Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Veni Sponsa Chisti (Antiphon and Motet)

One of the ways in which we differ in our appreciation of Palestrina’s music from the appreciation of his contemporaries is that we tend to focus on his Masses. This was far from the case during his lifetime when the focus was on his sacred Latin motets rather than his Masses. The majority of his motets (more than 250 of them) were published during his lifetime and it was these that caused his contemporaries to bestow upon Palestrina his nickname of ‘Prince of Music’. Of course we can’t separate the two completely because – as was the case with ‘Veni sponsa Christi’, Palestrina often used his motets as the basis for his Masses nevertheless for present purposes I’m going to focus just upon the antiphon and motet.

‘Veni sponsa Christi’ (Come bride of Christ) is one of Palestrina’s earlies motets – he published it in 1563 in his first ever collection of motets entitled  ‘Motecta festorum totius anni cum Communi Sanctorum…liber primus’ it’s very brief just four lines (sixty-seven bars) long. Very brief yes, but Palestrina packs a lot of music into a very small space. He gives each clause of the text its own melodic material producing something that closely resembles an AaBbCcDd structure. For the purposes of this video I’ve chosen to add the antiphon in front of the motet itself which was the basis of Palestrina’s Mass setting ‘Missa veni sponsa Christe’.

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Text, Translation,  and Score:
Veni Sponsa Chisti (Antiphon and Motet)

Latin textEnglish translation
Veni sponsa Christi,
Accipe coronam,
Quam tibi Dominus,
Praeparavit in aeternum
Alleluia.
Come bride of Christ,
accept the crown,
which the Lord has prepared,
for you forever
Alleluia.
Score available from:  CPDL

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