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Hyperion Records

CDH55452 - Victoria: Missa Dum complerentur & other sacred music
Adoration of the Child by Filippo Lippi (c1406-1469)
(Originally issued on CDA66886)

Recording details: March 1996
St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: September 2011
Total duration: 68 minutes 27 seconds


'Once again, this is a superb and compelling disc that adds to our knowledge and appreciation of Victoria's art' (Gramophone)

'The greatest Spanish Renaissance composer is in the blood of this splendid choir—it's hard to imagine any group doing him greater justice. A very welcome addition to the catalogue' (Classic CD)

'If your opportunity of hearing a first-rate choir sing this music in its liturgical context is limited, then listening to these splendid performances is the next best thing, and this is certainly a disc to treasure. It would be worth it for the soaring 'Amens' of the Credo alone!' (Organists' Review)

'Maravillémonos de este nuevo monográfico de Victoria del mejor coro con niños del mundo' (CD Compact, Spain)

Missa Dum complerentur & other sacred music
Kyrie  [3'35] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [6'47] LatinEnglish
Credo  [8'53] LatinEnglish

Tomás Luis de Victoria was the greatest composer of the Spanish sixteenth-century 'golden age' of polyphonic music. This recording is of the six-voice Missa Dum complerentur, the five-part motet on which the Mass is based, and six further hymns and sequences including the great Popule meus, a setting of the Improperia (Reproaches) which form the heart of the liturgy for Good Friday.

This is music of compelling beauty, which illustrates well Victoria's extraordinary capacity to create through simple homophony extremely moving music of great expressiveness.

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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Tomás Luis de Victoria, the greatest composer of the Spanish sixteenth-century ‘golden age’ of polyphonic music, was born in Avila in 1548 and in about 1558 became a choirboy in Avila Cathedral, where he received his earliest musical training. When his voice broke he was sent to the Collegium Germanicum at Rome where he was enrolled as a student in 1565. He was to spend the next twenty years in Rome and he occupied a number of posts there of which the most important were at S. Maria di Monserrato, the Collegium Germanicum, the Roman Seminary (where he succeeded Palestrina as Maestro di Cappella in 1571) and S. Apollinare. In 1575 he took holy orders and three years later was admitted to the chaplaincy at S. Girolamo della Carità. Around 1587 he left Italy and in that year took up an appointment as chaplain to the dowager Empress María at the Royal Convent for Barefoot Clarist Nuns, where he acted as maestro to the choir of priests and boys.

Victoria’s musical output was relatively small compared with other major Renaissance composers such as Palestrina (who published five times as much music) and Lassus (who published even more), and he published no secular music. The music he did publish, however, generally shows a very high level of inspiration and musical craftsmanship and it is clear, from the constant revisions he made to successive editions of his works that appeared during his lifetime and from some of his comments in prefaces to his works, that he adopted a highly critical attitude to what he wrote. In the dedication to Pope Gregory XIII of his 1581 volume of Hymni totius anni, he speaks of music being an art to which he was instinctively drawn, and to the perfection of which he had devoted long years of study, with the help and encouragement of others of critical judgment: ‘ad quae naturali quodam feror instinctu, multos iam annos, et quidem, ut ex aliorum iudicio mihi videor intelligere, non infeliciter, versor, et elaboraro’.

Victoria’s style shows the influence of earlier masters in the Spanish school and also that of his long stay in Rome, where it is likely that he had considerable contact with Palestrina. From 1566 to 1571, during the period when Victoria was studying at the Collegium Germanicum, Palestrina’s sons, Angelo and Rudolfo, were students at the neighbouring Roman Seminary. Casimiri has suggested that this may have resulted in Victoria having direct contacts with the older Roman master, at that time acting as Maestro di Cappella of the Roman Seminary, even before Victoria took over that post from him in 1571. Be that as it may, Victoria certainly shares with Palestrina a liking for smooth conjoint melodic lines and carefully worked double counterpoint, but his music contains (even after making allowances for changing conventions about the use of musica ficta) more accidentals and a subtle use of harmonic coloration which sets it apart from that of any of his near contemporaries and gives it that quality of passionate intensity for which it is so justly renowned.

