WORKS: Missa Alma Redemptoris Mater; Magnificat octavi toni; Litaniae Beatae Mariae; Salve Regina etc
PERFORMER: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
CATALOGUE NO: COR 16088
Harry Christophers’s love of Victoria suffuses this sumptuous recording of music dedicated to the Virgin – a theme that clearly inspired the composer. Victoria’s finely wrought melodies make the densest counterpoint airy, and his masterful use of imitation, homophony and double choirs achieves strikingly varied textures and effects.
Purists may complain that Christophers’s direction obscures imitative points, but the seamless plainsong, searing climaxes, subtle dynamic shading and responsiveness to text is captivating. The fit between the The Sixteen and the double choir format of much the music is perfect. When divided, the choir sings as an intimate Renaissance ensemble, but when combined its power overflows Victoria’s polyphonic lines. The sound producers have cannily followed Christophers’s reading, alternating between close-up and general perspectives: in the Magnificat octavi toni, the final six-voice verse setting stands resplendently against the preceding four-voice material.
Christophers shows how qualities we associate with Romanticism – impulse and abandon – can be the best guide to performing early music as well. In the booklet notes he declares Victoria to have been ‘the greatest composer of the Renaissance’. Listening to this may convince you. Berta Joncus