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Tomás Luis De VICTORIA (1548–1611)
Missa Gaudeamus - a liturgical sequence, with organ works by Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643)
FRESCOBALDI Toccata avanti la Messa * [1:15]
Chant Introit: Gaudeamus omnes - mode I [3:39]
VICTORIA Kyrie (Missa Gaudeamus) [4:26]
Gloria (Missa Gaudeamu) [7:50]
Chant Collect: Famulorum tuorum, quaesumus Domine [0:59]
Epistle: Lectio libri Sapientiae [2:24]
Gradual: Propter veritatem - mode V [2:47]
Alleluia: Assumpta est Maria in caelum - mode V [2:25]
FRESCOBALDI Canzon dopo l’Epistola * [1:13]
Chant Gospel: In illo tempore: intravit Jesus in quoddam castellum [2:01]
VICTORIA Credo (Missa Gaudeamus) [11:23]
FRESCOBALDI Recercar dopo il Credo * [2:39]
Chant Offertory: Assumpta est Maria - mode VIII [2:08]
VICTORIA Motet: Vidi speciosam, Part 1 [3:45]
Chant Preface: Vere dignum et iustum est, aequum et salutare [2:54]
VICTORIA Sanctus (Missa Gaudeamus) [3:15]
Benedictus (Missa Gaudeamus) [2:43]
Chant Pater noster [1:58]
VICTORIA Agnus Dei (Missa Gaudeamus) [5:13]
Chant Communion: Optimam partem elegit sibi Maria - mode VIII [0:44]
VICTORIA Motet: Vidi speciosam, Part 2: Quae est ista [3:19]
Chant Post-communion: Mensae caelestis participes effecti [1:43]
FRESCOBALDI Recercar: Sancta Maria * [2:24]
Thomas Wilson*; Lay Clerks of Westminster Cathedral/Matthew Martin
rec. Westminster Cathedral, London, 7-10 July 2008. DDD.
Texts and translations included
HYPERION CDA67748 [73:20] 

 

Experience Classicsonline


This is a sheer delight. It will certainly feature strongly in my next Download Roundup, for August 2009, but that is a month away at the time of writing and I didn’t want to delay writing this review. It will almost certainly feature as the download of the month, even if something else comes along to share the honour. I can’t imagine that I shall review any CD or download in the next month more deserving. 

Without in the least yielding my love of Josquin and Palestrina as the masters of renaissance polyphony, I have to admit that Victoria has always run them pretty close in my estimation, ever since I heard one of his settings sung – not very well, it must be admitted – at High Mass in Toledo Cathedral many years ago. 

I’ve always thought that British choirs did Victoria better justice than those Spanish singers, even though, as a Spaniard who made good in Italy – hence the change of name from Vittoria to Victoria – the Toledo choristers ought theoretically to be more in tune with his style. Listen to the recording of Victoria’s Requiem by the choir of Montserrat, formerly on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, and, unless you have a very tolerant ear, you will not find the singing easy to live with. 

Over the years, however, various compromises have been struck between the styles of Southern European and English choirs: for example, the numerous recordings made for the Decca Oiseau Lyre label in the 1960s and 1970s by the Choir of the Carmelite Priory, London, under the direction of Edgar Fleet and John McCarthy, some of which may still be around. A good example is their recording of Palestrina’s Missa Sine Nomine and Missa Ecce ego Johannes (475 8717); though this recording is still well worth hearing, it seems to have been deleted almost as soon as it was reissued, but it remains available as a download in good 320 kbps mp3 sound from passionato.com

Soon afterwards, Westminster Cathedral Choir began to take over this blend of the two traditions with great success; under successive directors of music they have made a number of successful recordings for Hyperion, including several of Victoria’s music – Missa O quam gloriosum and Missa Ave maris stella under David Hill (CDA66114) and Missa Dum complerentur, etc., under James O’Donnell (CDA66886) to name but two of the most successful. The new recording deserves to join them. 

There already exists a highly praised recording of Victoria’s Missa Gaudeamus, coupled with the Missa pro Victoria and motets (The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood, ASV CDGAU198). On that well-filled disc you get more Victoria for your money and, if that’s what you want, it remains strongly recommendable. What the new Hyperion recording offers is not an attempt to reconstruct, McCreesh-style, any actual occasion when Victoria’s music was used for the feast of the Assumption, merely a glimpse of what might have been, combining the Missa Gaudeamus with the plainchant propers of that feast and music by his younger contemporary, Frescobaldi. Very effective it is, too. 

I’ve now listened to the recording right through several times without any cause for complaint. Even the chant sections are brought to life by these singers and I can’t imagine the sections of Victoria’s Mass being better sung. All this is done with the art which conceals art – there’s never any sense of striving for a virtuoso performance. If this is a shorter review than usual, that’s because there really is nothing to criticise. 

Having missed out on the review CD, I knew that I had to get my hands on the recording and, for the sake of speed, I downloaded it from iTunes on the very first day that the CD and download were released. The 256 kbps download is good enough to do justice to the very fine recording, with everything at just the right distance from the listener. 

Very clumsily, I managed to delete half the tracks after I’d downloaded them. An appeal to iTunes resulted in a very prompt restoration of the whole recording. 

Hyperion’s accompanying material is, as usual, excellent; it can all be downloaded free from their website, where you can also listen to some extracts if you can’t decide whether to buy. The notes, by Jon Dixon, are detailed and informative. One small niggle: the translators can’t decide whether to use the old-style language of the Book of Common Prayer or contemporary language. Some of the translations are rather creative and don’t correspond to either the 1662 Prayer Book or the modern versions employed in Anglican and Roman Catholic usage. 

Download or CD, my recommendation is to buy this without delay.

Brian Wilson


 

 


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