Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Viri Galilaei & Missa Viri Galilaei

The text of Palestrina’s six-part (SSATTB or AATBBB) setting of the Introit proper for Ascension Day Viri Galilaei  comes from Acts 1:11. The motet was first published in 1569 in Rome in the Liber primus motettorum, 5–7vv. It’s a very dramatic piece of music whose striking shifts in voice groupings, extensive homophony, and the wonderful cascading descending figures at the Alleluia make it some of the most glittering music that he ever wrote. He was plainly pleased with the motet because he used it as the basis for his Mass setting Missa Viri Galilaei .

Text & Translation: Viri Galilaei

Viri Galilaei, quid statis aspicientes in caelum?
Hic Jesus, qui assumptus est a vobis in caelum,
sic veniet quemadmodum vidistis eum euntem in caelum.

Acts 1: 11

Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up to heaven? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, shall come again in the same way as you have seen him go to heaven.

Video Source: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina "Viri Galilaei" – YouTube Uploaded on 23 Jun 2009 by Musikkhistoria

The Mass, which is a parody setting, was published 1601 in Venice in the Missarum liber duodecimus, 4–6vv.  It’s a six-part (SAATTB) setting that perhaps somewhat surprisingly, makes fairly little use of homophony unlike the motet. Instead Palestrina took the motet’s Alleluia and used the possibilities provided by the descending scalic figural writing in that to give us some remarkably beautiful contrapuntal music which can first be heard early on in the Kyrie and which recurs throughout the Mass. The Mass is beautiful, bright, shimmering, and triumphant and no doubt you’ll quickly develop your own list of musical highpoints. Everyone I know who knows and loves this Mass has their own list of favourite moments, for me that list includes the way in which he uses scalic writing to, literally, highlight the words ‘Jesu Criste’ in the Gloria, the meditative and beautiful four-part writing at the Crucifixus, and the simply stunning Agnus Dei in which he takes the motet’s descending scales and transforms them into ascending ones. Entirely appropriate for a Mass celebrating the Ascension and quite quite wonderful. Enjoy :-)

01. Ensemble Organum, Introitus – Viri Galilaei
02. La Chapelle Royale, Missa Viri Galilaei – Kyrie
03. La Chapelle Royale, Missa Viri Galilaei – Gloria
04. Ensemble Organum, Alleluja – Ascendit Deus in jubilatione, Dominus in Sina in sancto
05. La Chapelle Royale, Missa Viri Galilaei – Credo
06. Ensemble Organum, Offertorium – Ascendit Deus in jubilatione
07. Ensemble Organum, Praefatio – Vere dignum et justum est
08. La Chapelle Royale, Missa Viri Galilaei – Sanctus
09. La Chapelle Royale, Missa Viri Galilaei – Benedictus
10. La Chapelle Royale, Missa Viri Galilaei – Agnus Dei I
11. La Chapelle Royale, Missa Viri Galilaei – Agnus Dei II
12. Ensemble Organum, Communio – Psallite Domino
13. La Chapelle Royale, Viri Galilaei – motet
14. Magnificat primi toni

Ensemble Organum:

Tenors: Patrick Aubailly, Michel Gauvain, Frédéric Richard
Baritones: Malcolm Bothwell, Marcel Pérès
Basses: Christian Barrier, Antoine Sicot.

Ensemble Vocal Europeén de la Chapelle Royale:

Sopranos: Delphine Collot, Monika Frimmer, Elisabeth Rave, Dominique Verkinderen
Altos: Paul Gerhardt Adam, Pascal Bertin, Betty Van Den Berghe, Martin Van Der Zeijs.
Tenors: Dantes Diwiak, Andreas Schulist, Harry Van Berne, Nicholas Hadleigh Wilson
Basses: Kees Jan De Koning, Peter Kooy, Adrian Peacock.
Philippe Herreweghe, director.

Video & performer information source: Palestrina, Missa Viri Galilaei – YouTube Published on 9 Aug 2013 by Publio Ovidio.

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