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Palestrina "Sanctus" - metrical issue - measure bars imply wrong meter?

(update, I changed the title of this post to "measure bars imply wrong meter" instead of "rhythm.")
 
Calling Renaissance experts - 
 
See these two examples:
 
 At the beginning of the work, it is easy to feel the piece in 4/4.
 
The first major cadence comes in m. 16 and then Palestrina seems (to me) to throw in an implied 3/4 metrical feel with the words "Dominus Deus Sabaoth."
 
Most recordings seem to keep it in 4/4 and accent the middle of "Dominus" instead of following the spoken meter of the word. (dohMEEnus vs. DOHmeenus)
 
See how the Cambridge singers do it:
 
My question - is it inappropriate to feel the triple figure, or is that the way it should be done and editors are obscuring Palestrina's metrical implications by adding barlines?
 
 
 
 
Replies (8): Threaded | Chronological
on August 29, 2013 3:51am
Always sing the correct syllabic stresses of the words no matter where they are placed, but keep in mind (in your chest?) the heartbeat of the music (which is, I think, in these two examples half notes). 
And, of course, ignore the barlines all the time!
Wonderful music!
Chris
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on August 29, 2013 6:46am
Chris,
 
Thanks for weighing in.  I was slightly bothered that every recording I heard seemed to ignore the metrical implication of "Dominus" and I began to second guess myself.  Also, I've not found an edited version of this work where I could check with someone else's thoughts on the matter.
 
In this particular work, I've got other questions about the raised tones and hoped to find a good edited version but it doesn't exist, I don't think.
on August 29, 2013 8:22am
Hi Philip. I don't think I've sung this particular Mass, though I'm yet to find one of his that I don't love. Some of them are quite tough on the voice, particularly for the tenors, and I'm happy when the group that Ryan mentions only sings Pap Marc every now and then - we do it one to a part and it is rather wearing on the vocal cords!
For me the problem is that too many conductors beat 4 in this repertoire - I think two slow beats per bar allows the director to show the 'heartbeat' of the music without getting in the way of the internal rhythms, but this does require a certain level of trust in the singers, who have to keep their own internal momentum and have the courage go for the correct verbal stresses even if they are in unexpected places!
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on August 29, 2013 4:50am
You have to remember that in Palestrina's time, bar lines were not used in the conventional sense, as is today.  For the most part, they were absent from music.  If there were any bar lines, they would only indicate the end of a textual phrase (Palestrina often applied this).  Thus, any edition of 'Sanctus' with bar lines would be strictly interpretation.

The sheet music on cpdl is pretty well edited.  The link is below.  I would suggest using this, and listening to recordings of Renaissance scholars, such as Peter Phillips and his "Tallis Scholars".  They would be the most accurate stylistically.

Enjoy.  Missa Papae Marcelli is one of my favorite works.
 
 
on August 29, 2013 6:41am
Ryan, thanks for the answewr - but this is the Sanctus from Palestrina's "Missa ut re me fa sol la."  They are similar!
on August 29, 2013 9:40am
As Chris says, always follow the syllabic stresses of the words, and yes, a triple feel is often exactly what is required.  The frequent shifting from triple to duple is one of the wonderful things about singing this music, and is also one of the main reason why some experience in chant is very very helpful.   
 
As another example of how barlines are not helpful:  In the example you quote (Pg 237), at bars 18-22, in the 2nd part from the top, all of the downbeats (beat 1) are unaccented.  Great stuff!  Enjoy!
Larry
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on August 29, 2013 11:24am
You're absolutely correct that Do-mi-nus is a grouping of three, and should be sung as a three note build-up to the strong emphasis on De-.   There are a few teachers who have conducting students/singers go through this music and mark every triple grouping so as to avoid a false emphasis which the bar-line invites.  This shows students that there really is no meter in the modern sense, only combinations of duple and triple patterns. 
I heard three different interpretations in the recording.
1. Do mi nus DE (strong weak weak strong; dance)
2. DO MI NUS DE (all accents as in one tenor entry; Fanfare)
3. do mI NUS DE! (gradual crescendo to half-note. Apex)
4/4 will get more of #2 and #3 if it #3 lines up on beats 2 3 4 1.  I'm curious if you prefer #1 or #3.
 With all due respect, the piece shouldn't be felt in 4/4, although its quite common for choral conductors to do so.  It's one of those 'lost in translation' situations.  16th century theorists write that the pulse is the breve, which equates to the whole note.  Most editors cut the values in half so that the breve corresponds to our half-note such as in your pics above.  Listening to the lovely recording, which is transcribed at original note values so breve = whole note, I was thinking how stunning that top line would sound just a little faster.  By conducting this repertoire in 4/4 one encourages all sorts of incorrect accents.  Plenty of conductors can demonstrate and describe a beautiful line in this repertoire and then conduct it in a manner which hinders that linear concept.  
Here's a relevant excerpt from Steven Plank's Choral performance: Guide to Historical Practice, which I highly recommend:
"Melodic contour will often confirm the naturalness of the triple pattern [in duple time]; text underlay--admittedly often a variable item, only loosely indicated in the sources--can also reinforce the concept.  The ease of seeing the patterns, too, is much enhanced by the absence of bar-lines (the visual image of the tactus).  Bar-lines tempt us to consider syncopation; their absence, on the other hand, allows the triple patterns to emerge with ease."
 
I'd caution against the above advice to "always sing the correct syllabic stress no matter where it falls in the rhythmic pattern" as this assumes a)there has always been one standard of correct syllabic stress and b)the composer in question knew of the standard.  (a-LE-lu-ia and a-le-LU-ia in the same piece, etc)  It is probably safe to say that Palestrina knew the most important syllable in every word but in his day the text underlay in sources is irregular or non-explicit.  My advice is to let the rhythm guide you to what the composer thinks is most important.  Look for how the rhythm serves the rhetoric of each line, and know that longer notes are generally given to important syllables or vice-versa. 
 
Here's Zarlino from 1558:
"adapt the words of the speech to the musical figures in such a way and with such rhythms that nothing barbarous is heard, not making short syllables long and long syllables short as is done every day in innumerable compositions, a truly shameful thing." 
 
Also, Peter Phillips is praiseworthy in many many ways, but his avoidance of the issue of musica ficta makes it hard for me to agree that he is a scholar.
I guess I'm grumpy that summer is over,
John
on August 29, 2013 2:58pm
I don't think Peter would describe himself as a scholar, though he is most certainly informed - we constantly change the ficta and Peter will usually chose something that he likes the sound of and Try to be consistent. There are worse sins!
As for the text, you are right but in Palestrina Masses there is not much obvious room for movement (unlike Josquin motets, for instance) and you should obviously never try to go against the composer's musical setting (Byrd and Monteverdi, for instance, often set spr-ri-Tu-i and Poulenc's Latin stresses are all over the place, possibly because French is a much more evenly stressed language than Italian?). But from a starting point learning the standard Italianate Latin stresses and applying them to most renaissance music isn't a bad idea!
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