This year, the four hundredth anniversary of his death, has
seen a plethora of Victoria. Surely, no year should pass without
homage being paid to the greatest of all Spanish composers.
His richness of invention and marrying of Iberian passion with
Roman clarity produced splendour and moving richness of the
kind that Western music has seldom experienced. Truly, Victoria
Something of that power can be felt in this Helios reissue of
a Hyperion original recorded back in March 1996. It’s sung by
the English choir most suited to conveying the density and polyphonic
power of the writing. The programme is not one to breed complacency,
including hymn settings that were, back then, certainly not
on the beaten track of the composer’s discography.
The major work is Missa Dum Complerentur, published in
1576, which is to a large extent based on his own Motet which
had been published four years earlier. There are a number of
features and signatures that recur in the Mass, not least the
Alleluia passages. Naturally the Motet prefaces the Mass
in this performance, so one can appreciate the use to which
Victoria put his original material, and the ways in which he
distributed and embedded them in his full-scale parody Mass
setting. The Motet is a compact and artful work, hugely powerful
in its descriptive strength, textually alert, flowing with unrelenting
waves of sound. The Mass is richly voiced, intense in the Credo
but never voluptuous for its own sake; the extra voice in the
Mass adds amplitude but doesn’t detract from the essential clarity
and precision of the writing.
Popule meus is a homophonic setting for Holy Week, and
via the purest and simplest-seeming of ways Victoria ensures
that the music achieves a rarefied and expressive directness.
Veni Creator Spiritus, published the same year, demonstrates
the amplitude and intensity of utterance of which he was so
noble an exponent, and, too, the tonal richness of which the
Choir of Westminster Cathedral is capable. O’Donnell directs
them with great perception, and direction, ensuring that pitch
is maintained, and that Victoria’s rhapsodic qualities never
congeal. In two pieces, Veni Sancte Spiritus and Lauda
Sion salvatorem, the choir is very ably accompanied by organ
continuo, played by Joseph Cullen.
Amongst the avalanche of issues and reissues to celebrate 2011,
this most accomplished disc should not be overlooked.