The Sistine Chapel Choir under its director Monsignor Massimo Palombella has just released a second CD recording with Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft. (Report of the press conference at http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2016/10/07/161007c.html).
It is devoted to the music of Palestrina and includes the famous six-voice Missa Papae Marcelli, the only work that Palestrina dedicated to a pope, credited with “saving polyphony” by making the text intelligible to the listener (the Council of Trent had condemned polyphony that obscured the meaning of the text). Additionally there are motets on the theme of mercy designed to complement the Holy Year.
It is not widely known that Monsignor Palombella is something of a Palestrina scholar, having carried out a lot of research into his works; so it will be interesting to hear how this is borne out in the recording. Also interesting to hear will be the manner of singing by the choir, which has already changed radically from the “bawling in the basilica”-style formerly associated with the Sistina. This new CD was, uniquely, recorded in the Sistine Chapel itself, which demands a rather more intimate style of vocal production suited to the acoustic of a much smaller building. The Sistine Chapel was chosen for the recording since it is the locale where papal celebrations took place in the time of Palestrina, the basilica of St Peter’s having not yet been completed.