Notes and Editorial Reviews
The office of Tenebrae, from the liturgy of Holy Week, has always fascinated the public and, above all, offered a fertile terrain for composers to exercise their gifts. Such was the case with Victoria, whose exclusively sacred output was nourished by multiple influences during his years in Rome. These Responsories, performed by world-renowned vocal ensemble Stile Antico, display unparalleled expressive power and amply justify his reputation as the greatest polyphonist of the Spanish Renaissance.
The beautifully blended voices of Stile Antico approach these 18 expressive, cleverly varied Holy Week pieces, written
in Rome by the greatest of Spanish-born Renaissance composers, with a poised devoutness rather than theatricality.
– Sunday Times (UK)
They conjure well the sense of timelessness this music projects, with accurate balance and instinctive pacing. They make pitch-perfect ensemble intonation seem simple, but many singers will attest that this is one of the hardest things to achieve when singing a capella. The quality of the recording itself sits them in the proper setting of a small chapel and not a cavernous cathedral.
Do your soul some good. Turn off the outside world, turn down the lights, and put this on. Bask in the glow of music that in its innocent simplicity, attains perfection.
– Classical Music Sentinel
If I were to be restricted to but three of de Victoria’s works in his prolific output, I would choose his Requiem, the O quam gloriosum mass and the Tenebrae under review.
The recording acoustic here is very deep and warm and there is a very pleasing distancing between the two male choirs in the antiphonal plainsong, but it is a little close in the main responsories and occasionally sounds marginally “buzzy” as the lower voices are so immediate. I prefer the more distanced, ethereal sound picture of the Virgin issue to both the Signum and Harmonia mundi releases. Greater resonance conjures up more vividly the cathedral ambiance. Short’s Tenebrae are given a slightly cleaner, clearer, brighter sound than either of the other two groups but I like a little more mystery.
Stile Antico employ mostly twelve singers, bringing in an extra two for two responsory passages, two of the plainsong inclusions, and the additional motet. Judging by the photos, Tenebrae add between six and ten singers to their core group of thirteen, depending on the section being sung. OVPP adherents will object, but I like the extra heft afforded by larger numbers and feel that lends more variety to the tonal palette.
Stile Antico eschew the repeats of the responsory texts but add three plainsong chants and the concluding motet. This accounts for why, if you strip out the extra material, their Tenebrae runs to only 56:15. I prefer to hear the repeats, but the additional material is compensation; the motet is especially lovely, rich in polychromatic harmonies, with something of the finest passages in “O quam gloriosum” in its melismatic runs.
No one acquiring this new recording, paradoxically warmer in sound and cooler in execution, is likely to be disappointed by the performances here of this extraordinary music.
– MusicWeb International (Ralph Moore) Read less
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