For the second year in a row the Sistine Chapel Choir has recorded an album inside the chapel of its namesake, this year selecting pieces by Palestrina that focus on mercy in honor of the Jubilee.
Created in partnership with the classical music label Deutsche Grammophon, the second album was released Oct. 7 and is titled “Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli/Motets.”
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, who lived from 1525-1594, is an Italian Renaissance sacred music composer, and is perhaps one of the most well-known composers of sacred polyphony.
His most famous piece and the only one of his compositions dedicated to a Pope is his “Missa Papae Marcelli,” which takes up the first five tracks of the 14-track CD.
It contains the music of the original printed edition of the Mass in 1567, as well as two previously unpublished motets, “Veritas mea et misericordia mea” and “Iubilate Deo.”
The CD was presented Oct. 7 inside the Vatican’s Press Office by the Prefect of the Pontifical Household Archbishop Georg Ganswein, as well as Clemens Trautmann, president of Deutsche Grammophon.
In his speech for the event, Ganswein said the CD and accompanying booklet make one immediately aware of “the spiritual reasons for a music so refined and sublime.”
With this Mass Palestrina, “the prince of Roman polyphony” both tried and succeeded “to respond to what the Council of Trent asked of liturgical music, that is, the intelligibility of the text united to the quality of the music,” he said.
Though Pope Marcellus II would never live to hear the Mass composed in his name, having died after only 22 days as pope in the middle of the Council of Trent, his hope that music would be both “a vehicle of beauty and a help in the elevation of the soul in liturgical prayer without falling into self-reference,” would be accomplished by Palestrina, the archbishop continued.
This challenge, he said, “remains relevant even today” in the effort to compose music that both incorporates and respects the ancient roots of sacred music, yet also experiments with “new ways of updating” encouraged by the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council.
“So the purpose of this which is presented and is a cultural undertaking,” contributes in the communication of “the essence of the mission of the Catholic Church, which is to evangelize, to announce the Good News,” Ganswein said, noting that this is also done “through beauty.”
“All of this seeks to express that Church which goes out, of which Pope Francis speaks to us, a Church that isn’t afraid to speak the language of man and of his needs, of which music is a high and universal expression.”
Also present at the presentation of the CD was Massimo Palombella, director of the Sistine Chapel Choir. Formed of 20 adults and 30 young boys, the Sistine Chapel Choir is the oldest choir in the world.
Palombella told journalists that the choir, having released their first CD “Cantate Domino” last year, will record one annually, always from inside the Sistine Chapel itself. Proceeds from the CDs sold will, as last year, be given to the papal charities.