Tomás Luis de Victoria stands shoulder to shoulder with other musical giants of his age such as Byrd, de Lassus, Palestrina, and Tallis, while his output was relatively small – Palestrina for example published five times as much music as Victoria did, de Lassus published even more, and of the four only Victoria published no secular music, it was of such quality that nobody can doubt its merits. Victoria’s religious beliefs inspired him to achieve a stunningly high level of musical craftsmanship ad majorem Dei gloriam. He polished his music again and again until he was satisfied even after it was published as the many differences to be found across the successive editions of his works published during his lifetime show. There is a passionate intensity to his music which none of his contemporaries could match.
This passionate intensity can certainly be heard in all of Victoria’s Marian compositions particularly in his four settings of the Salve Regina – the antiphon to the Blessed Virgin Mary which is sung from first vespers on Trinity Sunday to the Saturday before the first Sunday in Advent. Of these four settings the most impressive to is the double-choir setting that you can hear below sung by the Westminster Cathedral Choir was first published in the Gardane edition of 1576 and then reissued in 1600 in Madrid. Victoria divided it into seven sections and made heavy use of contrasts both between a high voiced choir and a lower voiced one, and between very intense fugal sections that use only a few voices and very grandiose passages that use the full resources of both choirs the result is passionate, sonorous, serene and oh so very beautiful. It is the Marian devotion distilled and is quite simply one the greatest pieces of polyphonic music ever composed. Enjoy :-).
Text & Translation: Salve Regina
|Salve regina, mater misericordiae,||Hail, O queen, mother of mercy,|
|vita, dulcedo et spes nostra salve.||our life, sweetness and hope, hail.|
|Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae,||To thee do we sigh, daughter of Eve,|
|ad te suspiramus gementes et flentes||mourning and weeping|
|in hac lacrimarum valle.||in this vale of tears.|
|Eia ergo advocata nostra||O you our advocate,|
|illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.||turn on us thy merciful eyes.|
|Et Iesum benedictum fructum ventris tui||And after this our exile show unto us Jesus,|
|nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.||the blessed fruit of thy womb.|
|O clemens, o pia, o dulcis virgo Maria.||O merciful, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.|
Westminster Cathedral Choir, James O’Donnell (conductor).