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8.553240 - VICTORIA / LOBO / LASSO: Masses
Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548 - 1611)
Alonso Lobo (c. 1555 - 1617)
Duarte Lobo (c. 1565 - 1646)
Orlande de Lassus (1532 - 1594)
In 1575 Tomás Luis de Victoria was ordained to the priesthood by the last living member of the pre-Reformation English Church hierarchy - a certain Bishop Thomas Goldwell. In retrospect at least it makes a curious picture' the meeting of representatives from two very different modes of Catholicism, perhaps only a generation apart in age, but a revolution apart in style. For Victoria was born into the post-Tridentine world and his Masses and motets were to play the same role in the Spanish dominions as his mentor Palestrina's played in Rome - to provide a consistent and vigorous corpus of new music for the Counter-Reformation Church, Much of it for instance was performed and admired in the brave new colonies of South America.
Victoria was never far from power in Spain. He returned from his twenty-year stay in Italy apparently to lead the quiet life of a priest, but his remunerative and influential position as maestro of the choir in the Madrid convent where Charles V's daughter Maria spent her old age was far from a retirement. With plentiful resources at his disposal it is no wonder that so much of his writing is characterized by a huge underlying optimism and confidence.
O magnum mysterium is an early motet, published in 1572, and is amongst the best loved in his output. Written for the feasts of All Saints and the Circumcision respectively it lends itself well to adaptation into a "parody" Mass. Why Victoria should have been so fond of the parody technique in general (only one of his twenty Masses is free-composed) is difficult to say -a clue may lie in the fact of his republishing many of his old works in new volumes, and he is unusual among contemporaries in having almost all of his output published in his lifetime. He was not altogether the otherworldly innocent he made out.
Versa est in luctum is by Alonso Lobo, a Spanish contemporary and regarded as an equal by Victoria. It was written for the funeral of Philip II of Spain, and sets a movement from the Requiem Mass.
The flowering of Portuguese polyphony came in the first half of the seventeenth century with composers such as Estevao de Brito, Filipe de Magalhaes, Duarte Lobo, and Manuel Cardoso. The early years of the century had witnessed many musical innovations (for example the Baroque genre of opera and the experiments of Monteverdi) and the Portuguese composers worked these developments into the polyphonic traditions of the so-called stile antico to produce particularly expressive interpretations of the texts through freer use of dissonance.
Duarte Lobo began studying music at Evora with Manuel Mendes. He was appointed mestre da capela at Lisbon Cathedral in 1594 and remained there until his death in 1646. His six volumes of liturgical music prove him to be one of the leading Portuguese exponents of the polyphonic style. The Missa pro defunctis of 1621 skilfully retains the polyphonic style of Palestrina alongside the more modern dissonances, setting the sombre text almost in the style of his Spanish counterpart Victoria. Seven voices weave a contrapuntal web around the plainchant -- itself often a paraphrase of the original chant - and the resulting eight parts sing variously all together, as two choirs, and in reduced combinations, thereby creating a unique style out of seemingly anachronistic components.
The Bell' Amfitrit' altera mass is a testament to the craft of Lassus. It is written for eight voices and creates a variety of choral textures. Within every section of the Mass Lassus displays an intensely personal relationship between text and music with an underlying structural security as solid as anything created by Palestrina.
Schola Cantorum of Oxford
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