The text of the Regina caeli laetare
first appears in a manuscript of around 1200 and was used as the Magnificat antiphon for the Octave of Easter. It is now sung at the end of compline from Easter Sunday to the Friday after Pentecost. Victoria’s five-part setting of the antiphon was first published in 1572 in Venice. It was subsequently included in the 1576 Gardane edition of Masses, Magnificats and motets. Much of the musical material here is derived from the compline plainsong. The soprano part, imitated by the first alto, enunciates the first phrase of the plainsong in long notes while the second alto simultaneously uses it in shorter notes, followed by the tenor. After a lively set of Alleluias the tenor initiates the second section of the first half of the motet with a direct quotation of the plainsong melody for ‘Quia quem meruisti’ immediately imitated by the bass. At the beginning of the second part of the motet all voices join in a close imitation based on the plainsong melody for ‘Resurrexit’ and, after another Alleluia section, in further close imitation based on a slightly ornamented version of the plainsong for ‘Ora pro nobis Deum’. Flowing and melodious, this antiphon also achieves a sonority which is unusual in a five-part piece.
from notes by Jon Dixon © 1994