The eight-part Ave Regina caelorum
was originally used in the liturgy as an antiphon to precede and follow the chanting of a Psalm. It is now sung as a motet at the end of Compline in the period from Purification until the Wednesday in Holy Week. Victoria wrote a five-part setting of the antiphon which was published in Venice in 1576 by Angelo Gardane, and he subsequently wrote an eight-part version, which was published in Rome in 1581 by Dominico Basa. The double-choir version, like the five-part, opens with stately figures derived from the Compline plainsong, sometimes loosely paraphrased, to produce an impressive and sonorous chordal structure, which gives way at the end of the first half to some lively passagework setting the words ‘from whence came the light of the world’. The second half of the motet begins with some joyous antiphonal exchanges in triple time illustrating the words ‘Rejoice, O glorious one, splendid above all other’ and ends in a more sombre mood with wonderful rich eight-part counterpoint to the words ‘plead always for us with Christ’.
from notes by Jon Dixon © 2004