Pope Marcellus Mass, Credo
Giovanni da Palestrina (1525/26-1594)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 3 Tracks 32-36
Our understanding is helped by Palestrina's remembrance of Marcellus' difficult career and short tenure as pope. In the vast sea of human history, Palestrina's piece is a buoy marking a character in an uncomfortable story of reformation. Looking back we might ignore this story or the short appearance of Pope Marcellus. Yet, listening to Palestrina's music we are given access to the interior life of a person who lived in that time. Hopefully, inspired by this experience we investigate our history and ponder the profound relationship of the individual to the passage of time.
Palestrina's division of the Credo into three sections does more than provide contrast. He explores the range of this ensemble before presenting the full impact of a six part choir. In the first section, which groups the choir in flexible teams of three, the listener is impressed with the width of the ensemble. The second section, track 33, by starting in the lowest register and working upward, our composer impresses the listener with the height of the ensemble. So that, in the final amen, the listener is aware of the awesome completeness of the Credo.
What I like about this Credo is the tension that opens the second section. The words Crucifixus etiam pro nobis
ascend slowly and painfully. Then, we are almost blinded by Et resurrexit