Westminster Cathedral Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)
Still thought of today as the grand master of the polyphonic style, Palestrina was highly regarded and much published in his lifetime. His output comprises one hundred and four firmly attributed Masses, over three hundred and seventy-five motets, sixty-eight offertories, at least sixty-five hymns, thirty-five Magnificats, four (possibly five) sets of Lamentations, and over a hundred and forty madrigals.
The six-voice Missa Ecce ego Johannes presented here is based on an unknown model. The text 'Ecce ego Johannes', from the Book of Revelation, is used for the chapter (capitulum) at Vespers on All Saints' Day, and it appears elsewhere (in the Sarum books, for example) as an antiphon at Matins for the same feast. The character of Palestrina's setting, however, suggests that it might well have been based on a polyphonic model. It is a powerful, confident work on a par with the Missa Papae Marcelli and Assumpta est Maria—just listen to the very first notes of the Kyrie.
The motets that accompany the Mass show a more festive side to Palestrina, with exuberant melismatic writing.
All of these pieces deserve to be better known and there can be no choir better equipped to show the world the beauty of this music.