Now there are many ways of performing this great music - full cathedral choir, boy sopranos, countertenors, with or without chant? - and I am not going to advance an opinion as to whether there is a right way. What I can say is that this is one of my favourite Tallis Scholars recordings - pure voices, women on the top lines, seemless blending, and a performance of this masterpiece of Renaissance polyphony which stands head to head with the very finest. Not the only way to do it, to be sure, but if you hear it then like me you will want to go on and explore this composer.
--Tomas Luis de Victoria--
Often considered the greatest of the Spanish composers, Tomas Luis de Victoria (Italianised as Tommaso Luigi da Vittoria) was born in Avila in 1549. He was trained in church music as he trained for the priesthood with the Jesuits; one of his teachers may have been the great Palestrina in Rome. He was ordained in Rome by the last pre-Reformation English Catholic bishop in Rome. He served in various music and clerical positions under papal auspices in Italy before returning to his native Spain in the late 1500s. His music incorporates the mystical sense of religion as well as the strong church-music traditions. He died in Madrid in 1611.
The Requiem Mass is the last of Victoria's works, and was written for his patron, the Empress Maria, upon her death in 1603. This is often considered his masterpiece, and an exemplar of Spanish Renaissance music. It is definitely different in style and substance from the better-known English and Italian music of the same period. The ten sections of the Requiem are all scored for six-part voicing, SSATTB (save for the first part, a smaller but grand four-voice Taedet animam meam).
--Alonso Lobo and 'Versa est in luctum'--
Lobo was considered the finest composer in Spain during his lifetime (1555-1617, a rough overlap with Victoria), and possibly regarded in this way Victoria himself. This disc concludes with a beautiful setting of Versa est in luctum, written for the funeral of the Empress Maria's brother, Philip II.
Being internationally acclaimed, the Tallis Scholars' CDs typically present their commentary and texts in English, French, German and Italian (together with any Latin texts); that is true of this disc. The cover art also typically represents visual arts contemporary with the compositions - here it is the 'Burial of Court Orgaz', by El Greco, who was a contemporary of Tomas Luis deVictoria.
--The Tallis Scholars--
The Tallis Scholars, a favourite group of mine since the first time I heard them decades ago, are a group dedicated to the performance and preservation of the best of this type of music. A choral group of exceptional ability, I have been privileged to see them many times in public, and at almost every performance, their singing seems almost like a spiritual epiphany for me, one that defies explanation in words. Directed by Peter Phillips, the group consists of a small number of male and female singers who have trained themselves well to their task.
Their recordings are of a consistent quality that deserve more than five stars; this particular disc of pieces by Victoria and Lobo deserves a place on the shelf of anyone who loves choral music, liturgical music or Gregorian chant, classical music generally, or religious music. It is astonishing. The music on this disc was originally recorded in 1987.
on 3 April 2014
I have loved The Tallis Scholars for many years since discovering them on The South Bank Show back in the late 80s. I have seen and heard them in concert a number of times and own15 or so of their recordings. I love them all. However, I think their recording of the Victoria Requiem is a real high point and a recording that I come back to time and time again.
Do not hesitate, this is simply some of the most beautiful music you will ever hear and the singing is exhilarating.