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.
from notes by Jon Dixon © 1996