The Marian Music of Tomás Luis de Victoria Part 1

    VictoriaIntro The music of Tomás Luis de Victoria renaissance man, composer, friend of St. Teresa of Avila, priest, epitomises the Spanish counter-reformation. His music is passionate and intensely Catholic and while he was by no means as prolific as Palestrina or de Lassus the volume of his output is not to be sneered at. That we know of he composed:

    Twenty masses, forty four motets, thirty six hymns, sixteen alternating plainsong magnificats together with one for two choirs and another for three, ten Marian antiphons, seven  psalm settings for double choir, four sequences, liturgical music, and of course the superb music for Holy Week . Of these his reputation today is based mostky upon his 1605 Officium defunctorum (Office for the Dead), the music for Holy Week – the 1585 Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae, and a relative handful of other works including Vere languores nostros, Cum beatus Ignatius, O Vos Omnes and Super Flumina Babylonis now all of these are are very beautiful, all of them have been recorded repeatedly, and all of them are well worth discovering.

    The problem is that to concentrate just upon these works is to ignore a central reality of Victoria’s life and that is his very sincere and very eloquently expressed devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. During this series ‘Introducing The Marian Music of Tomás Luis de Victoria‘ I’ll be exploring and discussing some of Victoria’s music devoted to The Virgin in the hope that not only will you enjoy the music but that it will encourage you to explore this brilliant composer’s works further. To whet your appetite I’ve included his five-part setting of the Salve Regina performed by the Choir of Westminster Cathedral conducted by Martin Baker below. Enjoy :-).


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    LatinModern English TranslationTradition English Translation
    Salve regina, mater misericordiae,Hail, O queen, mother of mercy,Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
    vita, dulcedo et spes nostra salve.our life, sweetness and hope, hail.our life, our sweetness and our hope.
    Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae,To thee do we sigh, daughter of Eve,To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
    ad te suspiramus gementes et flentesmourning and weepingto thee do we send up our sighs,
    in hac lacrimarum this vale of tears.mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
    Eia ergo advocata nostraO you our advocate,Turn then, most gracious advocate,
    illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.turn on us thy merciful eyes.thine eyes of mercy toward us;
    Et Iesum benedictum fructum ventris tuiAnd after this our exile show unto us Jesus,And after this our exile, show unto us
    nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.the blessed fruit of thy womb.the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
    O clemens, o pia, o dulcis virgo Maria.O merciful, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
    Series NavigationThe Marian Music of Tomás Luis de Victoria Part 2: Missa Surge propera >>

2 thoughts on “The Marian Music of Tomás Luis de Victoria Part 1

  1. Mark, It’s me again. I think the English translation is not quite right. Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae should be: To thee do we cry poor banished children of Eve. The translation above reads: To thee do we sigh, daughter of Eve, It is we, not Mary, who the children (plural) of Eve. Otherwise, the rest is ok.

    The music is superb and thanks once again for posting it and for your great website.

    • John,

      You’re thinking of the traditional translation – which is better English poetry and which I remember being one of three prayers my parents taught me before I was sent away to school. The ‘Our Father’, the ‘Hail Mary’ and the ‘Hail Holy Queen’. It is better poetry and I prefer it but it’s not desperately accurate even in the first verse nowhere in the original is there any mention of her being holy. While when we come to your point ‘Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae’ the modern translation is that we ‘sigh’ but the traditional translation is more accurate here because you can translate it perfectly accurately as ‘cry’ as in the sense of ‘to cry out’ as in crying out in pain or grief. But ‘exsules’ is trickier because it does mean banished or exiled but doesn’t carry the connotation of ‘unfortunate’ that we find in the traditional translation. So yes, you’re right but it depends on which translation you go for. You could go for example this:

      To thee do we Eve’s banished children sigh.

      Which is also accurate and answers the point you correctly raise but is alas not terribly good poetry. The reason why I’ve gone for the ‘standard modern English’ translation (which in its own is quite as inaccurate as the traditional one) is because it’s the one most younger people will have been taught in school. Yet another translation is this:

      Hail queen of mercy,
      hail our sweetness and hope.
      To you we call, exiled sons of Eve.
      To you we sigh,
      groaning and weeping in this vale of tears.
      Look then, our advocate,
      turn those merciful eyes of yours to us.
      And after this exile show to us Jesus,
      blessed fruit of your womb.
      O merciful, O holy, O sweet virgin Mary.

      Any thoughts on this one?

      Many thanks for your comment and I’m glad you like the music. I hope you’ll enjoy exploring the series as a whole. But to come back to the ‘Salve’ the posting in this setting is one of my favourite settings but my all time favourite ever has to be Mangon’s setting which in case you haven’t heard it I’ll post here:


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