A towering figure in Renaissance polyphony, Palestrina is arguably one of the greatest composers of liturgical music of all time. Harry Christophers and The Sixteen continue their exploration of his work with the fourth album in their celebrated series.
This album features a selection of Palestrina’s music for Christmas including his largely unknown masterpiece, the Missa O magnum mysterium. Also presented is the unusual hymn A solis ortu cardine—a setting of a chant hymn for Christmas morning. Among composers, Palestrina is unusual in setting this hymn for Lauds on the Feast of Nativity. Most composers reserved their efforts for the more important celebrations of Vespers. The text, written by Caelius Sedulius, is itself unusual in that the verses begin with successive letters of the alphabet.
Alongside the hymns are motets from the Song of Songs. The Song of Songs are among some of Palestrina’s most sublime and expressive works and, as with previous recording in the series, this album includes three of them. Dedicated to Pope Gregory XIII, Palestrina’s style of writing for these sensual texts demonstrates what variety and intensity of feeling can be conveyed with the simplest of means.
Completing this recording are three double-choir motets (a genre in which Palestrina was unsurpassed), Ave Regina, Iubilate Deo and Surge illuminare.
"... This generous selection is delivered with the group’s customary clarity and commitment, mirroring the counter-reformation ideals with which Palestrina is associated..." ****
Tony Way - Limelight magazine.com - 2 March 2014
"... As always the singing is impeccable and precise without ever being staid; rather, Christophers welcomes a more emovtive colour and drama - words not usually associated with Palestrina’s brand of contained, classical polyphony."
Robert Levett - International Record Review - December 2013