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Tomás Luis de Victoria

Tomás Luis de Victoria

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Tomás Luis de Victoria, sometimes Italianised as da Vittoria (1548 – 20 August 1611), was the most famous composer of the 16th century in Spain, and one of the most important composers of the Counter-Reformation
Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

, along with Giovanni da Palestrina
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition...

 and Orlando di Lasso. Victoria was not only a composer, but also an accomplished organist and singer. However, he preferred the life of a composer to that of a performer. He is sometimes known as the "Spanish Palestrina" because he may have been taught by Palestrina.

Life and career


Victoria was born in Sanchidrián
Sanchidrián
Sanchidrián is a municipality located in the province of Ávila, Castile and León, Spain. According to the 2006 census , the municipality has a population of 773 inhabitants....

 in the province of Ávila
Ávila (province)
Ávila is a province of central-western Spain, in the southern part of the autonomous community of Castile and León. It is bordered on the south by the provinces of Toledo and Cáceres, on the west by Salamanca, on the north by Valladolid, and on the east by Segovia and Madrid. Ávila has a...

, Castile
Castile (historical region)
A former kingdom, Castile gradually merged with its neighbours to become the Crown of Castile and later the Kingdom of Spain when united with the Crown of Aragon and the Kingdom of Navarre...

 around 1548 and died in 1611. Victoria’s family can be traced back for generations.
Not only are the names of the members in his immediate family known, but even the occupation of his grandfather. Victoria was the seventh of nine children born to Francisco Luis de Victoria and Francisca Suárez de la Concha. After his father’s death in 1557, his uncle, Juan Luis, became his guardian. He was a choirboy in Ávila Cathedral. Cathedral records state that his uncle, Juan Luis, presented Victoria’s Liber Primus to the church while reminding them that Victoria had been a brought up in the Ávila Cathedral. Because he was such an accomplished organist, many believe that he began studying the keyboard at an early age from a teacher in Ávila. Victoria most likely began studying "the classics" at St. Giles’s, a boy’s school in Ávila. This school was praised by St. Teresa and other highly regarded people of music.

After receiving a grant from Philip II
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

 in 1565, Victoria went to Rome and became cantor at the Collegium Germanicum founded by St. Ignatius Loyola. He may have studied with Palestrina
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was an Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music and the best-known 16th-century representative of the Roman School of musical composition...

 around this time, though the evidence is circumstantial; certainly he was influenced by the Italian's style. For some time, beginning in 1573, Victoria held two positions. One being at the German College and the other being at the Roman Seminary. He held the positions of chapelmaster and instructor of plainsong. In 1571, he was hired at the Collegium Germanicum as a teacher and began earning his first steady income. Victoria, after Palestrina left the Roman Seminary, took over the position of maestro at the Seminary. Victoria became an ordained priest in 1574. Before this he was made a deacon, but didn’t serve as deacon as long as typical deacons before becoming a priest. In 1575, Victoria was appointed Maestro di Capella at S. Apollinare. Many church officials would ask Victoria for his opinion on appointments to cathedral positions because of his fame and knowledge. He was faithful to his position of a convent organist even after his professional debut as an organist. He did not stay in Italy, however.

In 1587 Philip II honored his desire to return to his native Spain, naming him chaplain to his sister, the Dowager Empress María, daughter of Charles V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

, who had been living in retirement with her daughter Princess Margarita at the Monasterio de las Descalzas de S Clara at Madrid from 1581. In 1591, Victoria became a godfather to his brother Juan Luis’s daughter, Isabel de Victoria. Victoria worked for 24 years at Descalzas Reales. He served there for 17 years as the empress’s chaplain until her death and then as convent organist. Victoria was also being paid much more at the Descalzas Reales than he would have earned as a cathedral chapelmaster, receiving an annual income from absentee benefices from 1587-1611. When the empress Maria died in 1603, she gave three chaplaincies in the convent, with Victoria receiving one of them. According to Victoria, he never accepted any extra pay for being a chapelmaster, and he became the organist rather than the chapelmaster. Such was the esteem in which he was held that his contract allowed him frequent travel away from the convent. He was able to visit Rome in 1593 for two years, attending Palestrina's funeral in 1594. He died in 1611 in the chaplains’ residence and was buried at the convent, although his tomb has yet to be identified.

Even though Victoria is typically viewed as being the leading composer of the Roman School, the school was also heavily marked by other Spanish composers such as Morales, Guerrero, and Escobedo.

