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Hyperion Records

GIMBX304 - Victoria: The Victoria Collection
GIMBX304

Various recording venues
Produced by Steve C Smith & Peter Phillips
Engineered by Various engineers
Release date: February 2011
Total duration: 176 minutes 19 seconds

The Victoria Collection
The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips (conductor) 3CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only  
Requiem
CD1
CD2
CD3

Released to celebrate the 400th Anniversary of Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), this specially-priced set contains The Tallis Scholars' original releases of Victoria's three most important works, the Requiem, the Lamentations and the Tenebrae Responsories.

The original CDs are still available separately.


Other recommended albums
'Victoria: Requiem' (CDGIM012)
Victoria: Requiem
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM012 
'Victoria: Lamentations of Jeremiah' (CDGIM043)
Victoria: Lamentations of Jeremiah
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM043  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'Victoria: Tenebrae Responsories' (CDGIM022)
Victoria: Tenebrae Responsories
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM022 

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Requiem
Victoria’s Requiem Mass (as we now call it) has for many decades and for many people typified Spanish Renaissance music. Its mystical intensity of expression, achieved by the simplest musical means, obviously sets it apart from contemporary English and Italian music, and has led to comparisons of it with the equally intense religious paintings of Velázquez and El Greco. There is no doubt that this masterpiece conveys much of the highly individual Spanish view of religion and death, and this is the more valuable since their vision is largely unfamiliar outside Spain herself.

In fact Victoria was just one of a very substantial school of Spanish Renaissance composers; and one of the least prolific among them. Many of these deserve to be considered along with Victoria, though none wrote a Mass quite as mature as this. One possible reason for their collective lack of fame is that they travelled very little, unless it were to the New World, unlike their Netherlandish contemporaries. Victoria was lucky in this respect. Having been born in Avila in 1548 and brought up there in the tradition of Morales, Espinar and Ribera, he went to Rome, probably in 1565, to study at the Jesuit Collegio Germanico. Once there he must surely have met Palestrina, and was possibly taught by him. The subtleties of Palestrina’s polyphonic idiom are regularly to be found in Victoria’s music, unlike that of his Spanish contemporaries, and it gave him an extra dimension of technique when it suited him. In fact, in this Requiem there is very little imitative polyphony and the lack of it allows its Spanish flavour to speak all the more strongly. Victoria stayed in Rome until 1587 at the latest, by which time he had been ordained priest (by Bishop Thomas Goldwell, the last surviving member of the pre-Reformation English Catholic hierarchy in Rome) and had published several anthologies of his work. By the end of his life he had succeeded in publishing just about his entire output in eleven sets, most in luxurious format – a great deal more than Palestrina ever did. This six-part Requiem appeared by itself in 1605 and was the last of the series.

From 1587 until his death in 1611 Victoria was employed in Madrid, initially as chaplain to the sister of Philip II: the Dowager Empress Maria, daughter of Charles V, wife of Maximilian II and mother of two emperors. It was for her funeral in 1603 that this Requiem was written. After her death Victoria became organist to the convent where the Empress had lived. Since he was by profession almost as much a priest as a musician, it will be understood why Victoria only wrote sacred music, though it should not be assumed that it is all sombre. By his contemporaries Victoria was held to be an essentially joyful composer and there are many motets to prove this, some of them in polychoral style. In addition much of his music has quite strongly madrigalian features, with liberal use of accidentals, diminished intervals, and word-painting (witness the rising scales on ‘surge’ in the motet Nigra sum sed formosa).

This recording of the six-part Requiem follows the edition prepared by Bruno Turner, published by Mapa Mundi. In his preface to this edition Mr Turner explains that the 1605 print of the music carried some extra motets and liturgical items, as was customary at that time, which would have been added in performance to the Missa pro defunctis proper. These were the four-part Taedet animam meam (the second lesson of Matins of the Dead), which has been moved to the very beginning to serve as a simple introduction; the motet Versa est in luctum, which may well have been sung as the dignitaries and clergy assembled at the catafalque before the Absolution; and the Absolution itself, for which Victoria wrote the full Responsorium, ‘Libera me, Domine’, with its final ‘Kyrie eleison’. The only peculiarity of this print is the omission of a setting of the usual verse ‘Hostias et preces’ and the consequent repeat of ‘Quam olim Abrahae’ in the Offertorium. Although it may be possible to find a suitable chant setting of these words, and thus satisfy full liturgical demands, it is not musically convincing to do so and these words are omitted here.

