VICTORIA: Requiem (1603) – La Stagione Armonia/ Sergio Balestracci – Pan Classics PC10235, 66:06 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
It was the repose of Empress Marie of Austria in Spain in 1603 that caused one of the most famous and elaborate funerals in local memory. The sister of Philip II and daughter of King Charles V was fortunate to have the tutelage both musical and spiritual of her court chaplain and music master, Tomas Luis de Victoria. The composer spent a number of years learning the trade in Rome from Palestrina and the inspiration of St. Philip Neri in whose congregation he received religious orders. Victoria returned to Madrid in 1585, became officially attached to the Empress, and dedicated his last work, this Mass for the Dead, to her in 1605.
This life-affirming and plainchant-infused work is set for six voices that alternates the chant with polyphony. There is nothing showy, nothing excessive or out of place in this work, composed with the strictest rules of composition in mind, and with a pure and almost ascetic goal of faithfulness to the liturgical tradition. Victoria is one of the highest elements of a very rich and inherited musical patrimony of the age, always a man of faith and always a man of the highest musical ideals, expressed here as well as in any of his other pieces.
This a beautifully recorded work in sumptuous sound that can take its place among the best of them. While I will not be discarding the Tallis Scholars or the Sixteen in this music, La Stagione Armonica certainly hold their own and turn in a fine reading.
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