Mass in 40 Parts

Album: Striggio 40 Part Mass (1566)
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  • Alessandro Striggio (1536 or 1537 - 1592) was a court composer to the Medici family in Florence. He composed numerous madrigals as well as dramatic music, and by combining the two, became the inventor of madrigal comedy.

    His Mass in 40 Parts was most likely composed in 1565/6, and carried by Striggio on a journey across Europe in late winter and spring 1567, for performances at Mantua, Munich and Paris. However after being mis-catalogued at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, it remained lost for four centuries until it was rediscovered by musicologist Davitt Moroney, and given its first modern performance at the BBC Proms on 17 July 2007 by the BBC Singers and The Tallis Scholars. The first commercial recording of the Mass, by the British group I Fagiolini, was released in March 2011 and made its debut at #68 on the pop charts the following week.
  • Striggio's mass was composed in 40 parts, and included a 60-voice setting of the final Agnus Dei. Most masses are written for four but Fagiolini's conductor and founder Robert Hollingworth told Reuters the Medicis liked to "make a big stink and money wasn't a problem." Musical events at the time included the use of elaborate special visual effects such as "cloud machines" on which performers descended to the stage, costumes and oil lamps - "and finally you would hear the music," said Hollingworth. "Music never existed in a vacuum, it was absolutely part of other things," he explained, adding that by writing a mass for 40 parts, Striggio would have hoped it would rise above the fray.


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