Feature: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525/6-1594): Vidi turbam magnam

Palestrina composed his motet Vidi turbam magnam (I saw a great multitude) for six-part choir. He rose to the challenge of Its Apocalyptic text (Revelation 7: 9-12) by focussing on the musical momentum needed by the more than somewhat portentous text. As well as using accents on weak beats he constantly combines and recombines his vocal forces so as to change the texture and mood of the music. Whenever someone complains to me that Palestrina’s polyphony is musically monotonous I point them to Vidi turbam magnam. You’ll find it below sung by the Choir of Westminster Cathedral conducted by James O’Donnell. Enjoy :-)


Text: Vidi turbam magnam


Vidi turbam magnam, quam dinumerare nemo poterat,

ex omnibus gentibus, et tribubus, et populis, et linguis:

stantes ante thronum Dei, in conspectu Agni,

amicti stolis albis, et palmae in manibus eorum:

et clamabant voce magna, dicentes:

Salus Deo nostro, qui sedet super thronum, et Agno.

Et omnes angeli stabant in circuitu throni,

et seniorum et quatuor animalium:

et ceciderunt in conspectu throni,

et adoraverunt Deum, dicentes: Amen.

Benedictio, et claritas, et sapientia, et gratiarum actio,

honor, virtus, et fortitudo Deo nostro,

in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

Revelation 7: 9-12

I saw a great multitude, which no man could number,

of all nations, tribes, peoples and tongues,

standing before the throne of God, in sight of the Lamb,

clothed in white garments, and palms in their hands:

and they cried with a loud voice, saying:

Well be our God who sitteth upon the Throne, and to the Lamb.

And all the angels stood round about the throne,

and the elders, and the four beasts;

and they fell down before the throne

and adored God saying: Amen.

Benediction, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving,

honour and power and strength to our God

for ever and ever. Amen.

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