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 Recording of the Week  Tomás Luis de Victoria

2011 marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Tomás Luis de Victoria and is therefore perhaps a good time to both re-evaluate his importance and introduce his music to new audiences. The vocal group ‘The Sixteen’ under Harry Christophers certainly think so as they’re spending most of the year touring the UK performing his music, and in preparation for that have recently released a new CD on their own label Coro – titled ‘Hail, Mother of the Redeemer’.

Tomás Luis de Victoria
Tomás Luis de Victoria

As the title suggests the music was all written in honour of the Virgin Mary. The centrepiece is the magnificent Missa Alma Redemptoris Mater, but the whole disc is full of sublime and beautiful music. This is the fifth disc of Victoria’s music that The Sixteen have recorded and considering that he wrote only a fifth of the quantity of music that his more famous contemporary Palestrina wrote (Lassus wrote even more), you perhaps start to appreciate the very high quality of his relatively small output.

Victoria was undoubtedly the greatest composer of the Spanish sixteenth-century ‘golden age’ of polyphonic music. Born in Avila in 1548, he was perhaps fortunate to live at the height of the Counter-Reformation. This was a time of great vitality for the Roman Catholic Church and a time when composers and musicians played a prominent role within it. It is therefore perhaps not surprising that, unlike many of his contemporaries, he published only sacred music.

Victoria spent much of his working life in Rome and this seems to have given him an almost unique compositional voice. Soaking up the Italian traditions in Rome means that his polyphonic writing and counterpoint is immaculate, giving his music a real polish and refinement. However, never far from the surface are his Iberian roots, full of fire, and giving his music a real richness and full-bloodedness.

The Sixteen’s new CD is, as usual, beautifully sung and superbly recorded. They maintain the purity and reverence that this music demands but never shy away from bringing a particularly expressive voice or moment to the fore. They clearly enjoy the richness of this music, while Harry Christophers shapes and moulds both the individual phrases and the larger structures in a hugely impressive way.

There is much to enjoy here, and if you’re keen to explore Victoria’s music beyond this disc you’ll be pleased to hear that The Sixteen have also re-packaged their previous four Victoria discs into a single bargain priced box. We’re currently offering 20% off everything on the Sixteen’s label ‘Coro’ so there has never been a better time to explore both Victoria and some of the other wonderful recordings that this top-notch ensemble have made.

Hail, Mother of the Redeemer

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

The Victoria Collection

The Sixteen, Harry Christophers

Available Format: 4 CDs