Victoria: Officium defunctorum

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: Officium defunctorum
PERFORMER: Magnificat/Philip Cave
Hyperion expand their on-going tribute to Victoria with the motet Dum complerentur and its ‘parody’ Mass, each movement beginning with the motet’s opening contours, and its glorious cascading ‘Alleluia’, the prototype for the exultant ‘Amens’ of the Gloria and Credo. The Westminster voices, especially those of the boys, ardent in their enthusiasm, are well suited to this contrapuntal aspect of Victoria. The ‘Reproaches’ for Holy Week are outstandingly effective, two choirs contrasting in size and distance. Within the cathedral tradition, I really can’t imagine better choral singing than this.


The Magnificat ensemble is also stunning. Despite the intonation challenge of singing two-to-a-part, their 13 mixed voices blend as if a single instrument. This particularly suits the stately pace of Victoria’s Mass for the Dead, chords melting seamlessly one into the next. The Mass is put into the context of the complete Office, with opening and closing motets and plainchant, here sung in the measured note-values which some scholarship supports. The result is an almost constant pulse throughout the (albeit rather ungenerous) 52 minutes: a hypnotically gripping experience.


Only Hampstead traffic mars this wonderful disc – the rumble is intolerable through headphones, though the ‘ambience’ is acceptable otherwise. George Pratt