Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611): O Magnum Mysterium

Painting: The Nativity   Artist: Spanish (Valencian) School, circa 1500   Technique: Tempera and gold on panel   Location: Private collection

Painting: The Nativity
Artist: Spanish (Valencian) School, circa 1500
Technique: Tempera and gold on panel
Location: Private collection

For some reason the original of Victoria’s four-part (SATB) Christmas Motet O magnum mysterium (O great mystery) is marked In Circumcisione Domini (The Circumcision of The Lord), in other words it was intended to be sung for that feast which falls upon January 1st.  I’d love to know who marked it thus and why, I doubt if it was de Victoria himself, he was a priest and as such would have been more than aware that the text he was setting were propers for Matins on Christmas Day. It’s a lovely motet very typical of de Victoria’s warmth and cheerfulness. He manages to convey the appropriate sense of wonder at Jesus’ birth then there’s some wonderfully hushed writing beginning at ‘O beata Virgo‘ and continuing until the ending triple-time Alleluia. It’s a gloriously happy piece of music and de Victoria was obviously pleased with it because twenty years later he used it as the basis for his Christmas Mass setting Missa O Magnum Mysterium. Enjoy :-).

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Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611): O Magnum Mysterium

O magnum mysterium, et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum, iacentem in praesepio:
O beata Virgo, cuius viscera meruerunt
portare Dominum Jesum Christum. Alleluia.

Responsories at Matins, Christmas Day

O great mystery and wondrous thing
that the animals behold the new-born Lord lying in a manger.
O Blessed Virgin, whose womb
was worthy to bear the Lord Jesus Christ. Alleluia.

Performers: Westminster Cathedral Choir conducted by David Hill

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