This year marks the four-hundredth anniversary of Victoria's death, so, unsurprisingly there has been a considerable number of releases and re-releases of his music, especially of his Requiem of 1605. This disc presents a new recording by the rather splendid Tenebrae, conducted by Nigel Short, a group which has erred on the side of modernity (if Rachmaninov's Vespers and Poulenc count as modern), and produced some excellent CDs (Poulenc: Figure Humaine and other works (Tenebrae)
. It was favourably reviewed as part of the Building a Library feature on Victoria, but is it worth your money?
Well, the Sixteen's version Victoria Requiem 1605
, which was the favourite of the Radio 3 reviewer, recommends itself through the use of a spot of instrumental doubling for the bass part, which adds a nice degree of spice to the sound, and certainly makes the dramatic moments that much more intense. For all that, the singing is at times a little lifeless, for all its impeccable blend, and the sopranos are guilty of occasionally letting the line sag.
Another good contender is the disc made by Magnificat, conducted by Philip Cave Officium Defunctorum
, which uses a very small group of singers, entirely unaccompanied, in a rather more austere performance, which includes some hearty dollops of plainchant for good measure. I like this disc: it's direct, very well performed and unaffected, and very listenable to.
So, what makes this CD worth the effort? Well, the Short employs a relatively large choir, which makes a very fine sound indeed (no tired sopranos here), and it's generously recorded in a lovely acoustic. It also offers the setting of the Lamentations by Alonso Lobo, which are absolutely fabulous. Yet I can't help but feel the singers aren't emotionally connected to the words they sing: the expressive moments are beautifully restrained, rather than heartfelt, and for me this takes away some of the special quality of the requiem mass.
So, which is worth your money? For rich sonority, go for the Sixteen; for hearing the words, get Magnificat's version; for beauty of sound, this disc should be your port of call. For me personally, I will return to this every now and again, but it won't replace the Magnificat CD.