Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Ad coenam Agni providi

Ad coenam Agni providi is one of the earliest of the Ambrosian hymns, it dates back to at least the 6th century and it’s entirely possible that it’s of even earlier provenance, it’s appointed to be sung during for Vespers from Easter Sunday until Ascension. Palestrina set it twice,  this setting –  which is unrelated to his Mass of the same name, is set alternatim, with the odd-numbered verses in polyphony and the even-numbered ones being left in plainchant. Despite the fact that this meant he only had four verses to work with Palestrina managed to introduce a lot of variety in his treatment of the tune.

He uses imitation in the first polyphonic verse (verse one) and again, far more elaborately, in the second one (verse 3). In the third polyphonic verse (verse 5) he mostly uses homophony which he relieves with a cadence at ‘plebs captivata’ (a captive people). As so often with Palestrina’s hymn settings the final verse (verse 7) is a case of ‘best wine saved ’til last’  it’s both more exuberant and lenghty than the other three polyphonic verses and it’s on a somewhat grander scale too being in five parts rather than just four. Enjoy :-).


Text & Translation: Ad coenam Agni providi

Verse №:LatinEnglish
1Ad coenam Agni providi,
Et stolis albis candidi,
Post transitum maris rubri,
Christo canamus principi.
Looking forward to the Lamb’s banquet,
and clothed in shining white garments,
after crossing the Red Sea,
we celebrate in song Christ the prince.
2Cuius corpus sanctissimum
In ara crucis torridum,
Cruore eius roseo,
Gustando vivimus Deo.
He whose most holy body
was shrivelled on the altar of the cross,
by drinking his roseate blood,
we live with God.
3Protecti Paschae vesperae
A devastante angelo,
Erepti de durissimo
Pharaonis imperio.
Protected on Easter eve
from the devastating angel,
we are rescued from the harshest
power of Pharaoh.
4Iam Pascha nostrum Christus est,
Qui immolatus Agnus est,
Sinceritatis azyma,
Caro eius oblata est.
Now Christ is our Easter offering,
who is the sacrificed Lamb,
the unleavened bread of truth,
whose flesh is offered.
5O vere digna hostia,
Per quam fracta sunt tartara,
Redempta plebs captivata,
Redita vitae praemia.
O truly worthy host,
by which the infernal regions are broken,
a captive people are redeemed,
and the gift of life is brought back.
6Consurgit Christus tumulo,
Victor redit de barathro,
Tyrannum trudens vinculo,
Et reserans paradisum.
Christ rose up from the sepulchral mound,
he returned victorious from the abyss,
thrusting the tyrant down in chains,
and opening up paradise.
7Quaesumus, auctor omnium,
In hoc Paschali gaudio,
Ab omni mortis impetu
Tuum defende populum. Amen.

Hymn at Vespers on Low Sunday

We ask you, maker of all things,
in this joyful Easter time,
from all the assaults of death
defend your people. Amen.

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