All the music of this setting, except the initial Taedet animam meam, is scored for SSATTB. The second soprano part unusually carries the cantus firmus, though it very often disappears into the surrounding part-writing since the chant does not move as slowly as most cantus firmus parts and the polyphony does not generally move very fast. Victoria himself printed most of the unaccompanied chant incipits, though the editor has provided the short second ‘Agnus Dei’ and the final ‘Requiescant in pace’. This scoring also holds true for Alonso Lobo’s beautiful setting of Versa est in luctum, which was written for the funeral of Philip II of Spain, the brother of the recipient of Victoria’s own setting. Lobo (1555–1617) was widely held to be the finest composer in Spain during his lifetime, and there is evidence that Victoria thought so too.

Lamentations
The Spanishness of Spanish polyphony is often invoked. There is an impression that in their worship the Spanish have a fierceness, coupled to a mysticism, which sets them apart. This way of thinking was current a long time ago: Michelangelo, when asked by the Florentine painter Pontormo how he could best please a Spanish patron, replied that he should ‘show much blood and nails’. Such rawness has readily been attributed to their music, too.

My experience is that only Victoria’s music has quite this special intensity of feeling to it, and then only in his six-voice Requiem and music for Holy Week. But it is this intensity, in the end, which makes him so distinctive, not only in the wider European context but also amongst his compatriots. Of all the great High Renaissance composers, Victoria’s writing can have the most immediately identifiable atmosphere. And in the purely Spanish context his greatest achievements cannot easily be confused with those of Lobo, Guerrero, Vivanco, de las Infantas, Esquivel, Navarro, even Morales, though the works of these men may be confused with each other. The question is how he achieved this unique atmosphere.

The irony is that Victoria, like Morales before him, spent many of his formative years (from 1565 to about 1587) in Rome studying the international style which the Flemish had brought there, and which Palestrina was in the process of bringing to new heights of perfection just at that time. In general his compositions from this period do not show anything very unusual – for example his wonderfully sonorous six-voice motets often sound like very good Palestrina. The opening of his Vidi speciosam is so like the opening of the older master’s Tu es Petrus as to seem like a deliberate act of homage. They both set Dum complerentur in a similar idiom. Yet the story of the Lamentations is suggestive: they were finally published in 1585, right at the end of Victoria’s time in Rome; but there is an earlier manuscript copy of them in the Sistine Chapel Library (I-Rvat 186) which contains them in an earlier version. In this they are longer, less carefully organized harmonically, and less poignant in their setting of the texts. Before he allowed them to be published, Victoria had carefully revised every phrase. His ‘Spanish’ style was worked out in Rome.

The 1585 publication, known as the Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae, included all Victoria’s music for Holy Week: these nine Lamentations, the eighteen Responsories, two Passions and a number of other pieces. It is all of a plangent austerity which, when put alongside his six-voice Requiem of 1605, has long been held to represent Victoria and his Spanishness at its most typical and best. In fact it is only part of the story, since even when he had returned to Spain to become a priest (by 1587 at the latest) he wrote music in other idioms – including one of the most outward-going compositions of the period, the Missa Pro Victoria, based on battle noises – which was just as typical of him and perhaps Spain. But the style of the Holy Week music is particularly telling, almost defying analysis. For example much of it is not properly polyphonic. The underlying harmony is still as simple as it always was in sixteenth-century music, yet seems to have gained a new tension in the way Victoria used it. And the melodies that come from it are elemental, wrapped round the words, striding up and down with incredible purpose. There is not a note wasted – and yet this is still art music, not pared down for congregational use. Victoria had achieved his own match of function and expressivity.

Since the Holy Week services were the most dramatic and darkest in the Church’s year, Victoria’s expressivity was given full range. The nine Lamentations were composed for the first Nocturn at Matins on the Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this seminal week, three for each service. The famous Responsories were written for the second and third Nocturns of each service. Each of these three services had three Nocturns in which three Lessons and three Responses were interwined. For some reason, possibly because there would simply have been too much music, Victoria set the Lessons (the Lamentations) for the first Nocturn and the Responses for the second and third Nocturns, but not both.

