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Victoria: Ave Regina caelorum and other Marian music
     

Victoria: Ave Regina caelorum and other Marian music

by Westminster Cathedral Choir
 
Tomás Luis de Victoria is a Spanish a cappella choral composer of the late Renaissance, a generation younger than Palestrina. His best-known works are a few motets, above all "O magnum mysterium," which have populated the programs of college glee clubs for years. "O magnum mysterium" is of a somber cast that reinforces the notion of

Overview

Tomás Luis de Victoria is a Spanish a cappella choral composer of the late Renaissance, a generation younger than Palestrina. His best-known works are a few motets, above all "O magnum mysterium," which have populated the programs of college glee clubs for years. "O magnum mysterium" is of a somber cast that reinforces the notion of Victoria's Spanish-ness. But the composer spent 20 years of his life in Rome, crossing paths often with Palestrina -- whose music his own strongly resembles in its carefully smoothed surfaces. The usual line on Victoria is that his music is somehow more "expressive" that that of his Italian counterpart, and this release by the Westminster Cathedral Choir gives us the chance to evaluate that idea by listening to pieces other than the familiar Victoria favorites. The music here consists mostly of settings of texts dealing with the Virgin Mary, so it doesn't have the dark colors that listeners reflexively associate with Spain. There is a motet, "Ave Regina caelorum," a parody mass based on that motet (the "Missa Ave Regina caelorum"), and several other motets and similar pieces. Most are for double choir, and one work, the "Laetatus sum," is for a triple choir in 12 voice parts. And indeed we do find that Victoria's vaunted expressiveness does not depend on his settings of the more tragic phases of the liturgy. The double-chorus format lends itself to antiphonal effects, and there are plenty here, both local and large-scale. In the "Missa Ave Regina caelorum" and in some of the smaller pieces, Victoria expresses the sense of the text not by using tortured chromaticism but by making use of a range of textures. Consider the central Incarnation and Crucifixion phases of the Credo of the Mass, where Victoria backs off to a simple representation of Christ's burial and then joyfully adds voices back in as the Resurrection dawns. Everything is accomplished within the Counter Reformation's strict idiom, but the overall effect is less angelic and more vivid than in Palestrina's music. Many of these pieces have rarely if ever been recorded, so the Westminster Cathedral Choir has made an important contribution here. Their sound is not the perfectly blended celestial harmony of many of their English counterparts, but rather one with some meat and texture to it, especially in the alto lines. The sound quality of the recording is also unusual. Everything is miked close up, minimizing the reverberation from the big cathedral where the recording was made. Some like this intense sound, some don't. But the recording is well worth owning for anybody who sang one of Victoria's motets in college and ever wondered what the rest of his music was like -- or for Palestrina lovers who want to branch out a bit.

Product Details

Release Date:
11/09/2004
Label:
Hyperion Uk
UPC:
0034571174792
catalogNumber:
67479

Related Subjects

Tracks

  1. Ave regina coelorum, antiphon for 8 voices & organ
  2. Missa Ave regina coelorum, for 8 voices
  3. Ave Maria, motet for 4 voices
  4. Dixit Dominus (Psalm 109), for 8 voices
  5. Laudate pueri Dominum (Psalm 112), for 8 voices & organ
  6. Laudate Dominum omnes gentes (Psalm 116), for 8 voices
  7. Laetatus sum (Psalm 121), for 12 voices & organ
  8. Nisi Dominus (Psalm 126), for 8 voices & organ
  9. Magnificat septimi toni (odd), for 4 voices
  10. Ave Maria, gratia plena, motet for 8 voices & organ

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