Yale Schola Cantorum / David Hill

Palestrina: Missa Confitebor tibi Domine

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This is an innovative release in several respects. First is the presence of the Yale Schola Cantorum, one of the few American choirs to crack the British scene in a big way. They sound fabulous here in the spacious textures of the Palestrina motets heard here. Second and more important is the music itself. Palestrina, as a representative of the bad old Counter Reformation, was out of vogue for some time, but new performances of little-known works are stimulating interest and revising the prevailing picture of his compositional stance. He was, it can now be seen, a conservative in some ways (he did not truck in chromatic madrigalisms), but an innovator in others. The Missa Confitebor tibi Domine exemplifies the innovation. Although such a texture was not really suited to the Sistine Chapel, where Palestrina worked (the choir had its own single loft), the mass was written in the emerging cori spezzati style, with a double choir; Palestrina apparently had publication in mind and realized that this new development, which prefigured Baroque principles, was worth pursuing. Although the Yale singers perform the work as Palestrina would have heard it in Rome, they emphasize its progressive style with the inclusion of instrumental works, an almost completely neglected facet of Palestrina's output, interpolated between the movements of the mass. These are beautifully performed by cornetist Bruce Dickey and organist Liuwe Tamminga. Sample the Credo of the mass to hear how Palestrina, despite the strictures against such things, could be quite a sensitive text-setter as well. Hyperion's engineers do very well in the unfamiliar surroundings of Christ Church in New Haven, Connecticut, and this is overall both a fresh and an attractive recording.

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