Notes and Editorial Reviews
Victoria's last publication was his six-voice Requiem Mass for the dowager Empress Maria, in whose service he had been from at least 1587 until her death in 1603. It is a wonderfully rich work, but at the same time one of his most restrained and refined compositions, including passages from his earlier four-voice Requiem published in 1583. In his note to the Westminster Cathedral recording, Bruno Turner points out that it is a misreading to think that Victoria thought of this as his 'swan-song'; but every detail in the music declares it as the final summarizing statement of a glorious career.
...The differences are easy to hear. The Tallis Scholars use 12 singers, including five ladies; Westminster use a full cathedral choir
with boys. The Tallis Scholars are slightly better at projecting all the details of the six-voice polyphony and have the edge on intonation as well as diction; Westminster produce a fuller, more expressive sound and give more weight to the changes in colour and movement in the music. Perhaps surprisingly, The Tallis Scholars produce a more convincingly Iberian sound, their sopranos finding it easier to project the open-throated quality that seems right for the music. At the same time, I would think that neither choir quite matches the hieratic austerity of the music. Victoria's largely homophonic sixvoice writing seems to suggest that he had in mind something massive and immensely slow reverberating in a rich acoustic ambience. Whether it is realistic to attempt such an effect in a modern recording is a moot question, but both recordings tend towards the sprightly.
Never have I been so perplexed in an attempt to establish my preference between two recordings. Often one brief passage seems better caught in one version where the very next passage is the other way round (particularly in the wonderful Libera me). Westminster usually find a slightly more passionate mood; but they tend to be somewhat less even in quality. (Why, for example, do the men have such soft consonants against the bright ones of their boys? I originally thought this was something to do with historical pronunciation, but there is no consistency here: both choirs tend towards 'standard Roman' pronunciation.) Readers may have their own preferences; but it is difficult to think that anybody would regret buying one as against the other.
-- Gramophone [9/1987, comparing this performance with
the Westminster Cathedral Choir recording]
Works on This Recording
Officium defunctorum: Misa de Requiem a 6 by Tomás Luis de Victoria
Written: by 1605; Spain
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