Deutsche Grammophon launched its latest exclusive collaboration with the Sistine Chapel Choir on Friday 7 October with a press conference and special concert at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. Members of the Vatican clergy were joined by dignitaries, diplomats and representatives of the international media to hear performances of a selection of works from the Choir’s new album. Palestrina, only the second recording to be made under studio conditions in the Sistine Chapel, follows the yellow label’s pioneering release of Cantate Domino in September 2015. It comprises the world premiere recording of the 1567 first edition of Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli together with a selection of motets conveying the essential message of divine generosity and compassion. The album celebrates the “Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy” (8 December 2015 to 20 November 2016), defined by Pope Francis as “a revolution of tenderness and love”.
“We are delighted that our exclusive relationship with the Sistine Chapel Choir continues to grow and supports such uplifting music-making,” notes Dr Clemens Trautmann, President Deutsche Grammophon. “Palestrina, recorded in the very place where the composer worked, unites the human and the divine spirit in the purity of its polyphony and the mystical beauty of its sounds. This new album flows from the open-hearted nature of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. We hope that Palestrina will inspire listeners with its music of divine compassion and love.”
Massimo Palombella, director of the Sistine Chapel Choir, explored the vast resources of the Vatican’s library in search of music with the power to transcend personal fears and offer comfort in our troubled times. He discovered that the earliest publication of Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli differed from the modern editions usually employed for performances and recordings. Monsignor Palombella transcribed the original version into modern notation and worked with his Choir to try and recreate the way in which the Mass might have been performed by the Sistine Chapel singers during Palestrina’s lifetime.
In addition to the Missa Papae Marcelli, Massimo Palombella chose to record nine liturgical motets by the composer on the theme of mercy. These include Ad te levavi oculos meos, a tour de force of contrapuntal invention, and the world premiere recordings of Veritas mea et misericordia mea and Iubilate Deo. Palestrina also contains the first recording of Confitemini Domino to be sung by male voices only, as it would have been in the late 1500s.
Monsignor Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Pontifical Household, welcomes the release of Palestrina and underlines the value of recording to the Vatican’s mission to reach out to all souls. “Pope Francis is not only aware that some important works have been recorded in the Sistine Chapel, by the Sistine Chapel Choir”, he observes. “He also completely supports the opening-up of the Chapel. He recognises, too, that Deutsche Grammophon is not just any music company but that it is one of the world’s leading record labels. This collaboration, therefore, is highly valued by the Sistine Chapel, by the Vatican and by the Catholic Church.”