Tomás Luis de Victoria was the greatest composer of the Spanish sixteenth-century ‘golden age’ of polyphonic music. This recording is of the six-voice Missa Dum complerentur, the five-part motet on which the Mass is based, and six further hymns and sequences including the great Popule meus, a setting of the Improperia (Reproaches) which form the heart of the liturgy for Good Friday. This is music of compelling beauty, which illustrates well Victoria’s extraordinary capacity to create through simple homophony extremely moving music of great expressiveness.
Tomás Luis de Victoria is definitely one of the most important composers in the music history of Spain. His masterpiece is the ‘Officium Defunctorum’, published in Madrid in 1605. In this requiem – written for the funeral of Maria of Austria, daughter of Emperor Charles V – the composer reached a mystical intensity of expression.
Tomás Luis de Victoria was born in 1548 in Avila, the birthplace of St Teresa. Just as she seems to personify the religious ethos of sixteenth-century Spain (the good side of it, at least), so Victoria came to embody the best of the Spanish character in music. As a youth he learnt his art as a chorister at the Cathedral of Avila. So promising was he that he was sent to Rome at seventeen years of age, patronised by Philip II and by the Church, to study at the Jesuits’ Collegium Germanicum…
The liturgy of the Dead – including the Requiem Mass, the Burial Service and the Office of the dead, properly speaking – was granted considerable importance by the Spanish ecclesiastical authorities and by the local church composers from very early times. Throughout the Middle Ages, according to the extant documentary descriptions, the death of a great Lord, such as the Count of Barcelona or the sovereign of any of the Spanish kingdoms of León, Castile, Aragon or Navarre, was usually mourned with impressive ceremonies in which the solemnity of the liturgy was often enhanced by the addition of the planctus, a kind of lengthy optional lament that was sung monophonically and of which several examples have survived.
Juan García de Salazar was a Spanish Baroque composer from the Basque country who spent most of his career working at Zamora Cathedral; he is so obscure the entry for him in the New Grove doesn't even include a list of his works. Musicologist Manuel Sagastume Arregi has pulled together a number of Salazar's extant movements related to the Vespers service with additional material to create Juan García de Salazar: Complete Vespers of Our Lady in Naxos' Spanish Classics series. It is performed by the Basque ensemble Capilla Peñaflorida and features the period wind group Ministriles de Marsias and the fine baritone of Josep Cabré. There are no stars here, though – everything on Juan García de Salazar: Complete Vespers of Our Lady is done to the service of the music, which is outstanding. Sagastume Arregi's realization of García de Salazar's Vespers service incorporates appropriate plainchant sections taken from a Basque hymnal dated 1692, organ music by García de Salazar's contemporaries José Ximenez and Martín Garcia de Olagüe, instrumental arrangements of García de Salazar's motets, and an arrangement of Tomás Luis de Victoria's Vidi speciosam probably made by García de Salazar himself.