Palestrina: Missa Ecce ego Johannes & other sacred music
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
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