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Tomas Luis de Victoria: Requiem Mass, 1605Nigel Short
Tomás Luis de Victoria's requiem mass for six voices, written in 1603 and published in 1605, is a masterpiece. It is one of a handful of large-scale works which enjoys mainstream appeal in the 21st century. For many, it represents what Renaissance polyphony is, what it sounds and feels like, and how expressive it can be. The disc also features two well-known works by Victoria's contemporary Alonso Lobo.
The performance comes from the renowned professional chamber choir Tenebrae, led by Nigel Short, following their BBC Music Magazine Award nominated recording of Francis Poulenc's Figure Humaine.
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Release date: 28th Mar 2011
Order code: SIGCD248
|1.||Versa est in luctum||Alonso Lobo||5.32|
|2.||Requiem Mass, 1605 - Lesson: Taedet anima mea||Tomás Luis de Victoria||3.05|
|3.||- Introit: Requiem aeternam||6.20|
|5.||- Gradual: Requiem aeternam||3.46|
|6.||- Offertory: Domine, Jesu Christe||6.46|
|7.||- Sanctus & Benedictus||3.26|
|8.||- Agnus Dei||1.08|
|9.||- Communion: Lux aeterna||1.38|
|10.||- Motet: Versa est in luctum||4.06|
|11.||- Responsory: Libera me, Domine||9.43|
|12.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: I||Alonso Lobo||1.10|
|13.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: II||0.53|
|14.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: III||1.46|
|15.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: IV||0.40|
|16.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: V||1.17|
|17.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: VI||0.56|
|18.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: VII||0.52|
|19.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: VIII||0.36|
|20.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: IX||1.20|
|21.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: X||0.33|
|22.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: XI||1.17|
|23.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: XII||0.53|
|24.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: XIII||1.32|
|25.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: XIV||1.25|
|26.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: XV||1.22|
|27.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: XVI||0.58|
|28.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: XVII||1.10|
|29.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: XVIII||0.54|
|30.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: XIX||1.10|
|31.||Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae: XX||3.13|
Andrew McGregor: ...First though, back to the BBC Music Magazine Awards, announced in the concert hall at King’s Place in North London just a couple of days ago. Nigel Short’s vocal ensemble Tenebrae was there, not just to collect the choral award, but to perform the heart-stopping funeral motet Versa est in luctum by Spanish composer Alonso Lobo that opens their disc. You might have heard it on In Tune on Thursday evening, but it’s Victoria’s Requiem Mass of 1605 that’s the heart of the disc in a ravishingly beautiful performance that stills my heart and sends shivers down my spine.
The Kyrie from the Requiem Mass of 1605, from Tomás Luis de Victoria and the sound of Tenebrae, directed by Nigel Short, who’s sung this music himself many times with King’s Singers and the Tallis Scholars. But there is an intensity, an emotional range, Tenebrae seems to be able to draw on that makes this really special alongside the purity and accuracy we’ve come to expect from this very versatile ensemble. To find ourselves on the jury putting forward two of their recent recordings to the public vote just proved the point, it could have been their disc of Parry’s Songs of Farewell, but it was the Victoria that won the day. Both discs are of Signum Classics.
Choral recordings seem to get better and better, and this year has brought a vintage crop. Tenebrae's Victoria Requiem on Signum Classics is a lovely recording – transparent, tranquil, and heartfelt: it's a version I can listen to again and again. The choir is a size smaller than the chamber choirs of a generation ago, and paring forces down to Tenebrae's size gives you lightness and transparency, and allows the polyphonic lines to emerge more clearly in a lovely way. But all of this is only possible because the professional choral singers who are around now are so good that they'll withstand that kind of clarity.
John Rutter, BBC Music Magazine
Nigel Short, director of Tenebrae, had not one but two discs in the nominations this year: 'I half-expected the Parry to win, but then Victoria's Requiem is such a great masterpiece and perhaps appeals to a larger, international audience.' How does he succeed so brilliantly with such different repertoire? 'I use a core team of about eight or ten singers who are involved with all projects but then bring in specialists for different repertoire. We work as an ensemble and I like to go into any performance with the knowledge that everything is in place but that we can take a piece in a new direction if the mood suits. It makes for a very exciting atmosphere and creates a strong focus where every singer has to be involved at the highest level of intensity.'
The Victoria project was special to Short because he'd sung the Requiem (and Lobo's Lamentations) many times with the Tall is Scholars and King's Singers, so knew the music. 'It was pure joy spending time with the team, pushing for as many different vocal colours as possible. It was also wonderful finding which passages work best when you simply let them hang in the air, so they drift past, creating a sense of timelessness. We searched for that magic ingredient.'
BBC Music Magazine, Choral Award, 2012
The Independent, 15 April 2011
Victoria’s Requiem Mass is one of the acknowledged masterpieces of Renaissance choral polyphony, and Tenebrae here exquisitely conveys the flowing relationships between its six voices. The group presents the work with elegant subtlety, allowing the full detail of tonal colouration to shine through unencumbered. The abnegation of worldly miseries in lines such as “My soul is weary of my life” is echoed in the less well-known but equally absorbing “Versa est in luctum” (“My harp is turned to mourning”) by Alonso Lobo, a complex piece of gorgeous chromatism, in which the sublime soprano tones cascade emotively over the lower counterpoints to remarkable effect.
