Monday, August 19, 2013

The Low Churchman's Guide to Palestrina

A hilarious bit that explains Palestrina to a low-church Anglican:

Of all the composers whose works are performed by surpliced choirs, Giovanni Battista de’ Palestrina is perhaps the most degenerate. In the whole catalogue of his works is not a single memorable tune; instead, a typical composition by Palestrina features four or more vocal parts attempting to outdo each other in the aimlessness of their polyphonic meandering. Not even one of Palestrina’s works is written in the common speech of England; all are written either in the Latin tongue or in a language called Italian. In its excess of depravity, the music of Palestrina attracted the attention of the Bishop of Rome himself, who named the young composer as his chapel musician.

Shocking as it may seem, this enemy of English values is a favourite composer among Ritualist church musicians, for whom listening to the dismal moaning of a Latin “motet” is thought to be the height of aesthetic experience. A favourite composition is the Missa Papae Marcelli, whose text (written by Palestrina himself) congratulates the newly-elected Pope Marcellus IV on the purchase of a new diamond-encrusted chasuble. Other works often heard are the battle hymn Sicut cervus, which prays to St Januarius to send a plague of rickets upon all loyal churchmen, and the interminable Stabat mater, which expresses the deep sorrow of the Virgin Mary at the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

It is believed that Palestrina is now dead, although agents attempting to enter the Vatican to verify these reports have been captured or killed.