Although the large box and the Sacred Works title might lead you to expect a complete collection of Tomás Luis de Victoria's sacred music, that's not what it is, and in fact some famous pieces, such as the Requiem in six parts, are not included. Instead, conductor Michael Noone lists the criteria for inclusion as follows: the collection focuses on works Victoria composed in Madrid, works that are preserved in manuscripts, works or versions of works that have never been recorded, and works involving an organ or winds, or written in sections that alternate with chant.
The liturgy of the Dead – including the Requiem Mass, the Burial Service and the Office of the dead, properly speaking – was granted considerable importance by the Spanish ecclesiastical authorities and by the local church composers from very early times. Throughout the Middle Ages, according to the extant documentary descriptions, the death of a great Lord, such as the Count of Barcelona or the sovereign of any of the Spanish kingdoms of León, Castile, Aragon or Navarre, was usually mourned with impressive ceremonies in which the solemnity of the liturgy was often enhanced by the addition of the planctus, a kind of lengthy optional lament that was sung monophonically and of which several examples have survived.
Tomás Luis de Victoria was born in 1548 in Avila, the birthplace of St Teresa. Just as she seems to personify the religious ethos of sixteenth-century Spain (the good side of it, at least), so Victoria came to embody the best of the Spanish character in music. As a youth he learnt his art as a chorister at the Cathedral of Avila. So promising was he that he was sent to Rome at seventeen years of age, patronised by Philip II and by the Church, to study at the Jesuits’ Collegium Germanicum…
Considerado como el más grande polifonista español, Tomás Luis de Victoria compuso su famoso Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae en Roma, donde se publicó en 1585, poco antes de su regreso definitivo a España. El conjunto La Colombina, en su versión original de los años 90 (María Cristina Kiehr, Claudio Cavina, Josep Benet y Josep Cabré), interpreta aquí una selección de las músicas para el Viernes Santo, grabación que se completa con una sorprendente Pasión según San Juan de un contemporáneo de Victoria, Joan Pau Pujol. Esta grabación se publicó por primera vez en el sello Accent en 1997.
Tomas Luis de Victoria and Josquin Desprez were not contemporaries, they lived and worked in different countries, and perhaps shared little in terms of abstract compositional style. Yet throughout Europe, generations of musicians recognized them as kindred spirits, and tablature versions of their masses and motets circulated amongst lutenists. For John Potter, this is “the secret life of the music – in historical terms its real life.” In this characteristically creative project Potter - joined by Trio Mediaeval singer Anna Maria Friman and three outstanding vihuela players - explores “what happens to music after it is composed.”
A sublime survey of sacred music of the high Renaissance, Hyperion's 2018 release Amarae Morti offers transparent performances by Peter Phillips and the a cappella chamber choir El León de Oro. Covering music of the Franco-Flemish and Iberian schools, the program follows a trajectory from darkness to light, from somber motets by Dominique Phinot, Orlande de Lassus, Nicolas Gombert, and Manuel Cardoso to glorious works by Tomás Luis de Victoria, Cristóbal de Morales, and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. There is a consistency of subjects in the program, which includes settings of the Lamentations, Media Vita, the Regina Coeli, and the Magnificat, revealing different treatments of these familiar texts and varying levels of complexity and contrapuntal mastery, which culminate in the magnificent polychoral works of Victoria and Palestrina.
José de Nebra, born in 1702 to a family of musicians from Aragón, already made his career in Madrid as a young man: at the age of 17 he took over the position of organist from Tomás de Victoria and also celebrated great success at the opera. In 1736 he was appointed organist and later vice kapellmeister of the Royal Chapel. From this time on, his creative focus was on sacred music and he created more than 170 sacred compositions. After the coronation of Fernando VI and his wife Bárbara de Braganza, the musical work at the court experienced a great revival: the queen brought the famous musicians Scarlatti and Farinelli to the Spanish court and the Royal Chapel also experienced a great boom.