I'm going to kick off this off with one of my absolute favourite pieces of music.Stabat Mater by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c.1525-1594)
Palestrina was born in a small town near Rome (called Palestrina) sometime around 1525 or 1526. Like many composers of his time, his exact birth date is still somewhat of a mystery. He was an Italian composer of the late Renaissance and is sometimes credited with saving polyphonic music (polyphonic means "many voiced") from being banned from the Catholic Church by the Council of Trent. It's a romantic notion, but alas no solid evidence of this has been shown.
Suffice it to say, the beauty and clarity of his polyphony has survived the ages. Johann Fux, an Austrian composer and contemporary of Bach, codified and created the "rules" of such polyphony and for many centuries, students have studied the works of Palestrina to gain a better understanding of that perfectly serene, perfectly clear music he wrote.
The Stabat Mater Dolorosa ("The sorrowful mother stood") is a hymn about the sorrows of Mary.
I was introduced to it (my first exposure to Palestrina) when I was a freshman in college. The choir I was in was singing a piece from the Renaissance and the conductor played it as an example of Renaissance-style singing (the beauty of no vibrato!). I was instantly in love with the work and asked the conductor to make me a copy of the recording (on cassette tape back in the early 1990s!). I listened to it a lot throughout my college years.
Many years later, I was determined to find it on CD. I knew who the work was by. I knew the name of the work. But I couldn't find THE recording. I found many other ones, but none had the spark this particular recording did. What was so different? Ornamentation. Most performances of Palestrina's works are entirely without ornamentation, but some musicologists believe that, like other music of the era, not everything sung was written into the music. Andrew Parrott and Tarverner Choir put out a recording that included ornamentation.
It is, by far, my favourite recording of the work. Lucky for all of you, someone has uploaded this fantastic version to youtube!