The Repertoire of the Workshop 2014 includes the astonishing Victoria’s ‘Officium Defunctorum’, his second Requiem Mass, written for six-part choir. This music, often known simply as Victoria’s Requiem, has been regarded as some of his finest and one of the last great works in what we call the Renaissance polyphonic style. Its refined and dignified austerity is shot through with passionate conviction; it glows with extraordinary fervor within a musical and spiritual atmosphere of serenity and fitness for its liturgical purpose. Here is the list of the pieces which will be studied and performed by the participants:
(T.L. Da Victoria 1548-1611)
– Lectio II: Taedet Animam meam
– Introitus: Requiem aeternam
– Graduale: Requiem aeternam
– Offertorium: Domine Iesu Christe
– Sanctus & Benedictus
– Agnus Dei I, II & III
– Communio: Lux aeterna
– Motectum: Versa est in luctum
– Responsorium: Libera me, Domine
(A. Lobo 1555-1617)
– Versa est in luctum
Some notes about the ‘Officium Defunctorum’
In the last years of the twenty or so that he spent in Rome, the Spanish priest from Avila, Tomás Luis de Victoria, composed and published in 1583 a book of Masses including a Missa pro defunctis for four-part choir. This early Requiem was reprinted in 1592. By then Victoria was well established in Madrid as choirmaster and chaplain to the Dowager Empress Maria, Philip II’s sister and widow of Maximilian II, now in retirement at the Royal Convent of the Barefoot Nuns of St. Clare. The Princess Margaret, Maria’s daughter, was professed with solemn vows in 1584 and she was one of the thirty-three cloistered nuns whose daily services, the liturgy of Divine Office, were rendered musically by twelve singing priests and four boys (increased to six after 1600). In 1603 the Empress died on February 26 and was buried in the convent cloister three days later. The services were probably simple. The great obsequies were performed on April 22 and 23. These took place at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (where Madrid Cathedral now stands). The Convent Chapel was much too small for such memorial service. Vespers of the Office of the Dead was sung; then, in the early hours, Matins of the Dead, which we used to call the Dirge (from the Latin “Dirige, Domine…” with which the First Nocturn begins). Then, after chanting of Lauds, the Missa pro defunctis, the Solemn High Mass of the Dead, was celebrated. The catafalque representing the Empress Maria in her coffin stood between the coro and the high altar. King Philip III was there in his mourning black and silver, his cousin Princess Margaret, the royal nun, all the dignitaries of church and state, crowded into a scene which may now make us think of an El Greco painting, all to witness that ancient Catholic way of death, the Requiem Mass. For this occasion the composer Victoria wrote his second Requiem or, correctly, as he called it, the Office of the Dead. He wrote music for the Mass itself, a funeral motet additional to the strict liturgy, and one of the great Latin texts for the ceremony of Absolution which follows the Mass, and a Lesson that belongs to Matins. Two years late, Victoria published this music [Royal Press, Madrid, 1605] and it has become revered as well as admired, for it seems to be somehow a Requiem for an age – the end of Spain’s golden century, the end of Renaissance music, the last work, indeed, of Victoria himself. At least, he published no more.
Having ended the Mass, Victoria continues with the motet Versa est in luctum and we assume it to have been sung as the clergy and the dignitaries assembled round the catafalque (representing the Empress). The responses, the music he wrote for the solemn occasion.