Missa Papae Marcelli

(Lat. "Mass of Pope Marcellus")
   The most famous of Giovanni da Palestrina’s 104 masses, published in 1567. Its link with the three-week pontificate of Pope Marcellus II (died 1 May 1555) is obscure, as is its date of composition. Pope Marcellus did summon his singers on Good Friday, 1555, and encouraged them to make the words of the liturgy clearly understood.
   That is also one of the most specific wishes of the Council of Trent, but there is no hard evidence to support the legend that a hearing of the Missa Papae Marcelli convinced the council delegates to forbear abolishing polyphony from Catholic liturgy, although it may have been heard on 28 April 1565 by a post-concillar commission deliberating on liturgical music. The mass is remarkable for its textural clarity and diction. At times, voices enter in mid-sentence so that their syllables coincide with previously entered voices.
   Most of the mass calls for six voices; a few sections require five or four, and the concluding Agnus Dei requires seven. It lasts about 30 minutes.

Historical dictionary of sacred music. . 2006.

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