Victoria clearly intended his nine Laments to be heard as an overall musical experience which, however effective across three days of liturgy, makes them ideal for a recording. As they proceed the number of voices gradually increases, with the final ‘Jerusalem’ section always expanding the scoring, so that there is a crescendo not only within each Lament but within each set of three, and then over the nine. Most of the nine start with a four-voice section, normally leading to a five-voice ‘Jerusalem’. However the third Lament on both Thursday and Friday starts in five and ends in six; and the third Lament on Saturday starts in six and ends in eight. A feature of this process is that the amount of counterpoint does not increase, so Victoria’s chords simply become more monumental. By the time we reach the eight-voice section, which is partly for double choir, the effect is deeply impressive.

The ‘Jerusalems’ are a culmination of every section and sub-section, with the slightly unusual detail that in some of the Laments (but not all) Victoria has set these words twice, the second version scored for more voices than the first. Arguably they should not both be sung, but since there is no firm evidence as to why the composer provided two, we decided not to leave anything out. I also specifically asked the singers to produce a more forthright tone for the body of the text – where the prophet complains so bitterly about the fate of the holy city – as compared with the ‘Incipits’, the Hebrew letters and the ‘Jerusalems’ themselves.

Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (c.1590–1664) is the best-known representative of the Spanish school of composers in Mexico. Born in Málaga, he was employed as a church musician firstly in Jerez de la Frontera and then in Cádiz before moving to New Spain no later than the autumn of 1622. On 11 October he was named cantor and assistant Maestro at Puebla Cathedral with an annual salary of 500 pesos, at a time when this Cathedral boasted a musical establishment on a par with the best in Europe. In 1629 Padilla became Maestro de Capilla, a post he retained until his death. His six-voice setting of the Lamentations is one of his finest achievements, employing an impassioned musical language which is spiced up with the augmented intervals beloved of every Iberian composer of note in the early seventeenth century, Portuguese as much as Spanish. The reduced-voice section at ‘Ghimel’, followed by the verse ‘Migravit Judas’, is a classic case of this. I have never elsewhere come across the astonishing harmonic move he makes at ‘inter gentes’. The fact that this set is scored for SSATTB points to the influence of Victoria and other Spaniards, who tended to favour this line-up in six parts. Victoria’s seminal setting of the Requiem is scored like this. Quite why it was thought appropriate to use such a potentially bright sound for Requiems and Laments is one of the many mysteries of the Spanish school.

Tenebrae Responsories
The Tenebrae Responsories, along with the six-voice Requiem, are responsible for setting the modern impression of Victoria as a composer. The introverted, spiritually intense mood of both these masterpieces has appealed to modern ears, promoting the almost indelible association between Victoria, St Teresa (who, like Victoria, was born in Avila), Velazquez and El Greco. Although Victoria was capable of other moods, shown for instance in his ‘battle’ Mass Pro victoria, the joyful double-choir Psalm-settings and settings of the sensuous love poetry of the Song of Songs texts, the Responsories encapsulate something uniquely valuable in his art. This has much to do with an extreme simplicity and directness of style.

The publication which contains these eighteen Responsories first appeared in Rome in 1585 under the official title, as it then was, of Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae. It consists of considerably more than the Responsories, since Victoria set not only the nine Lessons from the Lamentations of Jeremiah the Prophet but hymns, motets, the Reproaches, the two sets of Passion choruses and other music from Palm Sunday to Holy Saturday. Taken together, these pieces represent the most complete cycle of music for Holy Week by any leading Renaissance composer. Gesualdo set all the Responsories (at considerably greater length than Victoria), but none of the Lamentations. Lassus set the same Responsories and the nine Lamentations, and Palestrina composed five sets of Lamentations but no Responsories. It is interesting to observe that settings of the Lamentations have received more concert performances than have settings of the Responsory texts. This must have something to do with the strict liturgical structure of the latter and the resulting impression that a concert is not quite the right place for them. They are well represented in recordings, however, where one may listen to them as they were intended to be heard, in three separate groups, one each for Thursday, Friday and Saturday of Holy Week.

