Lluís Vich Vocalis

Tomás Luis de Victoria: Paribus Vocibus

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Tomás Luis de Victoria always appears at or near the top of lists of Spain's greatest composers, but general listeners tend to know him only for a few short motets and responsories that marry a Palestrinian perfection of polyphony to an Iberian somberness and shadow. One of these is O vos omnes, track 12 on the present disc. Recordings of his work showing how his style was applied to various genres are still not common, making this disc from a generally lovely series from the city of Valencia especially welcome. Not all the genres of Victoria's music are covered: there are no masses or mass sections. But that points to another strength of the disc: its principle of selection is an unusual one, but one Renaissance singers would have recognized. The subtitle "Paribus Vocibus" indicates that the music is written for "similar voices," with most or all of the parts in the same range. It is thus suitable for performance by the all-adult-male, 10-voice Lluís Vich Vocalis, and the booklet notes point out that not every institution that used Victoria's music would have been able to afford choirboys and the educational infrastructure needed to keep them on hand. The choir's sound is passionate rather than pure, intense, and recorded up close in a very live Valencian university chapel. The program includes not only motets and responsories, but also newly authenticated psalm setttings and a pair of gorgeous Magnificats, each with alternating verses of polyphony and plainsong. That adds a dimension of contrast to Victoria's music, and the performers add another such dimension by cutting back from their normal forces of two or three voices per part to single voices in order to emphasize certain passages or sections. It all adds up to a performance that brings home Victoria's piety and makes it possible to imagine his music as it was heard in its own time. Booklet notes are in Spanish, English, and "Valencià/Català," with the Latin texts of the music also translated into each of those tongues.

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