Victoria: Requiem Mass, 1605

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COMPOSERS: Lobo,Victoria
LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Victoria: Requiem Mass, 1605; Lobo: Versa est in luctum; Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae
PERFORMER: Tenebrae/Nigel Short
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD 248

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This truly great requiem by Victoria was written on the death of his patron, the sister of Philip II of Spain. Many choirs have recorded it before including those directed by Harry Christophers (on Coro) and Peter Phillips (Gimell). Phillips also pairs Victoria’s works with those by Lobo (a composer working in Seville), but the insight and advocacy of Nigel Short’s recording make it outstanding.
 
The special problems of this music include the fact that in historical terms its ‘pre-emotional’ style makes it difficult to evoke meaningful contrast from the notes. Many groups go for a kind of random, lurching, squeeze-box approach to the phrases, but Nigel Short is more subtle. In Lobo’s Versus est in luctum he keeps his eye on the overall shape of the piece, wonderfully grading and crafting the musical unfolding.
 
In Victoria’s Sanctus the sentiments of the words (‘heaven and earth are full of Thy glory’) prompt a sustained celebration of sound, and in the Responsory (‘the day of wrath’) Short finds a musical dramaturgy to match that of the text. The Requiem is written for six voices, but this choir of 20 never seems lumbering or unbalanced. They are perfectly tuned (listen to the exquisite poise of the Agnus Dei), and one is rarely aware of intrusive individual singers. The acoustic has a long echo, but the sound is kept nicely in focus. This recording does justice both to the genius of Victoria and to the musicality of Tenebrae. Anthony Pryer