Surge Illuminare – This luminous a cappella work has soaring melodic lines, rich harmonies, and beautiful text painting. The text (Arise shine . . . And the Glory of the Lord is risen upon you) best known its setting in Handel’s Messiah.. With a stunning recording by Tenebrae Choir, conducted by Nigel Short, this work is a favorite with singers and listeners alike.
Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem,
quia venit lumen tuum,
et gloria Domini super te orta est.
Quia ecce tenebrae operient terram
et caligo populos.
Super te autem orietur Dominus
et gloria eius in te videbitur.
Arise, shine O Jerusalem;
for thy light is come,
and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.
For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
and gross darkness the people:
but the Lord shall arise upon thee,
and his glory shall be seen upon thee.
Palestrina also set a version for choir:
Palestrina’s impressive double-choir antiphonal motet, Surge, illuminareJerusalem, was composed in 1575 for the Feast of the Epiph- any. Unlike the opening upward interval in Corteccia’s setting of the same text, Palestrina embodies “Surge” (“Arise!”) with ascending scales, instantly creating a mood of excited anticipation. Differentiating double-choir music from eight-voice polyphony, Palestrina uses blocks of sound to seamlessly blend strict polyphony (as at the onset of the piece) with homophony (at the words “et gloria Domini”).
Palestrina’s skill with which he uses this seamless flow is perfectly exemplified at the text “et gloria eius,” which he first sets in alternating choirs, then all eight voices melding into a final contrapuntal flourish. This technique, as with so much of Palestrina’s music, came to define the double-choir style in the late 16th century.