He further notes that in Palestrina dedicated a book of motets to Cardinal Rudolfo Pio, who had been an enemy of church music at the Council, perhaps as a gesture of thanks for tempering or even reversing his antagonistic position. So perhaps the Marcellus Mass was closely related to the Council of Trent after all.
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In any event, it seems beyond dispute that Palestrina was in the forefront of Church composers of his time. Named for the town of Palestrina near Rome in which he was born in , he gained the distinction of holding prestigious musical appointments in all three of the most celebrated Roman churches. When the bishop of his home town became Pope Julius III, he appointed Palestrina maestro of the Vatican chapel at age 26 and in , following dedication to Julius of a first volume of published Masses, Palestrina was made a member of the papal choir, even though he flouted several key established requirements — he was married, never took an entrance exam and never obtained the consent of the other members.
Months later, Julius died. His successor, Marcellus II, reigned only three weeks, but during that time he made known his alarm over the direction of music and thus initiated the reforms that the Council of Trent would demand. He was replaced by Paul IV, an intransigent reformer, who dismissed Palestrina due to his marital status.
Except for some secular madrigals, Palestrina's entire art was devoted to the Church. Throughout his life, his extraordinarily prolific output included Masses far more than any other composer , over motets, 68 offertories, 33 magnificats and numerous hymns and madrigals. Yet he wasn't immune to secular temptation — after the death in short order of his wife, brother and two sons, Palestrina remarried a wealthy widow in He was deeply revered, named a "Prince of Music" by Pope Gregory XII, and in was commissioned to revise the official Church chants to conform to the new liturgy and style, the result of which endured for three centuries.
In many ways, although the Missa Papae Marcelli conformed to the purist esthetic outlook of Pope Marcellus II, to whom it was named in tribute, it veers toward Renaissance music, whose developments Church superiors had come to view with such concern. As explained by Guilio Ongaro, musical progress of the time was motivated in part by the impetus of reform, abetted by resentment over the wealth and corruption of the entrenched Church leadership.
A parallel force was an emerging sense of democracy, evidenced by textual commentary and criticism, patronage of the arts by aristocrats and nobility, and the printing and circulation of music. Yet it seems too simplistic to directly relate esthetic trends of the time to social developments, as the two primary reformers, John Calvin and Martin Luther, who led the vanguard of religious progressives, both sought to limit the role of music in religious observance. Palestrina The immediate musical impact of the change in social perspective was to shift from homophonic to polyphonic textures featuring the interplay of melodic lines.
Yet Renaissance music still clung to the modal system in which dissonance was largely controlled, repetition was rare and melodies were based upon the text, all of which was sufficiently conservative to satisfy the Establishment powers. As Atlas observes, Palestrina's music nowadays can seem abstract and emotionally disengaged despite its technical brilliance.
Yet, within the esthetic constraints of the Counterrevolution and Palestrina's own stylistic rules, there is much to admire. His continuous and overlapping lines have a natural curvature, with mostly step progressions and complex internal rhythms far removed from the modern concept of distinct "beats.
New phrases are marked by a different combination of voices and registers, with climactic text signified by leaps and consonances that suggest chords. Andrews explains Palestrina's appeal as the successful fusion of the linear counterpoint of earlier ages with the emerging harmonic counterpoint of the coming Baroque era, weaving together individual horizontal lines to imply vertical harmony, melding the old plainsong modes with the nascent diatonic scale system, and thus creating a wide range of emotional expression without bursting the bounds of emotional restraint.
Andrews further attributes the overall structure to the interweaving of the strands' independent rhythms, an approach that creates emphasis as a function of duration, pitch, repetition, leaps, and, of course, the verbal accentuation of the words, together with harmonic intimations that coalesce at appropriate intervals. Melodies, while dictated by the speech patterns of the text, are a smooth and careful balance of ascending and descending curvilinear movement, even to the extent that most upward leaps are tempered by stepwise descents.
Yet, despite these and other far more complex stylistic "rules," the overall result is a natural and unstrained setting of the words, which, as summarized succinctly by Lang, manages to impress as transparent and ethereally crystalline in spite of contrapuntal complexity. Perhaps another way to characterize the wonder of this music is to marvel that while the inner voices and other harmonic lines of nearly all other types of music tend to sound disjointed in isolation, here each part is full of melodic interest and can stand on its own, even while making a substantial contribution to the whole in conjunction with all the other voices.
Despite its celebrity, scholars consider the Marcellus Mass as atypical within Palestrina's prodigious output. It is only one of six "free" masses that he had not based on motets, madrigals, chants, secular melodies or his own prior compositions all, of course, adapted to fit the Mass text , and of those it is the most homophonic, as if consistent with its mythical origins it indeed had been especially designed for intelligibility of the text.
