Review by Joseph Ponessa March 22, 2014 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
|My review from amazon.co.uk --
I now have three performances of Palestrina's Missa papae Marcelli by the Tallis Scholars:
(1) The analog recording made at Merton College Chapel, Oxford in 1980, which appeared first on vinyl and then on a well-remastered CD. The work is well performed and well recorded, not necessarily superseded by the recordings that followed.
(2) The video recording made at Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome in 1994, both on a fine laserdisc and a less fine DVD. It is nice to be able to see the performers, and there is a real sense of occasion, being the four-hundredth anniversary of the composer's death. Allegri's Miserere is also sung, along with Palestrina's Stabat mater and four motets. It is an ample program, with the Allegri piece as a not-unwelcome intrusion.
(3) The multi-channel, high-resolution recording made at Merton College Chapel in 2005, first released on two-channel CD in 2007 and now appearing in 5.1 glory on blu-ray along with Palestrina's Stabat mater and Tu es Petrus, and Allegri's Miserere. As I contemplated the creation of Adam on screen through all 76 minutes of music, I couldn't help but notice that Adam's face seems to be a mirror image of God's, but minus the beard. All this music was written to be performed under this particular art, but for the Miserere Michelangelo's portrayal of one of the sad prophets like Jeremiah from the same ceiling would have been even more appropriate.
The Miserere is sung once at the beginning and again more ornately at the end. So the disc invites comparison. I did like the simpler version better. The use of Tonus Peregrinus rather than Mode II for the psalm verses is ingenious, identified as parodied in the soprano part. But I wonder if it was really the Lamentation tone from Tenebrae that was being parodied. Tonus Peregrinus only appears in conjunction with Psalm 114, a Sunday Hallel Psalm in the Gregorian repertory, so there is no evidence of T.P. being connected with repentance. Miserere, however, is a Psalm of Good Friday and would meld with the Lamentation tone most fittingly in the same liturgy.
Without the vinyl to compare, the results of my little comparison are (1) blu-ray, (2) laserdisc, (3) CD and (4) DVD, in that descending order. Thanks to Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars for giving us the only Renaissance blu-ray that has yet appeared--unless Palestrina is considered baroque, in which case they have given us the earliest baroque work on blu-ray. I recommend to everybody that you buy this blu-ray, and if you all do, then the Scholars will be encouraged to release the 1980 and 1994 performances on blu-ray also. Pretty please?
PS--BTW, I also compared the blu-ray with the only other high-resolution recording of the Missa, an SACD. Those forces transposed the entire work down a third. The soaring quality of the composition is lost, and the work becomes like a Requiem papae Marcelli instead. So the Tallis Scholars hold the field for this work in super audio.
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