, confident work, something evident from the very first notes of the Kyrie. As with the Missa Papae Marcelli, it is a model of Palestrinian word-setting. There is a constant, subtle use of homophonic writing throughout which gives it tremendous rhetorical power. A good example is the reflective chordal opening of the second Kyrie, which not only contrasts with the more flowing, transparent textures of the Christe before it, but gives rise to imitative writing, out of which arises the climactic second phrase of the cantus, soaring up the octave.

The Gloria and Credo are customarily characterized by more declamatory writing on account of the length of their texts. In this case, so interwoven is the use of homophony and imitation in the various subdivisions of the choral ensemble that it is hard to say where one ends and the other begins. Thus it is that the exultant ascending scales at ‘rex caelestis’ in the Gloria arise completely naturally out of the more static chordal writing preceding them, and the same is true of the contrapuntal writing following the block chordal ‘Domine Deus’. There is a marvellous flowering, using a descending scalic motif, at the final phrase of the Gloria, like an illuminated initial placed at the end of a text rather than at the beginning. Such scalic figures also appear in order to decorate the otherwise straightforward cadences at ‘et incarnatus est’ and ‘et homo factus est’ in the Credo, and the reduced-scoring ‘Crucifixus’ develops them further. The triple-time of the ‘Et in Spiritum Sanctum’ is a real surprise after such delicate tracery, though this lasts only until ‘Et unam sanctam’.

The Sanctus is powerful and majestic; again descending and ascending scalic figures feature prominently, and they give a special colour to this section when doubled in thirds, sixths or tenths, as at ‘et terra’, or at several places in the substantial Benedictus. Less effusive melodically, the Agnus Dei is triumphant and thrilling. The opening of the second recalls the beginning of the second Kyrie.

from notes by Ivan Moody © 1999

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDH55407 track 4
Recording date
16 February 1999
Recording venue
Westminster Cathedral, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Mark Brown
Recording engineer
Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Hyperion usage
  1. Palestrina: Missa Ecce ego Johannes & other sacred music (CDA67099)
    Disc 1 Track 4
    Release date: August 1999
    Deletion date: October 2009
    Superseded by CDH55407
  2. Palestrina: Missa Ecce ego Johannes & other sacred music (CDH55407)
    Disc 1 Track 4
    Release date: March 2012
    Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
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