by Sistine Chapel ChoirSistine Chapel Choir


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Palestrina's "Missa Papae Marcelli" or Pope Marcellus Mass is the Renaissance composition you know if you know only one, and the Sistine Chapel Choir has 400-plus years of experience in performing it. So this release, on the rather conservative Deutsche Grammophon label, might seem a stodgy exercise in tradition. In fact it is nothing of the sort. Director Massimo Palombella readily admits the necessity of not "simply mirroring existing versions," and he has forged a reading shaped by modern discoveries concerning Renaissance performance practice. The choir (men and boys) is shaved down to a force of about 30, and Palombella gets a remarkable sound that is clean yet intimate. The registrally complex polyphony of the "Missa Papae Marcelli" comes through unscathed, and the mass gets a clearer stylistic differentiation from the short motets included than was possible under the more homogeneous, large-choir approach that has been so common with this music. The biggest thing listeners familiar with the mass will notice is that Palombella introduces tempo shifts such as ritardandi. This is discussed at length in the booklet and heavily footnoted, and it represents a new approach not only for Palestrina, but for Renaissance sacred polyphony in general. The jury is still out on this, but Palombella's approach is consistent and generally expressive. A major advantage is the sound, described as being recorded in a studio in the Sistine Chapel itself. It's a little unclear what this involved, but apparently the choir was moved from its usual spot and for most of the pieces placed in front of the altar, where it was enclosed in a studio-like space. The results are impressive, and in general this is a fresh approach to Palestrina that is well worth the listener's time.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/07/2016
Label: Deutsche Grammophon
UPC: 0028947961314
catalogNumber: 002560202
Rank: 42547


  1. Ave Maria, motet for 5 voices (from Motets Book III)
  2. Confirma hoc, Deus, offertory for 5 voices (from Complete Offertories)
  3. Jubilate Deo omnis terra, motet for 5 voices (from Motets Book III)
  4. Veritas mea, offertory for 5 voices (from Complete Offertories)
  5. Benedixisti, Domine, offertory for 5 voices (from Complete Offertories)
  6. Ad te levavi, motet for 4 voices (from Motets Book II for 4 voices)
  7. Confitemini Domino, motet for 4 voices (from Motets Book II for 4 voices)
  8. Tu es pastor ovium, motet for 5 voices

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