Westminster Cathedral Choir, Martin Baker (conductor)
The celebrated Choir of Westminster Cathedral goes back to its roots with this recording of some of the towering masterpieces of Renaissance polyphony—a genre which the choir has made its own through the ritual of daily liturgical performance. Recent reviews have declared the choir to be at the peak of its powers, and this disc is an important celebration of a great musical tradition.
Palestrina’s Missa Te Deum laudamus, a paraphrase Mass based on the ancient chant, is recorded here with Victoria’s vibrant alternatim setting of the Te Deum. The Mass, like the chant on which it is based, is in the Phrygian mode, which in modern terms can be regarded as a modal form of E minor. Haberl, a late nineteenth-century editor of the complete works of Palestrina, commented that ‘this gives the Mass a certain severity of colouring, but [it is] full of holy fire’.
Missa Tu es Petrus is a parody Mass based closely on Palestrina’s own motet for the Feast of St Peter and St Paul (published in Rome in his second book of motets in 1572), from which a great deal of the musical material of the Mass is drawn. The motet, which precedes the Mass on this disc, is one of the most gloriously sunlit and uplifting pieces in all of Palestrina’s music, and its joyous splendour sets the tone for the Mass.