Veni Sancte Spiritus is the sequence at Mass on Whit Sunday. The sequence originated as a form of chant, usually fairly extensive in length as well as range, which was interpolated into the liturgy after the Gradual and the Alleluia. Although the earliest versions were in prose (hence, perhaps, the alternative name of ‘prosa’), it later developed as a type of rhyming verse. Special melodies, outside the scope of the traditional plainsong, were composed for them and the texts were often associated with particular events in the church year so that in medieval times they became in effect an addition to the proper of the Mass. There was a great literary and musical flowering of the form in the period from about 850 to 1000. The tradition of polyphonic setting of sequences began in this period with simple organum versions and continued through to the Renaissance period. After the Council of Trent (1545–1563), which abolished nearly all the body of sequences that had by then grown up, only five sequences, none of them from the early repertory, were retained in the liturgy: the ‘Dies irae’ for the Mass of the Dead; ‘Lauda Sion’ for Corpus Christi; the ‘Stabat mater’ for the Feast of the Seven Dolours; ‘Veni Sancte Spiritus’ for Whit Sunday and Whitsun Week; and ‘Victimae Paschali’ for Easter and Easter Week.

Victoria’s double-choir setting of ‘Veni Sancte Spiritus’ is included in a mixed collection of his Masses, Magnificats, Psalms and other pieces published in Madrid by Ioannes Flandrum in 1600. The setting leaves out verses 4, 6 and 8 and the final Alleluia of the full text of the sequence and the way the music is written precludes the insertion of these verses as plainsong interpolations into the polyphony. The music begins slowly, with solemn imitative entries of a theme loosely based on the opening phrase of the plainsong, but soon blossoms into more homophonic antiphonal exchanges between the two choirs and breaks into triple time at the words ‘Consolator optime’. After a brief passage in full eight-part harmony, the music returns to antiphonal exchanges between the two choirs until, at the words ‘Da perenne gaudium’, both choirs join in a final eight-part section of impressive beauty and sonority.

The Feast of Pentecost (in Greek, ‘the fiftieth day’) was originally a Jewish feast, falling on the fiftieth day after the Passover, when the first fruits of the corn harvest were presented. With the descent of the Holy Ghost onto the Apostles on this day the Christian Church adopted this feast, now popularly known as Whitsun, for a celebration of that event. The text Dum complerentur comes from the First Responsory at Matins on Whit Sunday and is based on the account in Acts 2: 1–2 of the descent of the Holy Ghost. Victoria’s five-part setting was included in his first book of motets, published in Venice in 1572, and was subsequently reissued in a number of other editions by various publishers. The motet opens with a rich web of imitative entries, breaking suddenly into homophony at the words ‘omnes pariter’ (‘all with one accord’). This is followed by a short set of Alleluias, cut short by several repetitions of the words ‘Et subito’. Another, faster moving Alleluia follows, with two strongly homophonic triple-rhythm statements of the phrase ‘Tamquam spiritus vehementis’, and the first part of the motet concludes with a wonderful set of pealing polyphonic Alleluias. The second half opens with a series of finely wrought imitative entries in double counterpoint but soon breaks into homophony at the words ‘unum discipuli’; following this is a set of running entries representing the ‘sound from heaven as of a mighty rushing wind’. The motet concludes with a restatement of the second half of the first part, ending with the same exhilarating set of Alleluias, this time with the soprano parts exchanged.

Victoria’s Missa Dum complerentur is a six-part parody Mass based on his five-part motet of the same title. It was published in his first book of Masses in Venice in 1576 by Angelo Gardane and later in Rome in 1583 by Angelo’s brother Alessandro in a second book of Masses. The Mass contains much new material but makes considerable use of the opening counterpoints of the motet, and the pealing Alleluias which conclude the motet appear and are elaborated upon in the Amens of the Gloria and Credo. The Mass text does not present the same opportunities for word-painting that Victoria seizes on so effectively in the homophonic passages of the motet, but he uses the extra voice to create a six-part texture of great richness and harmonic variety and also adds an extra part, as was often done in Masses of the period, for the second Agnus Dei, enabling him to bring the work to a close with music of great spaciousness and sonority perfectly fitting the final appeal, ‘dona nobis pacem’.

Among the more striking and moving parts of the extensive Roman liturgy for Holy Week are the Improperia, or Reproaches. These come from the liturgy for Good Friday and are the words addressed by the crucified Saviour to his people. They are chanted by two choirs during the Veneration of the Cross and comprise twelve verses which contrast Divine compassion towards the chosen people with the sufferings inflicted on Christ during his Passion. In the full rite the first verse is preceded by the refrain Popule meus and each of the three verses is followed by the Trisagion (in Greek, ‘thrice holy’), a refrain chanted first in Greek and then in Latin, and the remaining nine by the refrain ‘Popule meus, quid feci tibi?’, etc. This rite has an ancient history, parts of it being traceable back to the seventh century. As part of his sumptuous volume of Holy Week music, the Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae published in Rome by Alessandro Gardane in 1585, Victoria provides a simple four-part setting of these two refrains in music of compelling beauty, which illustrates well his extraordinary capacity to create through simple homophony extremely moving music of great expressiveness. In this recording the choir performs the first section of this extremely extended rite up to the second statement of the Trisagion refrain.