The Financial Times, 30 April 2011
Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) wrote his requiem in 1603 for the burial service of his patron, the sister of King Philip II of Spain. It ranks not only as an outstanding example of Renaissance polyphony but as one of the masterpieces of musical history, transcending time and place.
Forget its “early music” lineage, its religious context, its sheer oldness. Forget also that Victoria worked extensively in Rome, for there is precious little Latin temperament in this slow, serene progression of 10 movements, culminating in a quietly joyful “Libera me”. The wonderful thing about the requiem is you don’t need to know or understand anything about its musicological significance or technical demands (in both cases, immense) to appreciate it, for here is music of essential simplicity and spiritual depth.
Tenebrae’s performance, directed by Nigel Short, is gently sustained, immaculately balanced and wrapped in a luminous acoustic. Framing it are two equally affecting motets by Victoria’s less familiar near- contemporary, Alonso Lobo – a fragrant “Versa est in luctum” and the quietly contemplative “Lamentations Ieremiae Prophetae”. If you have ever developed a resistance to Renaissance polyphony, this could be the disc to make you think again.
BBC Music Magazine Choral & Song Choice, June 2011
Beautifully crafted Victoria – BBC Music Magazine Choral & Song Choice Anthony Pryer gives a warm welcome to Tenebrae's superlative disc.
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 Philips (Gimell). Philips 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 Shorts choir is more subtle. In Lobos Versa 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.
The Telegraph, May 2011
Tenebrae applies its customary sensibility and expressive power to one of the great cornerstones of the choral repertoire. Beautifully recorded with just the right amount of resonance, Tomaás Luis de Victoria’s Requiem Mass was written in Madrid for the funeral of the Dowager Empress Maria and published in 1605. Victoria called on hall his imaginative resources in thisw Requiem, and Tenebrae interprets them magnificently.
Classic FM Magazine, July 2011
The Music. Sleeve note annotator Greg Skidmore makes a case that Victoria's 1603 Requiem sits comfortably besides works like Bach's St Matthew Passion, Mozart's Requiem and Beethoven's 'Choral' Symphony No.9 as truly great achievements in Western music. He's spoton: Victoria's harmonic inventiveness and subtly expressionistic word painting was epoch-making, and remains stubbornly contemporary.
International Record Review, June 2011
Published in 1605, Victoria's six-part (SSATTB) Requiem is one of the classics or Renaissance polyphony and deserving of the numerous fine recordings currently in the catalogue. It isn't especially polyphonic; rather, sonic Masses in various states of overlap follow one after the other like billowing clouds filling the sky with various shades of grey, the top voices occasionally braking through like sunshine.
This new recording by Tenebrae, the superb mixed chamber choir formed by director Nigel Short in 2001, recalls the wonderful 1987 recording by The Tallis Scholars in its luminous clarity and firm architectonics. Short chooses to precede the Requiem with Alonso Lobo's motet Versa est in luctum, which prefigures not only Victoria's own (between the communion and the Responsory) but the performance of Lobo' exquisite Lamentations of Jeremiah which fills out the disc. Immediately apparent are the modulations of feeling directly registered in the undulating phrase, something that characterizes this performance as a whole.
Following a powerfully declaimed 'Taedet anima mea', Short allows a spacious 'Requiem aeternam' to create a suitable aural and psychological space for the 'Kyrie', the third verse or which is sung with the intensity of feeling one usually finds here while maintaining an emotional perspective sometimes lost – as, for example, in The Sixteen's impassioned recording of the work.
There is still as much chiaroscuro as in the paintings or the Spanish Caravaggisti. In 'Domine, Jesu Christe' the listener is made to feel the 'pains of hell' before the salve of a gentle, swelling ‘Sanctus' and 'Benedictus' is applied. Elsewhere the reassuringly marmoreal qualities of the 'Lux aeterna' are retrospectively troubled by the later anguished passages of the 'Libera me'. Short knows which colour to apply and where in order to bring out the essentially dramatic qualities of Victoria's art.
The Sixteen's 2005 recording, on which they are accompanied by bajón and chamber organ, is more sinewy and textured – the strokes bolder, the relief sharper - than the present recording. However, Tenebrae's is more poised, more classical and just as powerful in its deliberately circumscribed outlook
Choir and Organ Magazine, June 2011
... Victoria's most popular work, the Requiem of 1605, finds Tenebrae exploring this plangent sequence with astounding sostenuto. A characterful, distinctive bass sonority steps out of the shadows with tremendous power, tastefully employed, as are some surprising but far from unstylish crescendi, With greater acoustic bloom than the Tallis Scholars, there is a less egotistical atmosphere. They are balanced less towards the treble, creating a gentler, more contempla- tive effect with, nonetheless, a wonderful range of expression. … Tenebrae are more often quietly prostrated with grief.
Lobo: Lamentations – ESSENTIAL RECORDING
Released this year, the newest addition to the catalogue is a tour de force of faultless tuning, impeccable ensemble, and carefully tweaked, mixed-voiced singing. The performance is focused, distinct and striking, with no hint of self-indulgence. Tempos are always kept moving, and the balance of the six voice parts within the polyphonic texture is superb. In spite of the forward momentum and urgency of the performance, plenty of space is generated by the reverberant acoustics.
The recorded sound is crystal clear, and this allows the excellent diction to make its presence felt in even the most dense sections of the work.