Missa in Bendicam Domino

Mass for Easter Sunday


Selection of works by Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Gabrieli, Nicolas Gombert, Lassus,

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Adrian Willaert

CantuS CorvinuS Vocal Ensemble

Leader: Géza Klembala




Missa in Bendicam Domino  CD-cover



Missa in Bendicam Domino back



Missa in festo Dominica Resurrectionis Domini


This recording contains the complete music of the Resurrection Mass celebrated by the Catholic Church on Easter Sunday, the greatest festival of universal Christianity commemorating the resurrection of Christ the Saviour. The triple choir passages of Claudio Merulo's Missa Benedicam Domino constitute the Ordinary of the Mass, while the Proper of the Mass include Orlando di Lasso's Proprium movements written for the occasion with a few additions of the Sequence and the Offertory by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, and the Pater Noster (Lord's Prayer) by Adrian Willaert. The assembly and exit motets(Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli's works) and, concluding this recording, the great Antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary (by Nicolas Gombert) are not strictly part of the service.

The liturgy

The assembly motet, A. Gabrieli's "Benedicam Domino", serves as the musical themes of Merulo's movements of the Ordinary of the Mass. The text of psalm 33 was initially sung in the completorium of the Divine Office. The psalm, was inspired by King David's escape from the virulent harassment of the Philistine King. The motet uses the first five sentences of David's thanksgiving song.

O. Lasso set the movements of the Proper of the Mass to music in five parts. In the Introit (psalm 138:18, 5-6, 1, 2) the long values of the plainchant are sung now in unison, now by the bottom part, or the middle part, while the other parts sing the same plainchant in counterpoint.

Kyrie eleison
The movements of the Ordinary of the Mass by Claudio Merulo were based upon A. Gabrieli's motet "Benedicam Domino". The main melodies of the motet are fundamental to these passages, however, there are also many rhythmical, instrumentation and formal references to the original. One of the three choirs is generally slightly higher than the other two, in all they cover a range of two and a half octaves.

Cl. Merulo

O. Lasso: "Hæc dies"
The movements in the Proper of the Mass set to music by Lasso contain a detail of Psalm 117, sung after the reading from the Old Testament.

O. Lasso: "Pascha nostrum"
The alleluia verse proclaims the essence of the solemnity in Saint Paul's words (1 Cor: 5, 7)

G.P. da Palestrina set to music one of the masterpieces of medieval poetry, a poem of Wipo (990-1050). In the Church service the Sequence followed the verse of Alleluia, and was sung instead of and initially to the florid tune of the second alleluia.

Cl. Merulo

G. P. da Palestrina: "Terra tremuit" is a five-part arrangement of the Church offertory song. The words of Psalm 75 are a reminder of the Lord's omnipotence.

Cl. Merulo

Pater noster (The Lord's Prayer)
A. Willaert, whose influence on Venetian music is significant, contributed this four-part, traditional motet to the music of the Mass.

Agnus Dei
Cl. Merulo

O. Lasso: "Pascha nostrum". In an extended form, the final movement of the Proper of the Mass again cites Paul's letter to the Corinthians.

Ite Missa
Giovanni Gabrieli's "Plaudite omnis terra" is a triple choir motet, singing a jubilant exultation in the language of the Old Testament.

N. Gombert: "Regina cœli" This Antiphon of the Blessed Virgin Mary with its twelve parts is a manifestation of immense joy at the end of the service. The unusually many parts are not set in a multiple choir framework – albeit a certain quasi-polyphonic character is evident (higher and lower parts) – this of composition offers even more scope than the previously heard triple-choir effects. The text was initially sung as part of the Easter Divine Office.

The composers

The composers as personalities in our CD are connected in several ways to each other. Some were pupils of others, some were teachers or just forerunners, they were colleagues of each other, they all might have known of the others as musician, as relative, or as friend. They knew the music of the others, consequently their music is connected in just so varied ways. This is the music of the 16th century deriving from the Netherlands pulling towards Italy, picking up ideas, methods, elements from music of other nations on the way. Here in Venice this music blooms on, flourishes and enriches the music of Italy, and a little later the music of whole Europe.

Nicolas Gombert (b. c 1495, d. c 1560), born probably in southern Flanders, was a pupil of Josquin des Près. He became the singer in Emperor Charles V's court chapel in 1526 and magister puerorum in 1529. By 1540 Gombert's name had left the imperial chapel lists, so he evidently lived at Tournai for a time, he may also have spent his last years in retirement here. Finck, in his Practica Musica (1556) writes: Yet in our time there are innovators, among whom Nicolas Gombert, [...] shows all musicians the path... Gombert left a number of multi-voice works including the unique "Regina Cœli" recorded here. It is not antiphonal in the north Italian coro spezzato style; he did not divide forces consistently but constantly changed the combination of the voice groups.

