> VICTORIA The Call of the Beloved [JW] : Classical Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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The Call of the Beloved
Tomas Luis de VICTORIA (1548-1611)

Motet; Laetatus sum a 12
Mass Laetatus sum a 12
Hymn; Veni creator spiritus a 4
Motet; Vadam et circuibo civitatem a 6
Motet; Vidi speciosam a 6
Hymn; Ad caenam Agni providi a 4
Magnificat Sexti toni a 12
The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
Recorded St Judes on the Hill, Hampstead Garden Suburb. No recording date [1998?]
CORO COR16007 [68’36]
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Originally released on Collins Classics 1521-2 this reissue is on the Sixteen’s Coro label and is devoted to Victoria’s polychoral works. Active in Rome, by his mid-thirties he yearned to return to Spain, a desire met by Phillip II’s appointment of Victoria as chaplain to the Dowager Empress Maria, the King’s own sister. Until his death in 1611 Victoria was master of the convent choir and organist. Victoria has never entirely escaped the aura of austerity that surround his settings of the Requiem and Holy Week. Here though the sheer profusion of beauty in his settings, their complexity and sophistication, is a remarkable feature of a recording graced by understanding and beauty of tone.

In 1600 Victoria brought out a collection that included a twelve-voice triple choir mass – the Mass Laetatus sum – in line with prevailing Spanish performance practice. The lowest choir is doubled by cornett and three sackbuts, choir II by organ and bass dulcian; the highest choir is unaccompanied. It is remarkable for its breathtaking technical flourishes as much as for its wonderful warmth and beauty and shows Victoria’s depth of humanity and pliancy. Parts of the Credo do, it’s true, remind one of Victoria’s more withdrawn manner but the beautifully shaped spatial "openness" is not to be passed by lightly and nor are those moments of ecstatic outburst. The increased joy of the Benedictus is burnished by cornetts in a most beautiful way and it’s hard to avoid the superlatives that laud him as the greatest composer of the sixteenth century. The Magnificat is written for triple choir, partly copied from a 4 voice Magnificat published in 1581. Voice doublings are used here and one thing is unambiguously true; whatever the nature of Victoria’s self-borrowings there is such resplendent nobility in his setting it is simply spellbinding. Strength and assurance course through the Hymn settings; Veni creator spiritus for example begins sternly, yields pliantly and becomes ever more refined before deepening inexorably in plangent beauty. The Hymns’ contrastive properties vis-à-vis the more massive twelve and eight part voice are a programming coup for The Sixteen and afford the listener the increased delight of their four-part polyphony.

The high pitch and mixed voice spirituality conveyed by The Sixteen is overwhelming and the recording is superbly balanced to contain it. Altogether a marvellous disc.

Jonathan Woolf




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Motet 'Laetatus sum a 12'

Miss Laetatus sum a 12
Agnus Dei

Hymn 'Veni Creator Spiritus a 4'

Motet 'Vadam et circuibo civitatem a 6'

Motet 'Vidi speciosam a 6'

Hymn 'Ad caenam Agni providi a 4'

Magnificat Sexti toni a 12

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