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Tomás Luis de VICTORIA (1548-1611)
Easter Week: Lamentations and Tenebrae Responsories
Maundy Thursday - Feria V in coena Domini ad matutinum (Tenebrae): Lessons of the First Nocturn, Lectio I-III [17:37]: Responsories of the Second Nocturn IV-VI [7:30]
Good Friday - Feria VI in Parasceve ad matutinum (Tenebrae): Lessons of the First Nocturn, Lectio I-III [14:27]: Responsories of the Second Nocturn IV-VI [11:44]
Holy Saturday - Sabbato Sancto ad matutinum (Tenebrae): Lessons of the First Nocturn, Lectio I-III [17:40]: Responsories of the Second Nocturn IV-VI [10:07]
Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge/Richard Marlow
rec. January 1990, Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge
Texts and translations included
ALTO ALC1269 [79:12]

Alto’s reissues often joltingly convey a sense of time passing. It certainly came as a shock to me to realise that Richard Marlow and the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge recorded this Victoria disc fully a quarter of a century ago. It first appeared on Conifer, and at its new price bracket it may well prove tempting to a new generation of purchasers.

The music for Easter Week was not presented here in an attempt to reconstruct a liturgy, though there was an attempt to site the more familiar Responsories in the context of the Lamentations. Thus the three Lamentations (Lessons I, II and III) for the First Nocturn of each day are followed by the three Responsories (IV, V, and VI) for each day’s Second Nocturn. It’s helpful to read Bruno Turner’s excellent notes – himself a famous exponent of this repertoire – to consider the approach adopted by Richard Marlow.

If this is the context in which you would like to hear the Easter Week music you will find that these are generously warm performances. Within the various English traditions of singing Victoria theirs are amongst the most tonally expressive, matched by a disciplined approach throughout. The Lamentations are richly moulded and such is the technical control of the choir that they sound flowing, with a resonant amplitude. It’s true that this tradition contrasts with the Spanish, which is more dramatic and indeed incisive but even within English choirs there are significant differences. Whilst Marlow directs with warmth, but not at the expense of line, the Tallis Scholars, for instance, who perform the Responsories on CD GIM022, offer an altogether cooler approach. David Hill and the Choir of Westminster Cathedral on Hyperion CDA 66304 offer greater variegation of colour and attack, preferring not the more richly blended tone of Cambridge but a magnificent stratum of tone, conveyed at tempi that are less metrical in places than Marlow’s. This is especially important when Hill proves to have a more stately approach to tempi than Marlow. Admirers of English choirs are fortunate indeed to have a choice between such revealing approaches; the top-to-bottom variegation of Hill, the mid-range Marlow, and the objectified, rather icy Tallis Scholars.

The Sixteen, directed by Harry Christophers on Collins 15182, offer a more focused tone than Trinity College, less rich, and more explicit dynamics – try Lectio I of the First Nocturn, for instance, but also – often surprisingly – rather slower tempi as well. Marlow is less theatrical-dramatic in the whole of Lectio I-III than is Christopher’s more powerfully sculpted and leisurely traversal.

Much depends on the context in which one wishes to listen to the familiar Responsories, and indeed the Lamentations. In the context Marlow chose, the music is finely contrasted and is conveyed with urgent warmth.

Jonathan Woolf