Giovanni P. da Palestrina • Hodie Christus natus est

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina’s Hodie Christus natus est is one of my favorite Christmas motets. It is written for double choir, with two superius, altus and bassus in the first choir and altus, two tenors and bassus in the second choir, which gives this motet a quite interesting sound in terms of texture. It was published in the third book of motets, printed in Venice in 1575.

The text is taken from the antiphon ad Magnificat at Second Vespers for Christmas Day with Palestrina adding repeatedly the word “noe”, which appears several times between the original text.

This is a very rich motet in terms of creating contrasts: it starts with the use of an uncommon combination of voices in both choirs, creating “high” and “low” sonority choirs. Palestrina also creates contrast in the different sections by using slow rhythm figures in several passages – a sort of solemn attitude towards the celebration of the birth of Jesus – suddenly moving towards the use of rapid antiphonal exchanges between the two choirs, which are clearly present at the “noe” sections.

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