Volume 3 Of ABC Classics 1000 Years Of Classical Music Project - Twelve Renaissance Masterpieces Presented On One Album, Recorded By Cantillation – One Of Australia's Finest Vocal Ensembles!
Thomas Tallis defied the authorities and the limits of music itself to create the 40-part motet Spem in alium. It's one of twelve Renaissance masterpieces presented on this album: from Palestrina and Josquin des Prez to Allegri's Miserere – music so precious it was kept under lock and key.
The Renaissance in music stretches from about 1430 to the early 1600s.
The most important musical development in this period was polyphony. This means music made up of several independent melodic lines that are played or sung simultaneously. Although each musical line has a different rhythm, they all fit together to make up one harmonious whole.
All of the lines in polyphony are equally important: there’s not one that’s the tune, with the rest just background. Different lines might be more prominent at different moments in the music, but the overall effect is of a smooth, seamless interweaving of musical parts.
Most Renaissance polyphony has four or five lines of music. Some of the more complicated pieces have up to eight or even twelve vocal parts, but few have equalled the achievements of Jean de Ockeghem, with his 36-voice canon Deo gratias, and Thomas Tallis, with his 40-part motet Spem in alium.
The most famous piece of Renaissance sacred music is the Miserere by Gregorio Allegri. It’s called ‘Miserere’ because that’s the first word of the Latin text: ‘Miserere mei, Deus’ (Have mercy on me, O God). Many composers set these words to music, but Allegri’s version is the one that was sung regularly in the Sistine Chapel. They thought so highly of it there, that they wanted to keep it for their own exclusive use, so the church authorities prohibited anyone from making any copies of the music. It wasn’t until 1770 that Allegri’s Miserere ‘escaped’: the 14-year-old Mozart, on a visit to Rome, heard a performance and then went away and wrote the music down from memory.