PALESTRINA: Missa Te Deum laudemus; Tu es Petrus; Missa Tu es Petrus; VICTORIA: Te Deum laudemus – Choir of Westminster Cathedral/ Martin Baker, conductor – Hyperion 67785, 77:49 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
Palestrina was of course born in Palestrina, in the Sabine hills near Rome in 1548. We all know the story of how his genius essentially ensured the survival and flourish of polyphony after the Council of Trent tried to put the squash on it. Pope Julius III admitted the composer to the prestigious Capella Sistina solely based on reputation and existing works, without being examined and despite the fact that he was married. Te Deum laudemus is found in his ninth book of masses (Venice 1599), a fiery work that is haunted and certainly colored by its Phrygian modal expression. It is a paraphrase mass (based on an existing chant) and gets some material from the chant.
The Tu es Petrus is given here both in mass form and as a short motet. The latter is a sprightly work, passing the text through all of the voices in order to create an antiphonal effect and lend to the piece a particularly joyous tone. The mass itself also borrows from this example, but as a “parody” work it is mainly drawn from the composer’s own motet to Sts. Peter and Paul, and much more extensive in its complex linear figures and fugal episodes. The piece is startlingly effective in its buoyancy and vibrant tonal impression.
The Victoria piece is a Te Deum proper, a hymn of thanksgiving whose origin is certainly ancient, nostalgically fitting the legend of it being extemporaneously composed when St. Ambrose baptized St. Augustine. It has been used as a Sunday celebratory piece and a popular processional as well, though written examples of the chant are hard to come by and usually taken from medieval sources. Victoria here uses only the even-numbered verses for his basically homophonic choral utterances, brightly done in a major tone.
Baker and forces are up to the challenges of this music, and as especially the Palestrina Missa Tu es Petrus has not been recorded that much, this excellent rendition becomes somewhat urgent.
— Steven Ritter