Header Image (book)


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Musical Interlude

For this first day of Advent 2014, here is Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina's O Magnum Mysterium (Mainz Chamber Orchestra & Gunter Kehr):

Latin text

O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
jacentem in praesepio!
Beata Virgo, cujus viscera
meruerunt portare
Dominum Christum.

English translation

O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Blessed is the Virgin whose womb
was worthy to bear
Christ the Lord.
[about Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525 – 2 February 1594)]


  1. that's truly beautiful. Happy Advent! I love the mention of the animals as someone recently reminded that it's humans who God created to relate to Him, to Love Him, to be in communion with Him.
    Happy times are coming....I love this season.

  2. Wonderful choice AOW. I keep going back to the Messiah but.....

    1. Messiah is my favorite oratorio. Many years ago, I sang with a top-notch D.C. choir. I know all the Messiah choruses like the back of my hand.

      Handel "inherited" much from Palestrina. Long live polyphony and antiphony!

  3. calming AOW...have a fab weekend..u deserve it my friend!!:) hugzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!!

  4. Beautiful, indeed, AOW! Few today realize Palestrina was required -- by Canon Law -- to write music within strictly defined limits. There were certain melodic intervals and harmonic confluences he was FORBIDDEN to use. His ability to create marvels while being confined by a musical, intellectual and spiritual straitjacket makes the glory of his output all the more amazing.

    Another, probably better known, setting of this text that works within essentially the same structures is equally beautiful. I highly recommend it.

    Tomás Luis de Victoria - O Magnum Mysterium

    Sixteenth-century counterpoint like this predates the emergence of harmony as we have know it for the past two hundred or more years. It's timeless appeal stems from its unearthly ability to evoke serenity in its hearers thus transporting them to realms free of the anxiety and conflict implicit in earthly passion.

    Our Western musical tradition is rooted in the Church which developed ancient melodic patters passed down by oral tradition as the basis for Gregorian Chant, which in turn became the basis for early, essentially atonal polyphony, sixteenth-century counterpoint, then the countrapuntal-harmonic system brought to perfection by J.S. Bach, and Handel. This in turn provided the basis for the accomplishments of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. And so on ...

    We owe the Church, as the Mother of Western culture, a great deal.

  5. Quite a contrast to the Stockhausen concert today.

  6. A very good Renaissance music sampler that I've enjoyed is "Renaissance Giants" by the Tallis Scholars.

    Excellent overview.

  7. Palestrina is one of the top three greats in polyphonic choral music imo. The other two being Thomas Tallis and Gregori Allegri primarily for his Miserere which is my all time favorite: http://youtu.be/IA88AS6Wy_4

    And if anyone is looking for some great Christmas music which is less ancient but still very old I recommend the King's College Cambridge program:



We welcome civil dialogue at Always on Watch. Comments that include any of the following are subject to deletion:
1. Any use of profanity or abusive language
2. Off topic comments and spam
3. Use of personal invective

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.