on 15 August 2011
I bought this in a shop speculatively today, although you can get it cheaper than I did by buying it on here... To be honest I decided to purchase this 10 CD set of Victoria's music for two reasons. Firstly, although I am not really a renaissance music aficionado, of the late renaissance music I have spent time with, Victoria's is (for whatever reason) the most striking and moving to me. I won't elaborate on this here, as if you are reading this review it is likely you have your own assessment of these things! The second reason I bought it was a sense of shock that Deutsche Grammophon Archiv, a once splendid source, would actually bother to, or be allowed to, release anything like this these days. It is a far more risky commercial proposition than DG's invaluable boxes of Schumann, Liszt, and Chopin of the last few years (they were not that impressive when it came to Haydn and Mahler). Even the excellent but sadly very short-lived Messiaen complete works they released for that anniversary might be seen as a bit less of a risk, given the popularity of that composer in recent years.
As most of the afore-mentioned recent anniversary sets have overwhelmingly collected together previously released recordings this set seems even more of a mystery - only labels like Brilliant Classics seem able to whip up instant comprehensive new sets of anything these days. However, it seems, reading the small print, that these recordings are licensed from the Caja Madrid foundation. As I have recently listened to a cd of entirely different music from this foundation's associated label, it may be that some, at least, of these discs have had limited circulation before (the earliest recordings are from 2008). Perhaps some Spanish readers - or others - can clarify? This is not labelled with the dreaded 'limited edition' sticker that means you won't find it in another 6 months, but I'd be pleasantly surprised if it hangs around.
As for the performances, I have listened to about 5 of the discs so far and they are quite beautiful. Mixed voice choir, mostly unaccompanied but some works with organ or instrumental participation. Michael Noone explains in the notes that one of the criteria for what has been included is whether works have been recorded before and there are several Masses and Magnificat settings, in particular, that are new to the catalogue. Although the best known motets are here, and I'm listening to a beautiful performance of the Lamentations for Holy Week as I type, this is not a 'comprehensive' survey of Victoria's music. There are over *90* works here though, so I'm sure its the most comprehensive box of Victoria's music we are ever likely to get! The earlier of his two Requiem settings is included - which is good news, as the 1605 Requiem is one of the few works most music lovers interested in this set will already have. You will also need an alternative for some of the Holy Week music, notably the tenebrae responsaries. But, really, now- given the costs of one or two of the already-released (and mainly re-issued) Victoria anniversary sets from other groups- you get at least twice the music here for not much at Amazon's price, a substantial amount of music that hasn't been recorded before, and if you're like me, you also get to send a rare positive signal to a brand that seemed to have fallen from grace in recent years... Go on, you know you want to and you'll be helping out everyone who likes or liked the Archiv label as well.... Congratulations to the performers and to all involved: I'm still slightly in shock...
on 4 September 2011
Victoria's music has increasingly been rediscovered in the past few years with many fine and august recordings coming from many fine choirs including the Tallis Scholars, The Gabrielli Consort, The 16, Tenerbrae and the Westminster Cathedral Choir.
The popularity of Victoria's music is not hard to understand, even to people like me who know little of the scholarly skill needed to realise musical performances.
Ensemble Plus Ultra are a predominantly British Renaissance Music led by a scholarly Australian: Michael Noone and the co-director-Warren Trevelyan-Jones. The group's website states that their primary objective is to ' promoting historically-aware performances of Spanish liturgical music of the Renaissance'.
Such is their purpose that the group has spent a lot of time in Spain, with Noone going through Spanish archives seeking out manuscripts of neglected or undiscovered musical manuscripts of Renaissance composers. This compendium of Victoria's work has 3 masses and 6 magnificats previously unrecorded. The individual works were recorded for a Spanish based Universal label and were previously hard to get and little known outside of Spain.
Some of the works are accompanied by musical instruments which might come as a surprise to those people who are used to unaccompanied voices. The sheer beauty and majesty of the sound comes through recorded in a clear and uncluttered acoustic.
I find the music acts like palette cleanser of the soul and have started to play them after stressful days at work. This music works wonders and I cannot commend it highly enough. This does not mean that I shall cease listening to other choirs, for we are lucky in Britain to have many such fine groups with such a love of this fine music, but this is truly a bargain and would make a good starting point for anyone who has even a passing interest in hearing high renaissance polyphony at its finest.
Ensemble Plus Ultra, Michael Noone
CD1 Missa pro Victoria (1600); Missa pro Defunctis (1583); Psalms and Responsories
CD2 Lamentations of Jeremiah
CD3 MIssa Gaudeamus; Magnificat Octavi toni; Missa Ave maris stella
CD4 Missa de Beata Virgine; Motets: Vide speciosam, Gaude Maria virgo, Quam pulchra sunt
CD5 Missa Alma redemptoris Mater, Magnificat primi toni; Alma redemptoris Mater etc
CD6 Missa O quam gloriosum, Christe redemptore omnium, Doctor bonus, Tibi Christe, etc
CD7 Music for the Easter Liturgy in Habsburg Madrid
CD8 Missa Ave Regina, motets and music for Vespers
CD9 Missa Salve and motets
CD 10 Motets and Hymns for the liturgical year
on 28 September 2011
Won't disappoint lovers of renaissance choral music. For those who only know Victoria's Missa O Quam Gloriosum (like me), this collection reveals a host of gems in his output. Consistently inspired, intense music, given controlled, rhythmically precise, but fluid performances; ideally paced, with immaculate, well balanced, clear recordings. Written notes include sung texts and translations, and brief but useful historical detail. Usual cheap card CD covers in this box set. Priceless music at a great price.
on 29 June 2013
Life can be rather hectic these days. Your most tense and desperate mood can be re-set to 'bliss' by administering a single side of this complete collection. The singing is precise yet truly numinous and the whole recording wonderfully produced and balanced.
Track to track thematic development is quite limited, as with many such collections, so pace yourself.
on 4 June 2013
"Who if I cried would hear me, among the angelic orders" wrote Rilke in his Duino Elegies. Victoria's cry has indeed been transformed into the angelic order of exquisite perfection.
Moved by a Radio 3 Composer of the Week I bought several Victoria works - Westminster Cathedral Choir, The Sixteen, Jordi Savall. All are beautiful, wonderfully executed and yet this is the one that seems to approach closest to Victoria's essence, where aesthetics and faith weave together.
This set seems to get both the austerity and beauty of the music and to leave its intricate architecture most exposed. It is not so much stress-free listening in a stressed-out world, as a demanding experience that forces a level of intellectual and devotional adherence that marks this set as unique, primus inter pares.