24 July 2017
Programs

Tomas Luis De Victoria
(1548-1611)

Officium defunctorum sex vocibus In Obitu et Obsequiis Sacrae Imperatricis (1605)

 

Officium defunctorum

  • Lectio II: Taedet animam meam

Missa pro Defunctis

  • Introitus: Requiem aeternam
  • Kyrie
  • Epistola
  • Graduale: Requiem aeternam
  • Tractus: Absolve, Domine
  • Sequentia: Dies irae
  • Evangelium
  • Offertorium: Domine Jesu Christe
  • Praefatio
  • Sanctus
  • Benedictus
  • Agnus Dei
  • Communio: Lux aeterna
  • Motectum: Versa est in luctum
  • Ad absolutionem post Missam
  • Responsorium: Libera me, Domine
  • Antiphona: In paradisum

Requiem for an Empress

The dowager empress of Austria, Maria, daughter of Charles V and sister to Philip II of Spain, died in Madrid on the February the 26th, 1603.

During the royal funeral “the most solemn and sumptuous ever seen in Spain” (from the official account of the event), compositions were performed by Victoria.

Tomas Luis De Victoria, after 22 years in Rome (in 1571 he succeeded Palestrina as chapel-master in the Roman Seminary and, in 1575, received religious orders), he went back to Spain in the service of the dowager empress Maria of Austria, as her chapel-master and chaplain. In those years he was “striving to recompose my soul in contemplation, as becomes a priest”.

The death of the empress, a typical Renaissance lady and lover of music, spurred him to write his last work: “Officium Defunctorum”, the greatest religious polyphonic work Spain has ever produced.

There are six voices. The Cantus II performs the gregorian liturgical melody, whereas in the present reconstruction gregorian tunes are reintroduced and alternate with the polyphonic parts. The gregorian chants, which Vicrtoria leaves as they are, are : “Absolve Domine”, a soloist chant, and “Dies Irae”, one of the five sequences still to be found in the missal, after the counter-reformation. he chants of the “Epistola”, of the “Evangelium” and the “Prefatio” are added.

Victoria places “Versa est in Luctum”, a motet not included in liturgical texts, between the end of the Mass and the end of the funeral speech, in sign of affection.

He was convinced of the supreme dignity of religious polyphony, as many other Spanish composers of the time. He therefore avoided composing secular music and forbade using methods of composing contaminated by secular music. Castilian polyphonic music in the “siglo de oro” reaches therefore its highest point owing to Victoria work, with no other European Schools at the same spiritual and mystical levels.

Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae IN PASSIONE DOMINI

  • Incipit lamentatio. Lectio prima
  • Animam meam responsorium
  • Amicus meus responsorium
  • Jod. Manum suam. Lectio tertia
  • Aestimatus sum responsorium
  • Eram quasi agnus responsorium
  • O vos omnes responsorium
  • Ecce quomodo responsorium
  • Incipit orati. Lectio tertia
  • Caligaverunt responsorium
  • Vere languores motectum
  • Popule meus improperia

Victoria never wrote a single note of secular music. In his dedications he says, over and again: “I am naturally predisposed to Holy Church music and for years I have been working at it… bad and deprived men use music to wallow in worldly pleasures, instead of be raised through it towards God, using the voice (I mean singing art) to the sole aim which it was created at, that is “Deo optimo clarissimo laudibus suis”.

Of a more Spanish character (in the widest cultural sense), the “Officum Hebdomadae Sanctae” is, for Catholic music, what J.S. Bach’s Passions are for the Lutheran Church.

Here the composer applies a vast range of colours and follows the inner rythm of the liturgical text even in the minimum shades.

It is a concise work, contrapunctually very refined, deeply spiritual and mystical. Palestrina’s ascetism, its virile ardour and deep expressiveness, had taught him much and here we find a great example of liturgical and musical equilibrium between chant and polyphony.

J. Cererols (1618-1680) - Missa pro defunctis 7 v. (Excerpt) Ahi que dolor (excpert)