Victoria’s six-voice Salve regina
, published in his debut collection of 1572, shows yet again the force of Josquin’s legacy among Spanish composers, and exemplifies more generally the desire of Renaissance musicians to demonstrate their musical lineage through emulation of the works and techniques of renowned masters, and indeed their aspirations to surpass them. Victoria takes his cue from Josquin in using the ‘Salve’ motif as an ostinato, and in the second part of the setting (beginning with the words ‘Ad te suspiramus’) he retains Josquin’s technique of alternating between two pitch-levels for the motto; because Victoria gives the ostinato to one of his two highest voices, in this section of the piece every other statement stands out boldly at the top of the texture as had not been the case in Josquin’s Salve
. But in borrowing Josquin’s idea Victoria goes much further than had his forerunner, giving us his own tour de force of prodigious contrapuntal skill. First, he adds a second ostinato motif, ‘mater misericordiae’, sung by an inner part; secondly, he constantly varies the overlap between this and the ‘Salve’ motto, to show the various ways in which the two can work together; and thirdly, he not only transposes the ‘Salve’ motto between two pitches (as had Josquin) but transposes the ‘mater misericordiae’ motto between three pitch-levels, so that we end up with an extraordinary jigsaw involving a myriad of relationships between the two. While all of this is going on, the listener is aware not of the contrapuntal showing off, but of beautifully shaped and powerfully emotive polyphonic writing.
from notes by Owen Rees © 2020