The two themes that permeate the Marcellus Mass H. Andrews has demonstrated a strong vein of thematic connection running though all of its movements and highlights two motifs in particular whose variations permeate the entire work. Edward H. Pember goes further to suggest that separate themes referring to each member of the Trinity appear at the appropriate references in each movement. In structural terms, Peter Philips considers the Marcellus Mass to represent a half-way stage between Palestrina's apprentice works, which reflect the florid Flemish polyphonic manner that so alarmed the Church, and his simpler, more mature style following the dictates of Trent.
Yet rather than blend the two approaches, Palestrina casts the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei movements in the earlier florid style culminating in a mathematically complex double canon and the central Gloria and Credo in the latter more direct style. As a practical matter, this is eminently sensible — the portions with shorter text can afford the time to luxuriate in more polyphony, whereas the wordier sections need to present their entire content and tend to be more homophonic to ease comprehension. The Marcellus Mass comprises five movements six if the Benedictus is counted separately rather than as an integral part of the Sanctus.
All but the second half of the Agnus Dei are written for six voices — soprano, alto, two tenors and two basses. Kyrie — The opening movement is in three distinct sections that follow the structure of the text "Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison". In a chance nod to modern ears, they end in respective cadences of C Major, G Major and C Major chords that is, when written in the modern key of C Major — at least one score transposes the entire work into B-Flat , thus forming a familiar arc of tonic-dominant-tonic.
The simplicity of the text inspires repetition and elaborate polyphonic interweaving. Each Kyrie section begins with sequential voice entrances in a layering effect that builds to a sustained level of dense variegated textures. In contrast, the central Christe , while of a similar length, radiates a lighter aura with rests and slightly more transparent part writing. The opening serves to illustrate the confusion of approaching this music from a melodic perspective — each voice begins with a repeated, held note followed by a leap of an upward fourth and then descending steps, but none of the six parts strictly imitates any other, either rhythmically or thematically.http://www.cantinesanpancrazio.it/components/mihutizu/4-come-si.php
Classical Notes - Classical Classics - Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli, By Peter Gutmann
Gloria — As with the following Credo , the Gloria begins with the second phrase of text, so the first is given in plainchant, usually by a solo tenor. As Lockwood outlines, variety is achieved within the predominantly homophonic texture by assigning each clause to a different combination among the six voices and their registers. Appropriate emphasis is conferred upon the phrases Domine fili and Jesu Christe through two textual shifts — they are the only phrases that are repeated and accented with the tutti impact of all voices.
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Otherwise, there is no overlapping of text, as each phrase is presented discretely and proclaimed sequentially, leading directly into the next. Voices generally sing in the same rhythmic pattern and form frequent consonant combinations as they pass by each other, thus avoiding a sense of austerity that could otherwise diminish the words' sense of praise. At Qui Tollis , the texture lightens to four voices, in preparation for building to another appropriately emphatic tutti as Jesu Christe is reached.
The Gloria culminates in a "flowering of Amens " in David Schillaci's apt phrase. Credo — In a somewhat similar approach, the Credo presents the theological detail of core beliefs with little repetition and sparse word-painting i. The full six-voice texture and accustomed motion are restored for "Et in Spiritum Sanctum" "[I believe] in the Holy Spirit". The strongest emphasis is reserved for mention of the Resurrection, which receives the only extensive repetition of any of the Credo text.
As did the preceding movement, the Credo ends in an elaborate and extended Amen section. Sanctus — With the Sanctus comprising only 15 words to be spread over several minutes, we return to the more elaborate polyphonic style of the Kyrie , which Palestrina applies to achieve a smooth and effortless calming blend.
For the Benedictus that follows, he reduces the texture to the four highest voices this time soprano, alto and two tenors , so as to magnify the impact of the soaring Hosanna that both precedes and follows it. The Benedictus achieves much of its complex aura of constant activity within overall stability through constant use of canonic entrances, first between pairs of the voices and then individually.
Agnus Dei — For the concluding section, Palestrina gives us two Agnus Deis , one for each line of the text. The first, asking for divine mercy, begins with a close relative of the musical phrase that opened the Kyrie , the similarity serving to link divinity with mortal prayer, while its held note, upward leap and descent suggest a mixture of calm and quest.
Without betraying the fundamental sobriety of the work, here Palestrina inserts a remarkable yet subtle touch by incorporating a triple canon launched by B2 and followed in strict order by A2 and S2 for the entire length of the movement. It's discreet enough to avoid disrupting the mood or textual flow, can hardly be noticed in the overall blend, and serves no apparent liturgical purpose, and so perhaps functioned as a mild outburst of egotistical prowess with which the composer could personalize an otherwise abstract and rather anonymous work through a final flourish of his otherwise attenuated yet extraordinary invention and skill.
