Palestrina’s six-part (SSATTB) setting of the Mass Missa Nasce la gioja mia is based upon Primavera’s madrigal (also SSATTB) about which I wrote last Thursday. You can hear the madrigal throughout the Mass although Palestrina did noticeably alter the length of the musical phrases and brightened the tone considerably by raising the tessitura in the two tenor parts. It’s one of his most magnificent Mass settings and one I never tire of hearing. Peter Philip’s description can’t be bettered by me so here it is:
The main differences between the Mass-setting and its model are the length of Palestrina’s phrases and an increased brilliance in the overall sound caused by raising the tessitura of the two tenor parts. With little imitation in the original to show him the way, Palestrina nonetheless managed to extend the ingredients of this material into one of the longest and most magnificent of all his settings. For instance, the opening of the madrigal uses a figure of three notes which is continued for four bars before a new phrase starts. Palestrina immediately leads off in the first Kyrie with eleven bars of this, returning to its basic outline at the beginning of every subsequent movement. Another motif which features regularly in the Mass is the powerful leap up a fourth at ‘e la mia vita’ in the first soprano part, imitated in the madrigal immediately by the second tenor. This was parodied for the first time by Palestrina at the beginning of the second Kyrie, and most memorably at the beginning of the second Agnus Dei. However, in general Palestrina did not try to preserve strict imitative schemes in this Mass, no doubt partly encouraged by the nature of his model, but partly also because his mature style, despite what the text-books tell us, often ignored this procedure. Both works are scored for SSATTB.
Video Source: Palestrina, Missa Nasce la gioja mia. The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips – YouTube. Published on Feb 21, 2014 by Mnemósine Amnésica