Victoria’s Requiem

Choir Stalls By User:Sansculotte - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,

Victoria’s Requiem,  written for the funeral of  dowager Empress Maria of Spain who died on February 26, 1603 is, out of all the music I have sung over the past decade, my favourite.

The music is written for 6 voices and is largely polyphonic interspersed with plainsong incipits sung by a cantor

Tomás Luis de Victoria  was a Catholic priest and is arguably the most famous composer of Renaissance Choral works.  And some say the best.

By Yvon Fruneau - This place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as Old Town of Ávila with its Extra-Muros Churches., CC BY-SA 3.0-igo, By Yvon Fruneau - This place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as Old Town of Ávila with its Extra-Muros Churches., CC BY-SA 3.0-igo,
By Yvon Fruneau – This place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, listed as Old Town of Ávila with its Extra-Muros Churches., CC BY-SA 3.0-igo,

If you want to try it out I suggest you listen to the Youtube recording below by Musica Ficta .  The advantage of this particular format on Youtube is that the recording scrolls through the score so that you can follow the different voice parts bar by bar.

Or perhaps it would be fairer and more decent to buy the recording from this wonderful group and buy the score separately. Too much is given for free or posted for free on the internet – the so called “gig” economy.

I will leave you to read the details about the music and its composer and will satisfy myself by giving Renaissance Choral music and this composition in particular my own little “plug”.

Cathedral of Ávila - By Hector Blanco de Frutos - Own work, CC BY 2.5,
Cathedral of Ávila – By Hector Blanco de Frutos – Own work, CC BY 2.5,

The word “meditative” was never better used than when describing this ethereal, sublime, numinous music. Mere words fail to do it justice.

As with any sort of meditation the danger is that you enter a deep trance which eventually becomes sleep. Which is fine if you are lying comfortably on a sofa at home.

There is no danger of falling asleep if you are performing the music but looking out at the audience a few months ago, many had their eyes closed and their faces glowed softly with a quiet and peaceful smile. The music transports, uplifts, the mind drifts to a different plane.

Choir Stalls By User:Sansculotte - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,
Elaborately carved choir stalls at Buxheim Charterhouse, by Ignaz Waibl User:Sansculotte – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5,

The dynamics are simple – the volume remains mostly constant from bar to bar. The music can be taxing to sing, one difficulty being an absence of formal bar lines in music of the period.  The choir must pay especially close attention to the conductor and to the voices of the other performers – you need to drift, to weave, to interpret to empathise, to co-operate.

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