Palestrina: Christmas Motet Hodie Christus natus est & Christmas Mass Missa Hodie Christus natus est – YouTube

Domenico Ghirlandaio Adoration of the Shepherds

Picture: Domenico Ghirlandaio
Adoration of the Shepherds
Start Date 1482 Completion Date: 1485
Technique: Oil on canvas
Location: Sassetti Chapel, Santa Trinita, Florence

For this year’s Christmas’ music I’ve picked one of Palestrina’s Christmas motets  ‘Hodie Christus natus est’ (This day was Christ born) the Mass setting he based upon it. They’re both beautiful pieces of music and both as you might expect from Christmas music by Palestrica are full of sparkle, excitement, and warmth combined with a sense of the grandeur of the occasion and musical depth. The motet, ‘Hodie Christus natus est’ is a double choir (SSAB+ATTB) motet that Palestrina published in Venice in 1575. He was plainly in top form when he wrote it – it’s a brilliant piece of music.

Palestrina based ‘Hodie Christus natus est’ on the text of the Magnificat antiphon at Second Vespers on Christmas Day, punctuated by the traditional Christmas cries of joy ‘Noe, noe’ and exploited to the full the possibilites of contrasting the different sonorities of the high and low choirs coupled with the contrasts between the solemnity and awe of Christ’s birth and the rapid antiphonal exchanges of joyful cries of ‘Noe, noe’. The Mass closely follows the motet and is equally strikingly brilliant. The Kyrie’s opening quotes the exactly while throughout the remainder of the Mass you’ll be able to recognise material from the motet by its harmonic sequence.  It’s a beautiful and impressive piece of music full joy and warmth. It’s sung below by the Westminster Cathedral Choir conducted by  Martin Baker.

Happy Christmas.


Text: Hodie Christus natus est

Hodie Christus natus est, noe, noe …
Hodie Salvator apparuit, noe, noe …
Hodie in terra canunt Angeli,
laetantur Archangeli, noe, noe …
Hodie exsultant iusti dicentes:
Gloria in excelsis Deo, noe, noe …
This day was Christ born, noe, noe …
This day the Saviour appeared, noe, noe …
today on earth the angels sing
and archangels rejoice, noe … noe …
today the just exult saying:
Glory be to God in the highest, noe, noe …

Missa: Hodie Christus natus est

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