Vexilla regis is a hymn written by Venantius Fortunatus (c530–c610), a Latin poet and later Bishop of Poitiers, which celebrates the mystery of Christ triumphant on the Cross. In the Liber Usualis (the book codifying the modern Roman Rite up to the major revisions introduced after the Second Vatican Council in 1962–1965) it is prescribed to be sung at Vespers on Passion Sunday and, in the Antiphonale Monasticum (a similar book codifying some of the rather fuller monastic rite), also at Vespers on the Finding of the Holy Cross (3 May) and at Vespers on the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (14 September). It also appears in the English Hymnal as the Passiontide hymn ‘The royal banners forward go’. Victoria provided, in the Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae at the end of his music for Matins on Holy Saturday, an alternatim setting of the hymn, but both the words and the chant of this setting of the hymn differ from those found in the Liber Usualis and the English Hymnal. In the original print the hymn is described as ‘Vexilla Regis, More Hispano’, indicating that it is based on Spanish plainsong; and the words, with one small difference are those found in the Antiphonale Monasticum. One other singularity of Victoria’s setting is that, although it provides written-out chant for all the other odd-numbered verses, it does not do so for verse five: whether this omission was deliberate or accidental is not clear. In Victoria’s setting the plainsong is used as a cantus firmus in the tenor part at first and later in the soprano, where it soars above the polyphonic texture created by the other voices. The final verse is set for six voices to music of sublime serenity which strongly recalls the style of writing in his last musical utterance, the six-part Requiem of 1605. It is perhaps significant that the words of the last verse of the hymn (‘Te summa Deus Trinitas, Collaudat omnis spiritus: Quos per crucis mysterium, Salvas rege per saecula. Amen’) are printed after the word ‘Finis’ at the end of the print of the Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae.

Veni Creator Spiritus is a hymn prescribed for second Vespers on Whit Sunday, but often used apart from this at the ordination of priests and bishops. The hymn is of considerable antiquity and is thought to have been composed in the ninth century, probably by Rabanus Maurus, Abbot of Fulda and Archbishop of Mainz. It was included in a comprehensive collection of Victoria’s hymn settings covering the whole church year which was published in Rome in 1581 by Francisco Zanetti. Victoria’s four-part alternatim setting begins with the plainsong melody, which will be familiar to those who know the Whitsun Hymn ‘Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire’ from the English Hymnal. Victoria uses all seven verses of the hymn and, once again, the plainsong is employed in the polyphonic sections as a cantus firmus moving from part to part and sometimes augmented or lightly ornamented.

Pange lingua gloriosi is a Corpus Christi hymn written by St Thomas Aquinas who died in 1274. In the Liber Usualis it is prescribed as a processional hymn at Mass on the Feast of Corpus Christi and it appears in the English Hymnal as a communion hymn. Victoria’s four-part alternatim setting, also part of the 1581 collection, makes use of all six verses of the hymn, with the plainsong again being utilized as a cantus firmus in the tenor and then the soprano parts. The last verse, unusually, breaks into a lively triple time and ends with a beautifully ornamented Amen.

Lauda Sion salvatorem is the sequence, composed by St Thomas Aquinas, for the Feast of Corpus Christi. As explained above, it is one of only five sequences which survived the weeding out of the Council of Trent. In the Roman liturgy it is sung at Mass on this Feast Day and survives in the Anglican liturgy as a communion hymn. Victoria’s brilliant eight-part setting was published first in 1585 in Rome by Alessandro Gardane and subsequently in 1600 in Madrid by Ioannes Flandrum. Victoria sets verses 1, 2, 5, 12 and 23 of Aquinas’s twenty-four-verse poem in constant antiphonal exchanges between two equal-voiced choirs. The music begins quietly with the first choir presenting the opening phrase of the plainsong in the soprano line, but soon the second choir intervenes with a lovely falling third in the top part at the words ‘Lauda ducem’, and there follows a rapid series of exchanges illustrating the words ‘In hymnis et canticis’. The second verse of the hymn is set to the same music as the first. The next section, beginning with the words ‘Sit laus plena’, sets verses 5 and 12 of the text to music of almost madrigalian lightness and vivacity with much exciting rapid movement and syncopation. This leads to a setting of verse 23 of the poem, which opens in a gentle swinging triple time and concludes, at the words ‘In terra viventium’, with an extended final section in full eight-part harmony of great energy and sonorousness.

Jon Dixon © 1996

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