Tomás Luis de Victoria, the greatest composer of the Spanish sixteenth-century ‘golden age’ of polyphonic music, was born in Avila in 1548 and died in Spain in 1611. In about 1558 he 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, where he occupied a number of posts 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 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 Maria at the Royal Convent for Barefoot Clarist Nuns, where he acted as maestro to the choir of priests and boys that was attached to the convent.
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, shows a generally very high level of inspiration and musical craftsmanship, and it is clear—from the constant revisions he made to the 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 his dedication to Pope Gregory XIII of his 1581 volume of Hymni totius anni, he speaks of music being ‘an art to which I am instinctively drawn, and to the perfection of which I have devoted long years of study, with the help and encouragement of others of critical judgement’.
from notes by Jon Dixon © 2009