Adrian Willaert (b. Bruges or Roluaers, c 1490; d. Venice, 1562). One of the most important and influential composers and teachers of his time. In Ferrara he was in service of Hippolito d'Este in 1515. As the Cardinal left Ferrara for Hungary in 1517, Willaert went with him. He spent at least two years in Hungary, then he returned to Italy. From 1527 he held one of the most prestigious and best paid musical posts in Europe, the maestro da cappella in S. Marco in Venice. During these years among others Giovanni Gabrieli and Claudio Merulo were organists at S. Marco. Andrea Gabrieli was one of his prominent pupils in composition. Through his own works and the writing of his other famous pupil, G. Zarlino, his great reputation in the late 16th century became solidly established, and he was reckoned as a major figure not only in the formation of the Venetian school but in the development of polyphony in Italy. Willaert must be considered not only as one of the leading figures of the period between 1520 and 1560, from the death of Josquin to the full maturity of Lassus and Palestrina, but also as one of the most versatile composers of the century. His output includes works in almost all the contemporary genres of sacred music along with different secular forms and instrumental pieces. The greatest and most enduring of his works are found among the motets, mostly on sacred texts. Of a provisional total of 173 motets, 78 are for four voices, to which group the "Pater noster" belongs, which we have recorded here.

Claudio Merulo (also da Correggio, orig. Merlotti; 1533 Correggio - 1604 Parma) obtained the post of organist at Brescia in 1556, one year later he was appointed organist at S. Marco, Venice, after a competition in which Andrea Gabrieli was one of the unsuccessful candidates. He was invited to the Duke's court at Parma in 1586 where he composed music and built organs. Many of his contemporaries called Merulo the greatest organist of his period, but in the years from 1566 to 1575 his activity as a music publisher was also significant. He based much of his music on vocal models, his technique at its simplest being largely a transcription of works for ensemble. His Mass for 12 voices (Venice, 1609) recorded here may well represent relationships between the genres and musicians in North-Italy or at San Marco, Venice at the end of 16. century.

Orlando de Lassus (b. Orlando di Lasso, Mons 1532; d. 1594 Munich). He was of the most prolific and versatile of 16th century composers, and in his time the best-known and most widely admired musician in Europe. Born in a Franco-Flemish province, at the age of 12 he entered the service of Ferrante Gonzaga. With the duke he went to Italy, where he visited Mantua, Palermo and Milan. In the next years he served in Naples, in Rome, and in the mid 50s he travelled back to his native country. In 1556 he accepted an invitation to join the court of Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria in Munich. In the following years he served as tenor singer, but as of 1563 until his death he was maestro di cappella. His fame was steadily growing with his publications that contained all genres of music sung and played in Europe (the earliest printed volume of masses by Lassus were issued by Claudio Merulo in Venice in 1570). There are some 2000 works of him that came down to us, 1200 of which are motets. He made several journeys to cities of Europe, he was well-known as a teacher in his time: Giovanni Gabrieli was among his pupils in the 70s. Like all Lassus's music, his motets are immensely varied in musical invention and expressive detail. The Proprium movements recorded here are from his traditional German-Flemish style motets.

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (b. Palestrina 1525/26; d. Rome, 1594). He is ranked with Lassus as one of the towering figures in the music of the late 16th century. In his early years he acted in Rome as a choir-boy. In 1550, his patron Cardinal Giovanni Maria del Monte was elected pope. In 1551 Palestrina was appointed maestro di Cappella Giulia, the musical establishment of St. Peter's. After some changes he returned to this position and he spent the last 23 years of his life there. The scope of Palestrina's work is enormous even by the standards of Lassus. His output of 104 masses is greater in quantity alone than that of any composer of his age. To his fundamental domain of sacred music can be added 375 motets and numerous other sacred music compositions, but he also composed more than 440 madrigals. Most of his works were published in his life. The complete collection of the offertories throughout the entire year, that includes the "Terra tremuit" of our recording, were published in 1593. These settings are virtually unprecedented at this period; their only possible rival is the shorter set of propers by Lassus.

Andrea Gabrieli (b. Venice, c 1510; d. Venice 1586) uncle of Giovanni Gabrieli. He brought an international stature to the school of native Venetian composers after a period when Netherlands composers had dominated. As the most important member of his generation, he exerted considerable influence on later Venetian and south German composers. He was a singer of S. Marco in 1536, later he was organist in Cannaregio. In 1562 he was in Germany where he met and developed an important friendship with Lassus. In 1566 he was the suc¬cessful competitor for the post at S. Marco, an appointment that he retained until his death. Although many of his works are in the light of Lassus's compositions, he helped to establish a distinctive Italian style independent of traditional Netherland technique. As his motet recorded here, much of his music was assembled and published by his nephew after his death. The anthology published in Venice in 1587 collected some sacred and secular compositions both of him and his nephew Giovanni. The collection that includes the motet "Benedicam Dominum" had great influence on south German and Italian music.

Giovanni Gabrieli (b. Venice, c 1553; d. Venice, 1612) nephew of Andrea Gabrieli. He represents the highest point of the Venetian school of the High Renaissance which had begun with Willaert and developed through the achievements of Andrea Gabrieli and Claudio Merulo. His influence on a number of pupils including H. Schütz makes him one of the most significant figures of his time. He was taught by his uncle, whose example he followed by going to work at the court of Duke Albrecht V in Munich. It is recorded that he was again in Venice by 1584, when he was acting as temporary organist at S. Marco on the vacation of that post by Claudio Merulo. His appointment was made permanent in 1585 and he retained the post until his death. He also took over his uncle's role as the principal composer of ceremonial music, being responsible of procuring extra instrumentalists and singers for the more important annual festival days. The fashion for his music north of the Alps resulted in princes from Germany and Austria sending him pupils. Schütz and his generation wrote remarkable works in the Italian style. His Sacrae symphoniae (1597) that contains the "Plaudite" motet in our CD, collects and presents some polychoral works, show the ultimate development of the old motet style.