Recording of the Week Tomás Luis de Victoria
Tomás Luis de Victoria is undoubtedly the greatest composer of the Spanish sixteenth-century ‘golden age’ of polyphonic music. Born in Avila in 1548, his musical output was relatively small compared with other major Renaissance composers such as Palestrina (who published five times as much music) and Lassus (who published even more). And unlike many of his contemporaries he also published no secular music, but the music he did produce was all of the very top order.
This week I’ve been enjoying a new recording of his Missa Gaudeamus that has just been released by the Westminster Cathedral Lay Clerks under Matthew Martin on Hyperion. However, it is not any ordinary recording of the Mass as other music (including a motet by Victoria, Mass Propers and other passages of chant, and organ music by Frescobaldi) is interpolated between the movements of the Victoria’s Mass to produce an elaborate liturgical sequence.
The booklet notes say that it is not intended as a reconstruction of a known occasion from the early seventeenth century, but as a celebration of Mass for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which falls on 15 August. It works really well as a concept, and you gain a real appreciation of the growing range of musical forms that were being adopted by the church in the 16th century in order to help enrich the liturgy.
Victoria’s Missa Gaudeamus is without doubt one of the most beautiful of all mass settings. The male voices of Westminster Cathedral choir sing with a purity that emphasises every ounce of this beauty, while Hyperion’s sound captures the atmosphere of the Cathedral without ever losing focus.
I've put the whole of the Benedictus on for you to enjoy below. Thoroughly recommended.
Westminster Cathedral Lay Clerks, Matthew Martin
Available Format: CD