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Tomįs Luis de VICTORIA (1548-1611)
Tenebrae Responsories from Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae
Stile Antico
rec. 2017, All Hallows’ Church, Gospel Oak, London
HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902272 [71:21]

Tenebrae translates literally from the Latin as “shadows” but commonly means darkness. Spanish composer Tomįs Luis de Victoria published this sombre choral suite in 1585. It’s a setting of fire-and-brimstone biblical texts about exile, wartime occupation, betrayal, torture, suicide and a few more upbeat things. At the center of the narrative are the Lamentations of Jeremiah, mourning the loss of Jerusalem in a 6th century BC Babylonian invasion. Stile Antico, the world’s most popular Renaissance choir, have released a characteristically insightful, nuanced recording. Divided up into 22 tracks, this new edit of the suite contains the high points of an epic that by any account must have been strenuous (and often utterly redundant) for the singers in mass to perform at the time it was written.

Since taking Europe by storm in the late zeros, Stile Antico have put out a dozen albums, and tour the world constantly. Through it all, their roster has remained pretty stable. As with most of the group’s albums, the Tenebrae Responsories were recorded in similar acoustics at All Hallows’ Church in the North London neighborhood of Gospel Oak. The beginning of the suite is very spare and austere, far more northern European sounding than you would necessarily expect from a Spanish composer. The voices of the group’s women quickly take centerstage, more or less, in parts originally written for boys.

Counterpoint rises toward proto-operatic bluster and then subsides. Stately tempos juxtapose with moments of more atmospheric resonance. Sparse, hypnotically monkish plainchant interludes from the men meet with steady, pulsing passages from the whole choir. The harmonies grow more lush and ambered, as the suite continues. It never reaches grand guignol heights, but that’s the point: the cyclical harmonies and absence of dramatic key changes make it as serious as life and death in the wake of the Spanish Inquisition.

So here we have another impressive notch on the collective scorebooks of the performers.

Alan Young

Previous review: Ralph Moore

Maundy Thursday Responsories:
Second and Third Nocturns
1 Amicus meus [2:59]
2 Judas mercator [2:26]
3 Unus ex discipulis meis [2:26]
4 Eram quasi agnus 3'06
5 Una hora 2'51
6 Seniores populi 2'40
7 Plainsong Incipit lamentatio Jeremię [3:33]
Good Friday Responsories Second and Third Nocturns
8 Tamquam ad latronem 3'39
9 Tenebrę factę sunt 4'27
10 Animam meam dilectam 4'35
11 Tradiderunt me 2'13
12 Jesum tradidit impius 3'03
13 Caligaverunt oculi mei 4'28 Anonymous [-]
14 Plainsong De lamentatione Jeremię Prophetę 3'42
Holy Saturday Responsories Second and Third Nocturns
15 Recessit pastor noster 3'00
16 O vos omnes 3'05
17 Ecce quomodo moritur 3'26
18 Astiterunt reges terrę 2'05
19 Ęstimatus sum 2'45
20 Sepulto Domino 2'49 Anonymous [-]
21 Plainsong De lamentatione Jeremię Prophetę 4'08
22 Motet O Domine Jesu Christe 3'43

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