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Tomás Luis de VICTORIA (1548-1611)
Quem vidistis, pastores [5:34]
Ardens est cor meum [2:31]
Congratulamini mihi [2:48]
Vexilla Regis "more hispano" [7:55]
Tu es Petrus [4:54]
Vidi speciosam [6:22]
Nigra sum sed formosa [2:51]
Salve, Regina [7:55]
Benedicta sit sancta Trinitas [2:57]
O Domine Jesu Christe [2:34]
Vadam et circuibo civitatem [8:31]
Nordic Voices
rec. 2017, Ris Kirke, Oslo

I have very much enjoyed Nordic Voices from their albums Djåŋki daŋ (review) and Lamentations (review), the latter of which also took on repertoire by Victoria. With only six solo voices we have the same purity of tone and transparency of texture as with the previous releases, and with a gorgeous church acoustic this is a sound into which one can become absorbed for a long time.

The programme consists of motets from Victoria’s first two collections, which come from his early career and his time in Rome, where he studied at the newly founded Collegium Germanicum. Victoria was to remain in Rome for two decades from 1565 onwards, and the demand for new religious music meant that this was an extremely fruitful period. “Musically composed according to fashion,” we can perhaps imagine some of the effects sought by Victoria, the intent of these pieces very much being ‘to encourage piety in the faithful’, as summed up in Soteraña Aguirre’s admirable booklet notes.

With all texts given in both in the original Latin and English translation, one can follow the rising inflections of the first lines in Tue es Petrus, the floating dove moving above the harmonies of Vidi speciosam, and contrast these with the descending implorations of Salve, Regina. Victoria’s art is supreme in its directness of expression, carrying texts with clarity while at the same time developing considerable polyphonic and structural complexity. Nordic Voices’ approach is equally unfussy, while being deeply expressive and sensitive to Victoria’s many subtleties.

There are of course many ways to skin the proverbial cat, and listeners used to a more jovial rendition of the celebratory Christmas piece Quem vidistis, pastores may perhaps miss some of the rhythmic ‘swing’ in Nordic Voices’ more reflective approach. There is no way of knowing which style of performance would have been appreciated in its day but I would say there has to be room for both, and there will always be room on my shelf for Nordic Voices.

Dominy Clements