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In his motets, Peñalosa is less concerned with artifice than with an expressive projection of the texts. These are generally devotional in nature, with Marian and penitential themes predominant. Peñalosa’s approach to text-setting in his motets—surely influenced by his studies with the Sicilian humanist Lucas Marineus who taught Latin to the members of the Aragonese chapel—is largely syllabic, with due attention to the correct accentuation of the words and melismas largely restricted to the penultimate syllable of a phrase. Often entirely free of borrowed material, these motets use the phrase structure of the text as the basis for the musical framework. Peñalosa exploited this expressive freedom to the full, notably in the four-voice Precor te, Domine, a meditation on the sufferings of Christ on the Cross. Here the declamatory, homophonic sections intensify the affective character of certain passages in the text, the effect being rendered still more dramatic by the use of rests to offset these words.
from notes by Tess Knighton ©