Sebastián de VIVANCO (c.1551–1622)
Missa Assumpsit Jesus
Introit (Anon. plainsong, Roman Gradual 1614) Illuxerunt coruscationes tuæ [2:20]
Sebastián de VIVANCO Kyrie
Plainsong: Gradual Speciosus forma [1:25]
Alleluia: Candor est lucis æternæ [1:42]
Sebastián de VIVANCO Credo
Offertory Motet: Assumpsit Jesus Petrum [3:06]
Plainsong: Preface [2:30]
Sebastián de VIVANCO Sanctus
and Benedictus [6:51]
Communion Motet: O sacrum convivium [3:36]
Plainsong: Dismissal [0:49]
Sebastián de VIVANCO De profundis
Versa est in luctum
Surge propera, amica mea
Assumpta est Maria
Veni, dilecte mi
Magnificat primi toni
De Profundis/Robert Hollingworth
rec. St George’s Church, Chesterton, Cambridge, 3-5 May 2017. DDD.
Texts and translations included.
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from
There isn’t too much of Vivanco’s music on record. An album containing his
Mass In manus tuas on Glossa opens with an instrumental arrangement
and also relies heavily on instrumental accompaniment to the singing. The
only other current recording of the main work on the new Hyperion, the Mass
based on Vivanco’s motet for the Transfiguration (August 6th) comes
from Ensemble Musica Reservata de Barcelona directed by Bruno Turner (La Mà
de Guido LMG2045, with music by Alonso Lobo, heard as streamed, with pdf
Naxos Music Library). Turner, the doyen of experts on Iberian music of this period, also curated the
Hyperion and wrote the excellent notes.
Those notes refer to the complexity of Vivanco’s canonic writing but the
uninitiated need have no fear: if anything, the surface appearance of the
music seems placid and uncomplicated, less florid than the music of
Victoria. Victoria was tutored, like Vivanco, by Bernardino de Ribera, whose music De
Profundis have already recorded for Hyperion, directed by David Skinner
review). Johan van Veen thought that a little too straightforward, but I suspect
that’s as much a comment on Ribera’s music – and Vivanco’s – as on the
Unlike some recordings of the music of this period, such as the Glossa
mentioned above, the Ribera is sung a cappella and the only
instrumental underpinning on the new release comes from very sparing use of
the bajón, an early forerunner of the bassoon.
If pressed to choose between this recording and one of my Victoria
recordings, I have no doubt that I would abandon the Vivanco, but
fortunately that’s not a choice that I have to make. Outright genius, such
as Victoria possessed – even greater than that of Palestrina, I often think
– should never be allowed to banish the very good.
An important factor in the lack of surface tension in this new recording
must be attributed to the superb professionalism of the singing. Whereas an
accomplished cathedral choir can make a very good fist of the Iberian music
of this period, the sheer complexity of the composition sometimes requires something
even better. An earlier Hyperion release containing Vivanco’s Magnificat octavi toni from Westminster Cathedral Choir, directed by
David Hill, makes the music sound more complex than is the case from De
Profundis. That’s partly as a result of having to keep a large choir
together but that, of course, would have been equally true for Vivanco
himself as a choirmaster (Treasures of the Spanish Renaissance:
Helios CDH55430 –
The same is true of another Westminster recording for Hyperion, this time
directed by James O’Donnell, including Vivanco’s Versa est in luctum
(Music for King Philip of Spain, including Bartolomé de Escobedo’s Missa Philippus Rex Hispaniæ: CDH55248 –
review). That funeral motet is also included on the new release, so the two
performances can be compared. Having mislaid my copy of the CD – a
particular problem with collections, which also affects downloads and
how to file them – I downloaded the recording from
with pdf booklet, where it’s currently available for just £5 on CD or
The new recording is a little slower, increasing my impression throughout
that Hollingworth likes to give the music room to breathe. De Profundis also
offer a very
polished performance, though that doesn’t mean that they skate over the
surface of this music of lament. I don’t want to give the impression that
it’s the equivalent of the super-perfect grooming of the Berlin Phil under
Karajan which some find so off-putting, but I wonder if the Westminster
choristers don’t get closer to the sound that the composer would have
heard, though sounding more accurate than some the Spanish choirs even today. Certainly, the use of boys’ voices on the
top line gives a more plangent effect whereas the top line of De Profundis
is less prominent throughout.
Let me not be thought to under-rate the new album, however, to which I
warmed more and more on repeated hearing. The performance of the main work
is at least the equal of the earlier recording, with which, not
surprisingly, it shares many features. If Hollingworth tends to slowish
tempi, Turner is even slower, though in neither recording is this to the
detriment of the music. If you are looking for excitement and drama look
elsewhere; if you want solace and serenity, either of these recordings of
the Mass will do very well.
Vivanco’s O sacrum convivium, used on Hyperion as the Communion
motet, also appears on a Delphian recording of music from the Iberian
Golden Age (DCD34086 –
review). I’ve suggested that De Profundis tend to adopt slowish tempi,
appropriate to the music, but here, as with Bruno Turner’s recording of the
Mass, the Marian Singers on Delphian give the music almost half a minute
longer to breathe.
They are also slower in the Magnificat primi toni, but in both works
I find it very difficult to choose between such fine performances. John
Quinn thought that a slightly larger group than the Marian Singers might
produce a richer tone. I think he might prefer De Profundis on that score,
but overall it’s very hard to call.
In Vivanco's veni dilecte me, on the other hand, De Profundis are noticebaly slower than
Stile Antico on a superb collection of settings of the Song of Songs
(Harmonia Mundi HMU807489). I seem to have mentioned that recording
only in a passing reference to a Linn release; let me put that right here by
recommending it, even in preference to the new Hyperion.
With plenty of variety
the Mass and music from the Song of Songs
rubbing shoulders with music for the funeral of King Philip, the whole
rounded off with a very fine setting of the Magnificat, sung alternatim like that on the earlier Hyperion CD
– the new release is well worth having.
The recording, as heard in 24-bit sound, is very good: like the
performances it’s quietly satisfying without drawing attention to itself.
At £13.50 it’s only a little more expensive than the CD, typically around
£12.50 but on offer as I write for £10.50 from one dealer. ‘Ordinary’
CD-quality 16-bit can be downloaded for £8.99.
This new recording is very welcome. Even though some of the music is
available on other collections, the new performances more than hold their
own and there is much new material.