Originally, on these seminal days of the Church’s year, the Responsories were sung early in the morning during Matins which was followed by Lauds. Later, these Offices together became called Tenebrae and were performed during the evening of the preceding day. In this service, the only light in the church came from a triangular stand holding fifteen candles (representing the eleven faithful apostles, the three Marys, and Christ), and from six candles on the altar. As each Psalm was chanted, a candle was extinguished, so that after the fourteenth Psalm only the highest candle (which represented Christ) was still burning. During the concluding recitation (the Canticle of Zachary) the six candles on the altar were also put out one by one until, as the Office of Lauds drew to a close, the only candle which was still burning was concealed behind the altar; thus the church was left in tenebris – in darkness. The rite symbolized both the darkness which covered the earth as Christ was crucified (as described in ‘Tenebrae factae sunt, dum crucifixissent Jesum Judaei’—‘There was darkness when the Jews crucified Jesus’—and ‘Recessit pastor noster, fons aquae vivae, ad cuius transitum sol obscuratus est’—‘Our shepherd, the fount of living water, is gone. At his passing the sun grew dark’), and his burial. After the closing prayers the worshippers made a certain amount of noise to represent nature in turmoil at the death of Christ. Once the noise had died away, the remaining candle was brought out from behind the altar (a sign of the resurrection), returned to the stand and extinguished.

The Tenebrae Matins was divided, on each day, into three Nocturns, each of which required the singing or reciting of three Lessons alternated with three Responsories. The Lessons for the First Nocturn on each day are from the Lamentations. Victoria set these but not the Responsories. In the Second and Third Nocturns of each day Victoria did the opposite and set the Responsories, leaving the Lessons to be chanted by a deacon. Since Victoria wrote the music to adorn the Liturgy, he kept strictly to the repeats prescribed by tradition, which this recording preserves: a repetition of the second section of the opening four-part music after the reduced-voice passage, giving a kind of da capo shape: ABCB. This happens in all eighteen pieces. In addition, in the third of each set, the opening section is repeated again at the end: ABCBAB. In this scheme the A and B passages are invariably scored for four voices, while section C is always for fewer voice-parts, and sung by soloists. The detail of the scoring shows how carefully Victoria kept to a plan. The first and third of each group of three Responsories are set for SATB, the second for SSAT (we do not follow the unauthorized modern habit of singing some of these with men’s voices only). The reduced-voice passages are scarcely less ordered, all being for three voices, except the first one which is a duet. In almost every case the solo group in the first Responsory of each set of three is scored for SAT, the third is scored for ATB and the second makes use of the extra soprano part in the full choir, resulting in SSA or SST. This precise scheme serves as a simple framework for the emotional variety in the music.

Part of the clue as to how Victoria achieved this variety lies in the details of the Passion narrative. For a late Renaissance composer, albeit one who never wrote any madrigals, the story gives unlimited opportunities for different kinds of word-painting, as well as describing states of mind which vary from the supremely tragic to the contemplative. How Victoria encompassed these differences in an idiom so straightforward that it scarcely touches on imitative counterpoint is one of the great miracles of musical thought. With complete assurance, he describes the innocence of the lamb at the beginning of ‘Eram quasi agnus’; the swords and clubs of ‘Seniores populi’; the lugubrious darkness of ‘Tenebrae factae sunt’; the lion during ‘Animam meam dilectam’; the intense distress in ‘O vos omnes’. At the same time he is capable of writing passages of the most inspired music, without any obvious help from the text: consider the solo section of ‘Jesum tradidit impius’ which does no more than mark time in the narrative yet, with its two answering soprano parts, is perhaps the most memorable section of all.

The power of Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories lies in the balance between the words and his setting of them. The text has its own impact, which may be discovered by reading it aloud. Victoria started from this point, being careful to capture the natural speech rhythms, keeping to syllabic setting (and so never indulging in the early Renaissance delight of music for its own sake); and then heightened the meaning of a verbal phrase with the right turn of harmony or fragment of melody. This pared-down musical idiom, unfamiliar to composers before the late sixteenth century, was lost again during the Baroque period. It has become once again a goal for composers during the twentieth century; but, attractive as the idea of an elemental style has proved to be for many, to express oneself clearly requires complete certainty about what one has to say. Victoria remains a model for them all.

Peter Phillips © 2011

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