Look closely; you’ll find
Hidden beauty sometimes in
The smallest places.
It had been quite a day. An ugly day.
It was the kind of day that, for me, only the exquisite beauty of Renaissance polyphony would wash away. And who better than Palestrina?
So I settled into my favorite chair, started some music, and closed my eyes. Beautiful.
I noticed that the movements were going by a lot quicker than I expected. Palestrina was moving at quite a clip. Before I knew it, the piece was over. Wait, what? Already? Which Palestrina had I selected?
It turned out I had selected an album containing Palestrina’s Missa Brevis, from his Third Book of Masses of 1570. It is a complete mass, no movements omitted, as can be the case in some masses. But it seemed noticeably shorter than some of his other masses. How much shorter? I did the only thing I could think of to verify my impression.
|Selected Palestrina Masses performed by The Tallis Scholars conducted by Peter Phillips|
|Title||Kyrie||Gloria||Credo||Sanctus||Benedic-tus||Agnus Dei I||Agnus Dei II|
|Missa Benedic-tus es||5:59||7:10||10:59||10:22||6:45|
|Missa Nasce La Gioja Mia||3:06||4:33||7:25||4:52||4:25|
|Missa Assump-ta Est Maria||4:42||5:41||8:06||5:31||5:50|
|Missa Sicut Lilium Inter Spinas||3:42||6:12||9:01||5:19||5:02||n/a|
|Missa Papae Marcelli||4:02||5:37||8:56||6:40||6:40|
You can see from the table that a) I’m a nerd; b) most of the movements of the Missa Brevis are half the length of those in the Missa Benedictus es, and for the most part are noticeably shorter than those of other masses.
While the work is short, Palestrina more than makes up for it in the beauty of his composition. This could be the most peaceful 2:52 of your day: here is the Kyrie from the Missa Brevis.
If you will be performing this work with a choir and need some help learning your part, you can visit the CyberBass page for the Missa Brevis, where you can hear and download your part for each movement. Scores are available at the Choral Public Domain Library, or at the Petrucci Music Library (IMSLP).
May you find beauty in unexpected places.
Image attributions: Photos of lavender plant and flower by C. Gallant, 2017.