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Caligaverunt oculi mei
A large number of works by Juan de Castro y Malagaray were once preserved in João IV’s library, including the six-voice setting of Caligaverunt oculi mei. The text is taken from a Matins responsory for Good Friday, though this motet was used on a number of occasions: in the Index of João IV’s library, for instance, it is inscribed ‘Da Paixão’, and at Vila Viçosa it was sung as a motet at Mass on Tuesday of Holy Week. It is a triumph of dramatic expression: the first section is characterized by contrapuntal lines imbued with chromatic contradictions and inflexions, reflecting the blind confusion expressed in the text; there is a sudden change to a more optimistic mood at the words ‘Videte, omnes populi’ (‘See, all you people’), but the motet culminates in a profoundly affecting passage in which a chromatic phrase is relentlessly passed from voice to voice over sustained pedal notes, emphasizing the plaintive phrase ‘Si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus’. It is perhaps one of the most powerful motet settings in the entire collection for Holy Week at Vila Viçosa.

from notes by Bernadette Nelson 1996

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