Palestrina: Missa De beata virgine & Missa Ave Maria
CDH55420 Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Movement 1: Kyrie
Movement 2: Gloria
Movement 3: Credo
Movement 4: Sanctus and Benedictus
Movement 5: Agnus Dei I & II
One of the most impressive features of this Mass-setting is the sense of grandeur and majesty which dominates much of the music. Notable examples of this reflection of an extraordinary confidence and faith appear in the Gloria at ‘Jesu Christe’, in the Credo at ‘Et in Spiritum Sanctum’, in the Sanctus at ‘Dominus Deus Sabaoth’, and in the first Agnus Dei. These are offset by passages of a more delicate character, however, as at the beginning of the Sanctus, with its graceful, flowing lines of imitative writing, or at the ethereal ‘Et incarnatus est’ in the Credo.
It is the Gloria and the Credo that make most use of homophonic writing, as is usual in these movements since they contain the largest amount of text. This causes the sudden explosions of more linear writing to seem even more brilliant: in this Mass the effect is often achieved with the use of scalic passages. Such is the case at ‘Domine Deus’ in the Gloria. The more contrapuntal aspect of the music and the increase in the use of rapid scalic figures serve to delineate this section of text from the previous one, thereby placing upon it some extra emphasis (it is, in fact, at this point that the trope Spiritus et alme came in the first edition of the work: it would seems that Palestrina wished to draw attention to this).
A much greater concentration upon rapid movement in small scalic phrases is found in the ‘Osanna’ and the Benedictus. In the former, following a passage making use of descending figures of this type, the ‘bassus’ introduces an imitative point in ascending motion which is promptly taken up by all the other voices, creating a moment of sudden exaltation which then proceeds to sustain the music until the end of the section by generating smaller ‘echoes’ of this event. It may certainly be said to be one of Palestrina’s most memorable setting of these words.
from notes by Ivan Moody © 1990