Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611): Tenebrae Responsoria for Good Friday

tenebrae -friday

The emotional impact of the rite of Tenebrae on Good Friday on the faithful congregated in their churches on this the most dreadful day commemorating the uniquely dire events of Good Friday Good Friday (Feria VI in Parasceve) was devastating and was intended to be so. The texts used, the prayers, psalms, lessons, and canticles, all punctuated by the Church being plunged progressively into darkness symbolised the world being plunged in to spiritual darkness by the catastrophe of Christ’s death. De Victoria’s music captures the nuances of mood and the gathering shades of darkness  perfectly – listen to what he does to depict Christ’s cry of ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’ to his Father upon the cross at ‘Deus meus, ut quid me dereliquisti?’ or the almost madrigalian way he treats the depiction of the lion in the forest at ‘et facta est mihi haereditas mea, sicut leo in silva’ (and my inheritance has become for me like a lion in the forest) or the stripped down beauty of  ‘Iesum tradidit impius’  (The ungodly man betrayed Jesus). Perhaps it’s this stark syllabism that so appeals to our modern ears. De Victoria as a loyal and devout son of the Church fully supported the Counter-Reformation’s strictures that music written AMDG should serve to illustrate and not obscure the text. Taking this as his starting point Victoria uses natural speech rhythms in syllabic settings which he highlights and augments as needed with a harmonic twist or a snatch of melody. It is this stark and plain musical language that makes these settings so beautiful and so very far ahead of their time.

Performance Note: As before I’ve uploaded these Responsoria both as individual pieces and then as a single complete file. It’s well worth your while listening to the individual Responsoria first as doing so captures their variety and gemlike quality.


Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611): Tenebrae Responsoria for Good Friday – Individual

Tamquam ad latronem existis

Tamquam ad latronem
existis cum gladiis et fustibus comprehendere me:
As if against a robberyou have come out with swords and cudgels to seize me.
Quotidie apud vos eram in templo docens,
et non me tenuistis: et ecce,
flagellatum ducitis ad crucifigendum.
Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple and you did not arrest me, but now you scourge me and lead me away to death upon the cross.
Cumque iniecissent manus in Jesum,
et tenuissent eum, dixit ad eos:
And when they had laid hands upon Jesus,
and had arrested him, he said to them:

Tenebrae factae sunt

Tenebrae factae sunt, dum crucifixissent Jesum Judaei: et circa horam nonam exclamavit Iesus voce magna: Deus meus, ut quid me dereliquisti?There was darkness when the Jews crucified Jesus,
and about the ninth hour Jesus cried out aloud:
My God, why have you forsaken me?
Et inclinato capite, emisit spiritum.And having bowed down his head, he breathed his last.
Exclamans Iesus voce magna ait:
Pater, in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum.
Crying out aloud Jesus said:
Father, into your hands I commit my soul.

Animam meam dilectam

Animam meam dilectam tradidi in manus iniquorum,
et facta est mihi haereditas mea, sicut leo in silva:
dedit contra me voces adversarius meus,
Congregamini, et properate ad devorandum illum:
posuerunt me in deserto solitudinis,
et luxit super me omnis terra:
The life that I held dear I put into the hands of the unrighteous, and my inheritance has become for me like a lion in the forest. My enemy spoke out against me, Come, gather together and hasten to devour him. They placed me in a wasteland of desolation,
and all the earth mourned for me.
Quia non est inventus qui me agnosceret, et faceret bene.For there was no one to acknowledge me or give me help.
Insurrexerunt in me viri absque misericordia,
et non pepercerunt animae meae.
Men rose up against me without mercy
and spared not my life.

Tradiderunt me in manus impiorum

Tradiderunt me in manus impiorum,
et inter iniquos proiecerunt me,
et non pepercerunt animae meae:
congregati sunt adversum me fortes:
They delivered me into the hands of the ungodly
and cast me among the unjust
and spared not my life.
The mighty gathered against me,
Et sicut gigantes steterunt contra me.and like giants they stood against me.
Alieni insurrexerunt adversum me,
et fortes quaesierunt animam meam.
Strangers rose up against me,
and the mighty sought my life.

Jesum tradidit impius summis principibus sacerdotum

Jesum tradidit impius summis principibus sacerdotum, et senioribus populi:The ungodly man betrayed Jesus to the chief priests
and the elders of the people:
Petrus autem sequebatur eum a longe, ut videret finem.but Peter followed him at a distance, to see how it would end.
Adduxerunt autem eum ad Caipham principem
sacerdotum, ubi scribae et pharisaei convenerant.
They led him to Caiphas, the chief priest, where the scribes and pharisees were gathered together.

Caligaverunt oculi mei a fletu meo

Caligaverunt oculi mei a fletu meo:
quia elongatus est a me, qui consolabatur me:
Videte, omnes populi,
My eyes were blind with weeping;
for he that consoled me is far from me.
Consider, all you people,
Si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus.If there is any sorrow like my sorrow.
O vos omnes, qui transitis per viam, attendite et videte.All you who pass along this way, take heed and consider.

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611): Tenebrae Responsoria for Good Friday – Complete

Performers: Westminst­er Cat­hedr­al Choir con­duc­ted by David Hill

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