Music


Victoria is the most significant composer of the Counter-Reformation
Counter-Reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

 in Spain, and one of the best-regarded composers of sacred music in the late Renaissance, a genre to which he devoted himself exclusively. Victoria’s music reflected his intricate personality. In his music, the passion of Spanish mysticism and religion is expressed. Victoria was praised by Padre Martini for his melodic phrases and his joyful inventions. His works have undergone a revival in the 20th century, with numerous recent recordings. Many commentators hear in his music a mystical intensity and direct emotional appeal, qualities considered by some to be lacking in the arguably more rhythmically and harmonically placid music of Palestrina. There are quite a few differences in their compositional styles, such as treatment of melody and quarter-note dissonances.

Victoria was a master at overlapping and dividing choirs with multiple parts with a gradual decreasing of rhythmic distance throughout. Not only does Victoria incorporate intricate parts for the voices, but the organ is treated almost like a soloist in many of his choral pieces. Victoria did not begin the development of psalm settings or antiphons for two choirs, but he continued and increased the popularity of such repertoire. Victoria would reissue works that had been published previously, and would include new revisions in each new issue.

The year 1572 is known as the most momentous year of Victoria’s life because he published his first book of motets Victoria wrote his Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae in 1585. This collection included 37 pieces that are part of the Holy Week celebrations in the Catholic religion.

Two influences in Victoria’s life were Giovanni Maria Nanino and Luca Marenzio. Victoria admired them for their work in madrigals rather than church music. It has been speculated that Victoria took lessons from Escobedo at an early age before moving to Rome.

Victoria claimed that he composed his most creative works under his patron, His Eminence Otto Cardinal von Truchsess. However, Stevenson does not believe that he learned everything about music under Cardinal Truchsess’s patronage; Victoria would like people to believe such a fact. During the years that Victoria was devoted to Philip II, he expressed exhaustion from his compositional work. Most of the compositions that Victoria wrote that were dedicated to Cardinal Bonelli, Philip II, or Pope Gregory XIII were not compensated properly.

Stylistically his music shuns the elaborate counterpoint
Counterpoint
In music, counterpoint is the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in contour and rhythm and are harmonically interdependent . It has been most commonly identified in classical music, developing strongly during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period,...

 of many of his contemporaries, preferring simple line and homophonic textures, yet seeking rhythmic variety and sometimes including intense and surprising contrasts. His melodic writing and use of dissonance
Consonance and dissonance
In music, a consonance is a harmony, chord, or interval considered stable, as opposed to a dissonance , which is considered to be unstable...

 is more free than that of Palestrina; occasionally he uses intervals
Interval (music)
In music theory, an interval is a combination of two notes, or the ratio between their frequencies. Two-note combinations are also called dyads...

 which are prohibited in the strict application of 16th century counterpoint, such as ascending major sixths, or even occasional diminished fourths (for example, a melodic diminished fourth occurs in a passage representing grief in his motet
Motet
In classical music, motet is a word that is applied to a number of highly varied choral musical compositions.-Etymology:The name comes either from the Latin movere, or a Latinized version of Old French mot, "word" or "verbal utterance." The Medieval Latin for "motet" is motectum, and the Italian...

 Sancta Maria, succurre). Victoria sometimes uses dramatic word-painting, of a kind usually found only in madrigals
Madrigal (music)
A madrigal is a secular vocal music composition, usually a partsong, of the Renaissance and early Baroque eras. Traditionally, polyphonic madrigals are unaccompanied; the number of voices varies from two to eight, and most frequently from three to six....

. Some of his sacred music uses instruments (a practice which is not uncommon in Spanish sacred music of the 16th century), and he also wrote polychoral works for more than one spatially separated group of singers, in the style of the composers of the Venetian school who were working at St. Mark's in Venice.

His most famous work, and his masterpiece, was a Requiem Mass for the Empress Maria. Also notable is the serene emotion of each of the 37 pieces that form his Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae of 1585, a collection of motets and lamentations linked to the Holy Week
Holy Week
Holy Week in Christianity is the last week of Lent and the week before Easter...

 Catholic celebrations.

Recordings


The following are recordings of music by Tomás Luis de Victoria. As in all of his music, the texts are in Latin and drawn from the Roman Catholic liturgy.
  • Victoria, Lamentations of Jeremiah. The Tallis Scholars
    Tallis Scholars
    The Tallis Scholars are a British vocal ensemble normally consisting of two singers per part, with a core group of ten singers.Formed in 1973 by their director Peter Phillips, they specialise in performing a cappella sacred vocal music written during the Renaissance by composers from all over Europe...

    : GIMELL. CDGIM 043
  • Victoria, Gesualdo, Palestrina, White, Lamentations. Nordic Voices: CHANDOS CHACONNE. CHAN 0763


Recordings of music by Victoria are discussed in an article published in March 2011 by Gramophone

External links