Defining Palestrina

Katharine Ellis

in Interpreting the Musical Past

Published in print August 2008 | ISBN: 9780195365856
Published online September 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780199867738 | DOI:
Defining Palestrina

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This chapter analyzes fracture lines in attitudes toward Counter-Reformation polyphony, from its championing by Choron in the 1820s to the immensely popular performances conducted by Bordes from 1892. Fétisian music theory, Choron's performance practices, the composer's reputation as savior of Catholic church music (via the Pope Marcellus Mass), and the belief that Goudimel taught him gave his music Romantic allure and nationalist importance. Yet within church reformist circles, increased interest in the renovation of Gregorian chant as the purest and most democratic form of liturgical music enhanced suspicion about polyphony's technical demands, artifice, and barriers to understanding of liturgical texts. The chapter analyzes the sometimes vitriolic battles between radical and moderate ultramontanes, in which the latter (his supporters) allied Palestrina with the Middle Ages and the latter (his detractors) with the Renaissance. The roles of Bordes, the Schola Cantorum, and its supporters in negotiating this chasm and bringing Palestrina to official recognition via the papal Motu proprio of 1903 close the chapter.

Keywords: Palestrina; Goudimel; Choron; Charles Bordes; Schola Cantorum; ultramontanism; Plainchant; religious politics; Renaissance; Middle Ages

Chapter.  13284 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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