Nordic Voices sing Victoria
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Label: Chandos - Chaconne
Cat No: CHSA0402
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 2nd June 2017
WorksArdens est cor meum
Benedicta sit sancta Trinitas
Nigra sum sed formosa
O Domine Iesu Christe
Quem vidistis, pastores?
Tu es Petrus
Vadam et circuibo civitatem
This surround-sound recording comes ten years after a ‘warm, consistent and moving’ (BBC Music) album of Lamentations, which featured pieces by sixteenth-century composers, including Four Lessons by Victoria. Examples of the composer’s exceptional output, characterised by a careful setting of the text and an ability to control texture by a constant grouping and regrouping of different voices, here meet the artistic resourcefulness, versatility, technical precision, and freshness of the young ensemble.
1Quem Vidistis, Pastores
2Ardens Est Cor Meum
4Vexilla Regis 'More Hispano'
5Tu Es Petrus
7Nigra Sum Sed Formosa
9Benedicta Sit Sancta Trinitas
10O Domine Jesu Christe
11Vadam Et Circuibo Civitatem
You get a flavour of this in the very opening number, the Christmas motet Quem vidistis, pastores, where the singers point up the Hispanic rhythms at the words ‘collaudentes Dominum’ (‘praising the Lord’), and throughout the disc rhythms are as wonderfully buoyant as the textures are brilliantly transparent. These are texts that were designed to complement the liturgy, and they provided Victoria with plenty of opportunity to indulge his gift for musical illustration, with such subtle devices as a descending melisma at the words ‘portae inferi’ (‘gates of hell’) in Tu es Petrus. The Nordic Voices are alive to all these instances, but they never allow them to get in the way of the overall expressive trajectory. From the richer textures of six-part scoring to such exquisite passages as the three-voice third section of Salve, Regina, the singers relish the delights of this music which, with just one voice per part, are illuminated as never before.
Even more than on the award-winning 10-disc Archiv box from Ensemble Plus Ultra, intonation is immaculate and vocal lines marvellously focused, with shimmering sopranos and a light-toned mezzo, and well-defined lower voices that never overpower. The overall musical design of the disc is attractive, too, with a generally more jubilant flavour the first half, and more reflective numbers in the second. Phrasing is consistently thoughtful without ever feeling micro-managed: try the opening of Nigra sum sed formosa to hear these singers at their most unassumingly affecting.
In addition to the ten motets, there’s room for the hymn Vexilla Regis, sung in alternatim style, Hispanic plainchant (‘more hispano’) alternating with three- and four-voice polyphony, before a burst of six-part radiance for the doxological final verse.
As an essential corrective to the widespread view of Victoria as a composer of majestic, plangent large-scale works, this delightful collection of motets could hardly be bettered. It captures all the sunlit disposition that Victoria’s contemporaries so admired, in a recording that enhances the bloom of these remarkable voices. With unusually engaging and informative notes from Victoria expert Soterraña Aguirre, this is an absolute peach of a disc, unhesitatingly recommended.
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