The Renaissance period produced a whole host of creative individuals who collectively brought about the end of the so-called Dark Ages and the birth of the modern world. From philosphers, politicians and early scientists to artists, writers and musicians, many "Renaissance men" as they are known were skilled in more than one of these fields.
In the world of music, composers in Europe flourished under royal patronage. In Spain Tomás Luis de Victoria became an important composer of the Counter-Reformation, but he was also a talented organist and singer. He devoted himself exclusively to sacred music in a style that reflects his intricate personality. He was often known as the "Spanish Palestrina" after his contemporary, the great composer Giovanni da Palestrina who was working in a similar vein in Italy. As the foremost representative of the Roman school of composition, Palestrina had a lasting influence on the development of church music. Supposedly he composed his Missa Papae Marcelli (Pope Marcellus Mass) in order to persuade the Council of Trent that a draconian ban on the polyphonic treatment of text in sacred music was unnecessary. A little later in the period came another Roman school composer, Gregorio Allegri, who was also a singer and priest. His most celebrated composition is by far the Miserere mei, Deus, written for two choirs.
Enjoy Allegri's Miserere, and choral works by both Tomás Luis de Victoria and Giovanni da Palestrina on this album of Mass Pieces by Renaissance composers and admire the achievements of these men some 500 years ago.
Find out more about the legendary Miserere by Allegri in our special article about the Sistine Chapel.