Archive for the ‘Palestrina’ Category

Palestrina portrayed

March 28, 2008

Giovanni Palestrina is one of the great sacred writers.  His masses, from his mid-16thC tenure in the Vatican, are one of the high points of Western culture. 

Missa Papae Marcelli of 1567, using six voices, and Missa Brevis are the best-known.  Even if you don’t know them by name, you’ll almost certainly recognise the melodies as they’re commonly used as scene-setters, denoting “Renaissance/High Church”, on television. 

Though few classical music listeners would rank Palestrina in their top five composers, many great musicians, better known than Palestrina, would beg to differ – he has always enjoyed a high reputation among later composers, who could wonder at his exemplary craft. 

And his reputation as a great cult composer among the listening public has been growing, slowly but inexorably: 450 years after his peak, Palestrina could well be a coming man.

The second part of BBC Four TV’s Sacred Music was a revealing tribute to the glory of Palestrina’s music.  You can catch a repeat, back-to-back with the first programme, on BBC Four on Sunday, 1900-2100.

And in a fortnight, the richly shot series reaches the Main Man – Johann Sebastian Bach.

Great art.  Wonderful arts television.  Highly recommended music for grown-ups. 

Gerry Smith

Sacred music – BBC Four’s promising new series

March 17, 2008

BBC Four, the TV channel for grown-ups, continues its exciting programming of high quality music with a promising new four-part series on sacred music, starting on Good Friday. 

Sounds like Musical Heaven to me … not to be missed …

This is what they’re saying about it:

“Taking the viewer on a pilgrimage spanning six centuries … performed by the award-winning choir ‘The Sixteen’ conducted by Harry Christophers …

“In the opening programme ‘The Gothic Revolution’ begins at St Paul’s Cathedral … travels to Paris to discover how, at the close of the twelfth century, plainsong (chant) became polyphony (music of ‘many voices’) – the birth of harmony in the west.

“The next stop in the series is Italy. In ‘Palestrina and the Popes’ …  links between the papal intrigues of Renaissance Rome and the music of the enigmatic Palestrina, ‘The Prince of Music’. Palestrina’s work is considered by many to be unsurpassed in its spiritual perfection, but running underneath it is the turbulent story of the counter-reformation, which would have a dramatic impact on the composer’s life and music …

“ episode three ‘Tallis, Byrd and the Tudors’ … the effect of Henry VIII’s break with the Pope and the subsequent tumultuous history of the founding of the Protestant Church in England through the careers of two professional church musicians who were also superlative choral composers …

“ … Germany where Luther’s Protestant Reformation led to a musical revolution and ultimately to the glorious works of Johann Sebastian Bach …

“A 90-minute celebratory concert accompanies the documentaries with music from the series for Easter Sunday performed by Harry Christophers and ‘The Sixteen’, specially recorded at LSO St Luke’s in London.”

Gerry Smith