Responding to the music...
FrKurt Messick | Bloomington, IN USA | 10/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"--Tomas Luis de Victoria--
Often considered the greatest of the Spanish composers, Tomas Luis de Victoria (Italianised as Tommaso Luigi da Vittoria) was born in Avila in 1549. He was trained in church music as he trained for the priesthood with the Jesuits; one of his teachers may have been the great Palestrina in Rome. He was ordained in Rome by the last pre-Reformation English Catholic bishop in Rome. He served in various music and clerical positions under papal auspices in Italy before returning to his native Spain in the late 1500s. His music incorporates the mystical sense of religion as well as the strong church-music traditions. He died in Madrid in 1611.
St. Teresa of Avila, Velasquez and El Greco were all contemporaries of Victoria - the associations and influences are very similar, and worth further exploration.
Together with the Requiem (also recorded brilliantly by the Tallis Scholars), this piece sets the reputation of Victoria as a composer of note. Tenebrae Responsories are part of the traditional liturgical cycle during Holy Week - in Victoria's time, the Roman Catholic Church would have these, Lamentations, Jeremiah, and other means to work toward increasing sorrow and darkness as the world approached Good Friday and Holy Saturday. The Responsories here would not have been sung as a set, but rather divided as appropriate among several services. They are extreme in simplicity - Victoria doesn't let the musical settings overpower the words, which are very important for setting mood here. Victoria complements the words. The music alternates between solos and duets to four-voice parts, rarely expanding beyond this.
The performance here is done by the Pro Cantione Antiqua, led by Bruce Turner. The Pro Cantione Antiqua have had an extensive recording and performing history, with great experience in the kind of chant, polyphony and Renaissance style that this work by Victoria calls for. Turner states that in a Renaissance setting, 'music is not something fixed by the written note but something to be recreated rather than reproduced.' There is a free-flowing quality to this performance that gives an interesting interpretation to these magnificent pieces, somber and sorrowful, but still with an element of hope.