Sacred Sunday: “Officum Defunctorum & Missa Pro Defunctis,” Cristobal de Morales

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Some Tune-Up fans might think it a bit of a cop-out to post an entire body of work instead of a song – since this blog is devoted to providing you with the “song of the day” – but I just was incapable of pulling this piece apart.  It needs to be heard in its entirety; it’s just that gorgeous.  Those of you who are up on your Latin will know that these two bodies of work are funereal – “Officum Defunctorum” means the office of the dead (a cycle of prayers), and “Missa Pro Defunctis” is the mass for the dead.  Without knowing the titles and therefore purposes of these pieces, I wouldn’t have guessed they had anything to do with funerals, and that is one of the reasons I love them.  The harmonies are the other reason.  They are simple, accessible, and exquisite.

Cristobal de Morales is rightly considered one of the giants of the Spanish Renaissance, and really one of the great composers of the Renaissance in general.  He was born in Seville, Spain, around 1500 and died in 1553.  I cannot possibly overstate the importance of buying the Jordi Savall recording, if you’re inclined to get a copy of this for yourself.  It is superlative.

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