Tuesday, April 28, 2015

450 years ago: Palestrina's Pope Marcellus Mass performed at the papal chapel

Pope Marcellus Mass (Missa Papae Marcelli)

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (composer)

Composed: 1562

First Performed: April 28, 1565 at the papal chapel

Peak: --

Sales (in millions): --

Genre: classical > choral music


  1. Kyrie
  2. Gloria
  3. Credo
  4. Sanctus
  5. Benedictus
  6. Agnus Dei 1
  7. Agnus Dei 2

Average Duration: 20:09


3.939 out of 5.00 (average of 6 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Work:

The Pope Marcellus Mass, “arguably Palestrina’s best-known work,” NB “is primarily a six-voice mass, but voice combinations are varied throughout the piece.” WK “Recent scholarship suggests the most likely date of composition is 1562, when it was copied into a manuscript at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.” WK It has been recorded often in the latter part of the 20th century “and is often used as a model for the study of stile antico Renaissance polyphony in university courses on music.” WK

“An oft-repeated legend [said] Catholic authorities, overwhelmed by the spiritual beauty and dignity of this piece, reversed a proposed ban on the use of music during religious services.” NB While Palestrina did intentionally seek “to compose in a simplified, easily understood style to please church officials” WK “a total ban on church music was never seriously considered” NB and there is no evidence “Palestrina's mass was the deciding factor in changing their minds.” WK

“In 1555, Pope Marcellus II (after whom the mass is named) addressed the Papal choir, urging musicians to strive for simplicity, clarity, and intelligibility in their compositions.” NB “Palestrina heard and heeded Marcellus’ recommendations,” NB saying in 1567 that this mass and other masses he’d written were done in “a ‘new style’ to please ‘the most serious and religious-minded persons in high places.’” NB “Palestrina eliminated from his sacred music practically all references to popular song, using instead motivic material extracted from plainchant melodies, and developing a style of vocal writing which owed much to the melodic structure of plainsong. The result was music of great unity, clarity, and beauty.” NB

“The piece is singularly austere and dignified, darkly colored through an emphasis on low voices. The contrapuntal motion is slow and exquisitely controlled, the proportions architecturally conceived. The movements with longer texts (Gloria, Credo) are written homophonically, that is, moving all the voices together in stately chords. This novel technique, which effectively emphasized the words while providing a welcome contrast to the more contrapuntally active polyphonic movements, proved so effective that it became a standard feature of all his later masses. Despite its restrained style, the mass is not without remarkable highlights. Beautifully controlled dissonant clashes lend the Kyrie a touching poignancy, while the Christe and Sanctus foreshadow the suave melodic writing characteristic of later works. The lush, cascading ‘Amen’ at the end of the Credo remains one of the most beautiful passages of sixteenth century polyphony.” NB

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Last updated 4/17/2022.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Aural Fixation: The Newest Book from Dave's Music Database

Aural Fixation: More Essays from a Musical Obsessive

Available at Amazon for $9.95.

This sequel to No One Needs 21 Versions of “Purple Haze” trots out another collection of music-themed essays, this time as originally featured in the PopMatters.com column “Aural Fixation.” Essays take on the Grammys, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Glee, terrestrial radio, Tom Cruise, and the state of the music industry, often voicing a contrary opinion to the all-too-common laments of the typical music critic. Whitaker asserts that rock and roll isn’t dead, that pop music matters, and that best-of lists are a good thing. 146 pages. Published 2015.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

“Uptown Funk” landed 14th week at #1

Uptown Funk!

Mark Ronson with Bruno Mars

Writer(s): Jeff Bhasker, Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars, Mark Ronson (see lyrics here)

Released: November 10, 2014

First Charted: November 16, 2014

Peak: 114 US, 112 BA, 113 DG, 112 ST, 16 RR, 5 AC, 11 A40, 17 UK, 115 CN, 16 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 11.0 US, 3.0 UK, 20.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 5.0 radio, 5743.0 video, 1755.85 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Mark Ronson had released three albums under his name and landed four top ten hits in the UK. He’d never hit the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. as a solo artist, although he had produced hits such as Bruno Mars’ #1 “Locked Out of Heaven” (2012) and Amy Winehouse’s top-ten “Rehab” (2006), which won Grammys for Song and Record of the Year.

For his fourth solo album, Uptown Special, Ronson tapped Mars for lead vocals and landed not just the hit of his career, but one of the biggest #1 hits of all-time. On the Hot 100, only Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” (1995) spent more weeks at #1 (16). In Canada, only the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” (2009) spent more weeks at #1 (16). WK The song was one of only four to top the Hot 100 and the UK charts for at least seven weeks on both charts. The others were Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” (1991), Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” (1992), and Rihanna’s “Umbrella” (2007). SF The song also set a worldwide record for highest number of streams in one week (15 million). WK

The song grew out of a lick Mars and his band played on tour, but took over half a year to complete. SF They went with deliberately over-the-top lyrics, such as “gotta kiss myself I’m so pretty,” a line adapted from an interview with boxer Larry Holmes, who kissed his arms after saying how much he loved himself, and boxer Muhammad Ali, who boasted “I’m so pretty.” SF

Mars and Ronson co-wrote the song with Jeff Bhasker, with whom they’d also collaborated on “Locked Out of Heaven.” Bhasker had also produced Kanye West, Drake, and Alicia Keys. SF The song gave Mars his sixth #1 and eleventh top 5 hit on the Hot 100, passing Katy Perry and Rihanna (both with 10) for the most of the 2010s. WK The song also featured Sharon Jones’ Dap-Kings on horns. Ronson previously used the group on Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black and in his solo work.


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Last updated 7/24/2023.