Tomás Luis de VICTORIA (1548 – 1611)
Veni Sancte Spiritus (pub.1600) [3:07]
Dum complerentur (pub.1572) [6:54]
Missa Dum complerentur (pub.1576) [29:23]
Popule meus (pub.1585) [4:59]
Vexilla Regis (pub.1585) [8:33]
Veni Creator Spiritus (pub.1585) [6:10]
Pange lingua gloriosi (pub.1581) [6:26]
Lauda Sion salvatorem (pub.1585) [3:21]
Joseph Cullen (organ continuo)
The Choir of Westminster Cathedral/James O’Donnell
rec. March 1996
Texts and translations included

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 is astonishing.

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.
Jonathan Woolf

This most accomplished disc should not be overlooked.