Alonso Lobo’s elegiac masterpiece Versa est in luctum
was written for Philip’s memorial at Toledo Cathedral. It was published in the composer’s Liber primus missarum
(Madrid, 1602) and is headed ‘Ad exequias Philip. II Cathol. Regis Hisp.’. It is one of a group of seven motets which follow six of Lobo’s Masses and they are described as ‘for devout singing at solemn Mass’. It is possible that Versa est in luctum
was sung at the Missa pro defunctis which concluded the agenda mortuorum
held at San Jerónimo el Real, the church, monastery and palace favoured by Philip in Madrid. There, on 19 October, the Archbishop of Toledo was the presiding celebrant of the final Requiem Mass. The proposed order of service (which survives) allowed for a motet to be sung at the Elevation of the Host, between the Sanctus and Benedictus. If Lobo was there with his singers, part of the Archbishop’s customary entourage, his motet may well have been sung. That is to speculate: what is certain is that this beautiful work has now become a much performed and frequently recorded favourite of choirs, professional and amateur.
from notes by Bruno Turner © 1998