Modern performances and recordings of the Marcellus Mass pose numerous problems. The scores of the time rarely assigned words to notes, Separate Renaissance notation of words and music from a motet by Josquin as all modern editions do, but rather printed the text haphazardly at the head of each phrase or movement or not at all , secure in the knowledge now largely lost that performers would know how to fit them together. Barring , too, is a modern convenience, wholly absent from notation of the time; as Lockwood notes, adding bars to Renaissance scores can suggest regular metrical accents that distract from the buoyant rhythms of the individual lines.
There is also an on-going dispute over accidentals — Palestrina's score for the Marcellus Mass specifies only eight in the entire work, whereas modern editions vary with up to or more; scholars assume that performers of the time would have "felt" when to alter a pitch in a certain context in order to imply a cadence or avoid unnecessary dissonance.
Pitch in a capella music was purely relative, with no need for standardization or coordination with fixed instruments indeed, a concert recording by the Tallis Scholars has noticeably lower pitch than a studio recording they made a decade earlier. Notation of pitch can seem random — as Kenneth Kreitner notes, the old clefs were designed merely to fit the notes onto a standard five-line staff, and modern editions of some works differ by transpositions of as much as a ninth.
Issues with tuning go beyond eschewing mean or equal tempering; as Rogers Covey-Crump notes, some vowels naturally sound flat a soft "a" or sharp a hard "i" and thus require special attention to avoid souring their relationship to other polyphonic syllables. Pronunciation of Latin text often was melded by the local vernacular; as a conspicuous example, Lockwood notes that the word eleison , repeated throughout the first movement, can be sounded with four syllables in Italian but only three in German, which makes a considerable difference in the rhythmic values when fitting text to music.
The number of singers can range from one or two per part to a full chorus; scholars believe that the pontifical choir in Palestrina's time comprised 28 singers, slightly expanded from an earlier array of 7 sopranos, 7 altos, 4 tenors and 6 basses. One of the few issues that should not be in serious contention is tempo , as treatises of the time indicate that a semi-breve depicted as the modern whole note, but often notated nowadays as a half-note so as to avoid implying extreme deliberation should coincide with a half-breath that is, breathing out or in.
Yet, recorded performances of the Marcellus Mass range from 26 to 37 minutes. Specifics aside, John Potter notes that our entire concept of vocal production has changed radically, from a prior emphasis upon clarity of words and purity of tone to modern notions of projection and resonance; more generally, the anonymity of earlier times has ceded to singing as a personal statement which, he contends, is a natural consequence of singing as visceral activity that directly emanates from our bodies.
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Fortunately, in at least one sense no recording is fully authentic — that would require castrati to sing the soprano parts, as women were banned from the papal choir and the choirs of other major churches. Alternatives were deemed unsatisfactory — adult falsettos' strained texture was not pleasing and their upper range was limited, while young boys could not be sufficiently trained before the onset of puberty ended their utility. The solution, hopefully inconceivable nowadays, was to castrate boys with promising voices before their vocal chords could thicken.
The result was the range of a girl but projected with the power of a grown man. Although the practice was officially banned, poor parents in hope of a lucrative career for their offspring claimed birth defects, grievous hunting accidents and the like, after taking their boys to be butchered in hopes of gratifying the tender ears of the Vatican, whose edict was only lifted in the late s.
The weird, piercing sound is preserved on a series of discs cut in and by Alessandro Moreschi, one of the last castrati to have sung in the papal choir. But beyond all of this, perhaps there are two even more severe, and possibly insurmountable, contextual barriers to "hearing" Palestrina's music properly nowadays. First, as Gareth Curtis notes, all his music is strictly an adjunct to liturgy, as opposed to "music for its own sake," and so cannot fully function in the isolated setting of a concert or on record.
Second, while hardly cutting-edge in its time, this music reflected contemporary sensibility rather than the primordial simplicity it now suggests. We simply cannot forget all we now know of advanced harmony, musical structure and instrumental textures in order to wholeheartedly accept a Palestrina Mass as the complete expression of a composer's deepest thoughts and devotion. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4. Masses ; Religious works ; For 6 voices ; For unaccompanied voices ; Scores featuring the voice ; Scores featuring the soprano voice ; Scores featuring the alto voice ; Scores featuring the tenor voice ; Scores featuring the bass voice ; Latin language ; for 2 flutes, 2 oboes and 2 bassoons arr ; for 2 trumpets in d and 4 trombones arr ; For mixed chorus arr ; Scores featuring mixed chorus ; For unaccompanied chorus ; For 4 clarinets, 2 bass clarinets arr ; Scores featuring the clarinet ; Scores featuring the bass clarinet ; For 6 players ; For 2 lutes arr ; Scores featuring the lute ; For 2 players.
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