The 16: Palestrina – Vol 8

Palestrina – Vol 8
The Sixteen, Harry Christophers
Coro COR16175. 73’21

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) was one of the most influential composers of the Renaissance. His grasp of polyphony is combined with an ability to draw intense emotion from what might at first appear to be rather technical musical exercises. This 2019 release is the eighth in the series of Palestrina recordings from The Sixteen. Each CD has as its core a complete Mass setting, together with pieces on a related theme. On this occasion, the Eucharist-based theme is the Last Supper and Easter with the Missa Fratres ego enim accepi – not as well known as many of Palestrina’s Mass settings. As in previous releases, there are also motets and three settings from the Song of Songs.

The opening five-part motet, Ego sum panis Vivus, has a delightfully jubilant Alleluia. The motet Fratres ego enim accepi was intended for both Corpus Christi and Holy Week, with a known performance on Holy Thursday in the chapel of the Duke of Braganza. Like the Mass setting based on it, the structure and sense of movement are expansive, the polyphonic lines unfolding in a controlled manner. Before the Mass itself, we hear the similarly structure motet Accepit Jesus calicem.

The Missa Fratres ego enim accepi is a ‘parody mass’ based on the motet Fratres ego enim accepi which on this recording does not, for some reason, follow the usual pattern of immediately precede the Mass but is heard at one remove. The mass setting uses the melodic aspects of the motet, rather than its polyphonic structure. Notably in this respect are the opening falling intervals of a 4th and 5th in the alto and treble voices that start each of the five sections. With its eight voices, this would appear to be a setting on a grand scale, which it usually is, although the musical texture can be subdued and reflective, a mood caught well by Harry Christophers and his 18 singers. 

The three motets based on the Song of Songs are Quam pulchri sunt gressus tui, Duo ubera tua. and Quam pulchra es. The recording finishes with an alternatim setting of Pange lingua. Palastrini adds emphasis to the fifth verse, which is sung to the presentation of the Sacrement, by adding an extra voice to the texture.

As is always the case, The Sixteen sing with an extraordinarily professional sense of consort and cohesion. More information can be found here.

Ego sum panis Vivus, Fratres ego enim accepi, Accepit Jesus calicem
Missa Fratres ego enim accepi
Caro mea vere est cibus, Pater noster, Sacerdotes Domini
Song of Songs: Nos. 25-27
Victimae paschali laudes, Pange lingua