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Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli, Missa Aeterna


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Audio CD, February 15, 1994
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There's a wonderful legend, retold by (among others) Pfitzner's opera Palestrina, attached to the "Pope Marcellus" Mass: the Council of Trent, ground zero of the Counter Reformation, was about to ban all music but chant from the liturgy when Palestrina submitted this Mass, thereby changing the prelates' minds and saving church music. The writing is beautiful enough to deserve such a story: cheerful yet devout, comprehensible but not simplistic, without the complexity and secular borrowings (very prevalent in the preceding decades) that so perturbed the Council. The Missa Papae Marcelli has been recorded by choirs from Westminster Abbey to the Tallis Scholars, yet the Oxford Camerata does itself proud: Jeremy Summerly's reading of the music is reverently sweet, yet he's not afraid to make a joyful noise when appropriate--and the various voices are unusually clear. The equally radiant Missa Aeterna Christi Munera gets a similarly pleasing performance. Amidst serious competition, Summerly's readings of these Masses are among the best available--and, at Naxos's superbudget price, definitely the best value. --Matthew Westphal

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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Samples
Song Title Time Price
listen  1. Masses, Book 2: Missa Papae Marcelli: Kyrie 4:30$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Masses, Book 2: Missa Papae Marcelli: Gloria 5:36$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  3. Masses, Book 2: Missa Papae Marcelli: Credo 8:26Album Only
listen  4. Masses, Book 2: Missa Papae Marcelli: Sanctus 8:48Album Only
listen  5. Masses, Book 2: Missa Papae Marcelli: Agnus Dei 7:46Album Only
listen  6. Masses, Book 5: Missa Aeterna Christi munera: Kyrie 2:06$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  7. Masses, Book 5: Missa Aeterna Christi munera: Gloria 2:50$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  8. Masses, Book 5: Missa Aeterna Christi munera: Credo 5:04$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen  9. Masses, Book 5: Missa Aeterna Christi munera: Sanctus 5:00$0.89  Buy MP3 
listen10. Masses, Book 5: Missa Aeterna Christi munera: Agnus Dei 4:52$0.89  Buy MP3 

Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 15, 1994)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos
  • ASIN: B0000013U7
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #76,665 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

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134 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Guy Cutting on March 11, 2001
Format: Audio CD
This disc might actually make a good Palestrina sampler, of sorts - at least a good sampler of his masses. The Pope Marcellus Mass is probably his best known mass, and both this mass and the Missa Aeterna Christi Munera are models of elegance and serenity. The latter piece is not recorded very often, so you would be advised to pick up this disc, which contains both of these splendid pieces.
Normally in a review like this I would give some contextual/historical information about the pieces, but Palestrina and his Missa Papae Marcelli probably need little of this. It is often pointed out that this mass was written partly as model for textual intelligibility in polyphonic music; it is, though, even more than that: it is a model for perfection in Renaissance form.
I have three other recordings of the Marcellus Mass - two are by the Tallis scholars (one on the Palestrina 400 collection and the other on another separate recording) and one is by a German Baroque choir that I can't and won't take the time to remember (the recording isn't very good). Of the two T. Scholars recordings, the one on the 400 collection is preferable for its tempo, the other for the better acoustics of the recording venue. Both are fine recordings - typical Tallis Scholars. I haven't heard the Voices of Ascension or Westminster Choir recordings of this mass, but they are probably good.
I would recommend this present recording over the T. Scholars ones, though, for different reasons. First, the acoustics are preferable - there's more resonance in this one. The most importance difference is not really in interpretation (both groups render the music as flowing smoothly and slowly) but in the choral sound. Summerly's choir simply sounds fuller.
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35 of 43 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 20, 2000
Format: Audio CD
Palestrina's masses are unlike those of Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart. While the big three's masses are filled power and emotion, Palestrina's masses are more spiritual and reverent. They have a certain restrained quality to them which does nothing to diminish their great beauty, but perhaps makes them more reverent. "Otherworldly" might be a good word for these masses.
This is a wonderful recording - theperformances are first rate, and everything is quite clear.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on October 18, 2005
Format: Audio CD
--Palestrina--

Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina is sometimes called the greatest composer of the Roman Catholic church. Born in 1525 near Rome, he spent the better part of his career in service to the church as a choir member, choir master, conductor, composer and school master. He was sought after by many churches, and sometimes his popularity and skill got him into trouble both with his clerical patrons and with fellow musicians. He was offered prestigious positions in Rome and Vienna which were ultimately withdrawn because Palestrina's salary and conditions requirements were too high. He had some influence on the Council of Trent's musical decisions for reform of the Catholic worship practices, and was involved intimately with revising the Gradual and produced a harmonised version of the Latin Hymnal in 1589. He died in 1594.

--Masses--

The first mass presented here is Missa Papae Marcelli. Written in the 1550s, it wasn't published until the next decade. Pope Marcellus was only pope for a few weeks, but managed to endear himself to composers and conductors by insisting upon clarity as the highest of virtues for choristers. There is a joy to this, as Palestrina is definitely in the mode of celebrating the life of Pope Marcellus. This is one of Palestrina's most recorded works.

The second mass, Missa Aeterna Christi Munera is likewise a strong composition, although it is much less known than the first. Palestrina wrote over 100 masses in his lifetime (in addition to a wide range of other pieces), so it is not surprising that there might be some relatively overlooked. This particular mass has a more solemn tone to it, but still soars magnificently, and has no real flaws in composition.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By HRN7442 on October 13, 2005
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Beautifully performed CD of 2 beautiful Masses written by G. Palestrina. Worth listening to and adding to album collection. Palestrina definitely is unsurpassed in Renaissance Counterpoint and is rightfully called the Prince of Music.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bjorn Viberg on January 23, 2011
Format: Audio CD
Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli, Missa Aeterna is a recording under the direction of Jeremy Summerly who leads the Oxford Camerata and the Schola Cantorum of Oxford on this Naxos recording from 1995. The booklet is short as ever when it comes to Naxos and contains only short liner-notes and biographies of the perfomers and the conductor. Recommended. 4/5.
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Format: Audio CD
Long my favourite Mass setting, Palestrina's "Missa Papae Marcelli" is one of a handful I would reach for if I were trying to convert a listener to the joys of Renaissance polyphony. It is a marvel of smooth, soaring exaltation here beautifully performed by choral stalwarts the Oxford Camerata under Jeremy Summerly, who recorded so much for Naxos in its early days when they were building up a polyphonic catalogue.

This is one two superb versions: the other is the celebrated 1980 Gimell recording by the Tallis Scholars under Peter Phillips, coupled with an ethereal Allegri "Miserere". The Tallis interpretation is marginally slower and steadier whereas the Naxos recording is more animated, inclined to emphasise accents and dynamically varied. I love both and decline to choose between them but the acoustic of Dorchester Abbey for the Oxford Camerata is marginally more atmospheric than that of Merton College Chapel, spacious yet also allowing details to emerge; the acoustic of the Oxford venue is grander and vaguer in effect. The Camerata are probably half the size of the Tallis ensemble but they make a rich, full sound.

The status of the work itself has been enhanced both by the enduring legend that it singly convinced the Council of Trent of the unwisdom of banning polyphony in favour of solely plainsong and by its being written for a pope whose reign lasted a mere three weeks. Its polemic function appears even more ironic if one agrees that that Palestrina subversively incorporated references to one of the most popular secular songs of the day, "L'homme armé". It is a miraculously limpid and succinct composition, the text emerging clearly and the whole sung Mass lasting only thirty-five minutes.
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