Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Assumpta est Maria

This glorious motet is the basis for one of Palestrina’s most impressive Masses the Missa Assumpta est Maria. It’s a six-part (SSATTB) motet that takes its text from the Offertory at Mass for the Assumption of the Virgin which specifically includes a quotation taken from the Song of Songs:

Quae est ista,
quae progreditur quasi aurora consurgens,
pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol,
terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata?

(Who is she
who comes like the rising dawn,
fair as the moon, glorious as the sun,
awesome as an army’s serried array?)

Musically it’s based on several chant antiphons and Palestrina has given it a pleasingly balanced form firstly by doubling the sopranos and the tenors and secondly by taking the the closing section of part I (beginning at the triple-time Gaudete… ) and repeating it at the close of the motet’s second part. It’s one of my favourite Palestrina motets and it always leaves me shaking my head admiringly at how Palestrina manages to portray a sense of excitement. The sound is quite bright as you’d expect from the SSATTB configuration and the effect of this brightness of tone is enhanced by the way in which he sets the three upper voices against the lower ones and in how he uses the tenors to anchor the motet giving it a solidity and a richness that underscores the upper voices.  Enjoy :-).

mfi

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Assumpta est Maria

Assumpta est Maria in caelum;
gaudent Angeli,
laudantes benedicunt Dominum.

Gaudete et exsultate
omnes recti corde.
Quia hodie Maria Virgo
cum Christo regnat in aeternum.

Quae est ista,
quae progreditur quasi aurora consurgens,
pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol,
terribilis ut castrorum acies ordinata?

Offertory at Mass for the Assumption of the Virgin

Into Heaven is Mary received;
the angels with praises rejoice
and bless the Lord.

Let all rejoice
and with righteous heart be glad.
For today the Virgin Mary reigns
with Christ through all eternity.

Who is she
who comes like the rising dawn,
fair as the moon, glorious as the sun,
awesome as an army’s serried array?

Performers: The Sixteen conducted by Harry Christophers

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