Music for Palm Sunday — April 2, 2023

Christus factus est – Felice Anerio (c. 1560-1614)

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In the classical Roman rite, the text from Philippians 2:8-9, also part of today’s Epistle, was sung as the Gradual at Mass on Maundy Thursday. [The name ‘Gradual’ comes from the fact that a soloist originally chanted the psalm (today’s text, unusually, is not from the psalms) from an elevated place, the step (gradus) of the ambo where the subdeacon had just read the Epistle.] However, since the promulgation of the novus ordo by Pope Paul VI in 1969, it has instead been employed as the Gradual at Mass on Palm Sunday.

Like his younger brother Giovanni, Felice Anerio (c. 1560-1614) was a composer and priest whose sacred music follows closely in the tradition of Palestrina. Born in Rome, he sang as a boy in the choir of S. Maria Maggiore, and then in the papal Cappella Giulia under Palestrina. On the death of the latter in 1594 he was appointed composer to the papal choir, for which he wrote masses, motets, and other polyphonic music. Christus factus est, this morning’s communion motet and perhaps his best-known piece, does not appear in any of the volumes of his work published in his lifetime; the earliest extant source dates from 1840, and all others derive from it. The chromatic harmonic touches may have been added by the nineteenth-century editor; if not, it shows an influence of early baroque madrigal style not found in Palestrina.

Christ became obedient for us
even unto death,
even the death of the cross.
Therefore God also has exalted him,
and given him a name
which is above every name.

Gerald Harder