Simply, Beautiful Choral Music.

Palestrina: Prince of Polyphony

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  • Price: $35/$28 Conc
  • Date: Sat, Apr 22, 2017
  • Time: 8:00 pm - 9:15 pm
  • Venue: All Saints' Church, South Hobart
  • Location: 339 Macquarie Street, South Hobart
  • Purchase Tickets


Allegri Ensemble is proud to present the first concert in its 2017 Season. Palestrina: Prince of Polyphony features works by the undisputed master of the Roman polyphonic style. This concert takes place in the intimate, historical ambience and clear acoustic of All Saints Church, South Hobart.

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was born around 1525 in the town of Palestrina, near Rome. He studied and worked in Rome most of his life. His compositional work was influenced by Dufay, Josquin and Morales, and spent much of his career as musical director of the Julian Chapel in St Peter’s Basilica. He died in 1594 and was buried beneath the floor of the Basilica, although the location of his grave is now unknown.

This concert features two of Palestrina’s great masterworks, the Missa Papae Marcelli and Stabat Mater, together with a collection of motets. The Pope Marcellus Mass has a legend associated with it, and also an opera written about it. The legend revolves around the Council of Trent of 1562-3, which was reputed to have banned polyphony, because of the unintelligible text. Palestrina’s Marcellus Mass, in which the word setting is remarkably clear, is said to have “saved polyphony” when it was performed at the Council, and convinced the council members that polyphony could be beautiful and intelligible. Hans Pfitzner’s opera Palestrina of 1917 deals with all the drama surround these legendary events. In reality, the situation was less dramatic: polyphony was not in any real danger of being banned, and Palestrina’s Mass was probably written long before the Council met to discuss the issues surrounding polyphonic music.

The Stabat Mater for double choir, dates from around 1589, and is widely regarded as one of Palestrina’s greatest compositions. Written for the papal Choir, and performed exclusively by them for the next century, it is in four continuous sections. It sets a 13th century poem depicting the Virgin Mary’s vigil by the cross.

The other works on the program, all motets, include Tu es petrus, which is set for 6 voices; the well-known staple of choirs Sicut cervus; Haec dies, a bright and energetic motet for Easter Day with Alleluias in triple time; Loquebantur variis linguis for Pentecost; and concludes with the vibrant energy of Exsultate Deo.