Conductor, STANFORD ROBINSON
ONE of the very greatest figures in the history of music, Palestrina carried the art of polyphonic writing for voices-the weaving of melodious parts one with another-to the highest point which it ever reached. Founded on tho old plainsong, his music, sacred and secular, has a wonderful beauty in its melodic lines, and a perfection of workmanship in their blending, which has never been surpassed. Nor is there anywhere in devotional music a purer air of spirituality, of aloofness from the noisy world. Born about 1524, he took his name from the little town in the Roman Campagna where ho was born, a town with its own cathedral and bishop. The bishop of his early days there bocamo Pope, and it may have been through his influence that Palestrina was appointed organist of St. Peter's, Rome. Under a later Pope ho had to give that up and take the corresponding post in the Lateran Church, but in early middle age ho returned to the Vatican as Master of the Choir. Beyond that, and the fact that even in his own day he was looked up to as the greatest of church musicians, we know very little about him. though a good deal of his wonderful music is still in regular use.
WHEN the inquiring music-lover looks up a book of reference to find out just what a motet is. he may bo told merely that it is the sacred counterpart of a madrigal. But on turning back to madrigal, ho will very likely learn little more than thnt it is akin to a motot, only on a secular or light-hearted subject. It is not easy, within a short compass, to bo moro definite, and the name has been variously used for centuries past by composers of many different nations. It is applied nowadays to any choral work whoso words and musical setting are of serious-not necessarily religious-import, and as a rule, to one which is for voices alone without instrumental accompaniment. That certainly applies to these two beautiful Motets by Holst. The first, a dialogue between the body and the soul, is a setting of a poem by Henry Vaughan. A solo voice, first. tenor, afterwards alto, sings tho words of the body, the chorus replying for the soul, with a wonderful sense of tenderness and quiet peace, rising at the end to a note of real exaltat.ion. The poem of the other, mystic and visionary, is by Digby Mackworth Dolben. It begins with tenor and bass in unison, and as it proceeds, divides into more and more parts until there aro seven at ono point, sometimes accompanying the words with closed lips or on a simplo vowel.
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