Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611): Tenebrae Responsoria for Holy Saturday

Photo: Um al-Zinar church in Homs, Syria, desecrated by Islamist fighters as part of their campaign to eliminate Christians from the Middle East and create a pure Caliphate

Photo: Um al-Zinar church in Homs, Syria, desecrated by Islamist fighters as part of their campaign to eliminate Christians from the Middle East and create a pure Caliphate

De Victoria’s Responsoria for Holy Saturday the three Responsoria  Sabbato Sancto ad Matutinum in secundo nocturno and the three Responsoria Sabbato Sancto ad Matutinum in tertia nocturnowere probably written before 1585 have an intensity of expression and subtlety of  expression that has rarely been matched.  The texts are anguished and Victoria captured this quality in settings that mostly eschewed melismatism or other musical flights in favour of a quasi chordal structure within which he continually he continually makes subtle alterations to the texture, occasionally using either repetition or pairs of voices to heighten the effect or build the musical tension such as at ‘Adversus Dominum’ in "Asiterunt reges". De Victoria was, as I remarked  yesterday, a loyal and de­vout son of the Church who fully sup­por­ted the Counter-Reformation’s stric­tures that music writt­en AMDG should serve to il­lustrate and not ob­scure the text. In these his settings for Holy Saturday using a remarkably austere and plain setting of the texts he  brings the musical and spiritual journey of Holy Week’s three climactic and traumatic days to a devastating close.


Tomás Luis de Vic­toria (1548-1611): Tenebrae Responsoria for Holy Saturday – Individual

Recessit pastor noster

Recessit pastor noster, fons aquae vivae,
ad cuius transitum sol obscuratus est:
Our shepherd, the fount of living water, is gone,
at his passing the sun grew dark:
Nam et ille captus est,
qui captivum tenebat primum hominem:
hodie portas mortis et seras pariter Salvator noster disrupit.
For even he is taken,
who captive held the first of men.
Today our Saviour has burst alike the gates and bolts of death.
Destruxit quidem claustra inferni,
et subvertit potentias diaboli.
The bounds of Hell he has destroyed
and overthrown the devil’s power.

O vos omnes, qui transitis per viam

O vos omnes, qui transitis per viam, attendite, et videte si est dolor similis sicut dolor meus.Attendite universi populi, et videte dolorem meum.All you who pass along this way, take heed and consider if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.Take heed, all you people, and consider my sorrow.

Ecce quomodo moritur

Ecce quomodo moritur iustus, et nemo percipit corde: et viri iusti tolluntur, et nemo considerat:
a facie iniquitatis sublatus est iustus:
Behold how the just man dies, and no one feels for him: the just are done away with, and no one cares:
from the face of iniquity is the just man taken,
Et erit in pace memoria eius.And his memory shall be in peace.
Tamquam agnus coram tondente se obmutuit, et non aperuit os suum: de angustia, et de iudicio sublatus est.Like a lamb before the shearer he was silent and opened not his mouth. From anguish and from judgement was he taken.

Astiterunt reges terrae

Astiterunt reges terrae,
et principes convenerunt in unum,
The kings of the earth rose up,
and the princes assembled together
Adversus Dominum, et adversus Christum eius.Against the Lord, and against His Christ.
Quare fremuerunt gentes,
et populi meditati sunt inania?
Why have the nations given vent to their rage,
and why have the people set their hearts on empty thoughts?

Aestimatus sum

Aestimatus sum cum descendentibus in lacum:I am counted among them that go down into the pit:
Factus sum sicut homo
sine adiutorio, inter mortuos liber.
I have become like a man
without help, free among the dead.
Posuerunt me in lacu inferiori,
in tenebrosis, et in umbra mortis.
They placed me in the pit of Hell,
in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Sepulto Domino

Sepulto Domino, signatum est monumentum,
volventes lapidem ad ostium monumenti:
When the Lord was buried, they sealed his tomb,
rolling a rock before the entrance to the tomb:
Ponentes milites, qui custodirent illum.setting soldiers to guard it.
Accedentes principes sacerdotum ad Pilatum,
petierunt illum.
The chief priests came to Pilate
and petitioned him.

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611): Tenebrae Responsoria for Holy Saturday – Complete

Performers: Westminster Cathedral Choir conducted by David Hill

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