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Tore Tom Denys: "Adriaen Willaert’s little-known St John Passion is his only surviving setting of the Passion of Christ. With this recording, I want to prove that a compositional innovation took place in the Renaissance that aimed to make the recitation of the Passion on Good Friday (which was then traditionally sung in unison, Gregorian chant) more musically interesting. The passion is composed in an innovatively polyphonic, but homo-rhythmical manner: every voice sings the same text at the same time. This way, the text remains very intelligible, and the listener is captivated by the way the story is presented."
All the “roles” that appear in his St John Passion are set in a polyphonic manner. The part of the Evangelist is worked out in four voices; Jesus in three voices; Pilatus, Ancilla, and Petrus in two voices; and the crowd (turba) in six voices. After the death of A. Willaert, this work has probably never been performed in its original form, as can be found in the part books (manuscripts, not printed).
The “simple” lean and listener-understandable way in which these passions were composed, could be a consequence of the recommendations and restrictions imposed on the composers by their superiors, who at the Council of Trente (1545–1563) were looking for solutions to make the liturgy more attractive. In this, music played a major role.