Morales: Missa Ave Maris Stella
Lassus: Confitemini Domino a6
Cristóbal de Morales (1500-1553): was a difficult, but great Spanish musician. He spent most of his working life in Rome; during the early sixteenth century the Popes considered the best musicians to be Spanish. This setting of the mass is a paraphrase mass based on the Marian hymn “Hail, Star of the Sea”. This unusual melody defies the standard ‘renaissance’ rules of coming back after a leap, making it recognisable from the opening three notes: the bright third note defines the melody and, in many ways, the mass. In Morales’ setting, nearly every movement has a canon (where one part exactly copies another) and the ancient church mode of the plainsong hymn gives a reverent colour to the music.
Orlando de Lassus (1530-1592) came from the other extreme of Europe in what is now Belgium. ‘Confitemini Domino’ is an exciting motet in 6 parts. Lassus was a master of matching the music to the words. He starts with three groups of two parts, for the three opening statements. To describe the scattering of the ‘children of Israel’ the music becomes suddenly chaotic; but the whole choir comes together to declare God’s wonderful works.