Victoria: Choral Music

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COMPOSERS: Victoria
LABELS: Glossa
ALBUM TITLE: Victoria
WORKS: Choral Music
PERFORMER: La Columbia, Schola Antiqua, Juan Carlos Asensio
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 922002
Victoria’s monumental collection of music for Holy Week published in Rome in 1585, the Officium hebdomadae sanctae, includes not only his famous Tenebrae Responsories and the Lamentations of Jeremiah, but also hymns, motets, two settings of the Passion, psalms and chant. While other vocal groups have focused on extracts from the collection – particularly the Responsories and the Lamentations – this ambitious three-disc recording, involving

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two choirs, La Colombina and Schola Antiqua, is virtually complete (bar truncated versions of the Passions) and, more importantly, it sets Victoria’s polyphony in liturgical context.

Other currently available recordings of the Responsories include those by Westminster Cathedral Choir under David Hill and The Tallis Scholars. The cathedral choir produces an intense, acidulous sound while The Tallis Scholars are matchless for their intonation and ensemble. By comparison, the Spanish group is less highly polished – the singers’

use of vibrato at times interfering with the clarity of Victoria’s polyphony. Yet La Colombina imbues the music with an intense spiritual expressivity, and all the colour, drama and pathos of an El Greco painting, while the plainchant choir Schola Antiqua articulates the music’s devotional function with convincing fervour.

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The lustrous and detailed balance enhances the impact of this recording but, above all, its great strength is in setting this music in the context of Holy Week. Just as the structure and drama of a Mozart opera depend on the balance of recitative, aria, ensemble and chorus, so, too, the meaning of Victoria’s music depends on its framework – one that has been admirably reconstructed here. Kate Bolton