In honour of Mary’s Fiat on this Solemnity of the Annunciation, it is fitting we present Mary’s song of praise in two settings:
The first by one of the greatest of Church musicians, Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina, a master of counterpoint polyphony, of the ars perfecta, the most perfect art of music. Palestrina was contemporaneous with his spiritual director, Saint Philip Neri, who encouraged him in his musical talents, and we are all better for it. The great composer left 32 volumes of his work, each and every one of them of the highest quality.
In his 1903 motu proprio, Tra le Sollecitudini, promulgated on this feast, Pope Saint Pius X gave directions for music proper to the Liturgy, namely, Gregorian chant and polyphony, a teaching reiterated by the Second Vatican Council but, sadly, rarely put into effect, as we wallow in mediocrity, or worse.
But hope, dear reader, for the beauty is there, a gift from God, if we have but ears to hear, and a voice to sing. In honour of Our Lady, here is Palestrina’s glorious Magnificat in praise of the Mother of God:
And on this glorious Solemnity, here is J.S. Bach’s magnificent rendering of Our Lady’s song of praise, published in 1733, likely for this very feast, based on an earlier version in 1723. Lutherans had, and still have, a strong devotion to the Virgin Mary, even if their Mariology may now be askew. This beautiful piece is timeless, transcending categories, and is one of the composer’s most performed choral works. No wonder, yet wonder: