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
In contrast to the De beata virgine Mass, Ave Maria relies much more in its construction on long melodic lines. In that it is in four parts rather than six, there is much less opportunity for a variety of contrasts of reduced scoring—this means that there are rather fewer lengthy passages of homophony. The melodic element in this Mass is most clearly shown perhaps at the ‘Crucifixus’, a long, sustained meditation, or in the Sanctus, whose long lines are taken over by the three-voiced ‘Pleni sunt caeli’.
The variety of mood in this setting is the more impressive for its relative overall brevity. Particularly memorable passages occur at the ‘qui tollis’—a quiet, dignified moment in an otherwise strong and monumental Gloria; the moving, hushed ‘Et incarnatus’ of the Credo; the breathtakingly beautiful Benedictus, and the long-breathed, spacious final Agnus Dei. To list all such details would be to give an idea of the astonishing resource of Palestrina in all his settings of the Mass text: that each setting is so distinctively different from the others is another reason for the continuous esteem in which the composer has been held from his lifetime onwards.
from notes by Ivan Moody © 1990