Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Tomas Luis Victoria: God's Composer

Tomas Luis De Victoria
The BBC have a rather wonderful programme about Tomas Luis Victoria: God's Composer.
I hadn't realised St Theresa of Avila had actually written a reference for him, in fact I hadn't ralised he grew up in Avila, he seems to have been one of her many proteges. He would have associated with her other proteges like St John of the Cross, he was also a contemporary of El Greco.

In a world, even a Church, where beauty is so often held in contempt and everything seems to take on a certain uniform beigeness it is interesting to reflect on the extra-ordinary nature of the time of Victoria and his associates, his time in Rome I knew a little about, though it is hardly mentioned in the programme. He was an associate of St Philip Neri, he presumably knew St Ignatius, St Camillus de Lellis, he would have sang for and composed for St Pius V.

Holiness flourishes where there is holiness and where there is a general desire for excellence, external and internal beauty and even extravagance. The saints and artists, and saintly artists of the 16th century captured hearts and minds and formed a culture of beauty.

Do we have anything to learn from this extraordinary time, or is it just to be consigned to the museum?


Anonymous said...

Victoria's "O Magnum Mysterium" is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. Seriously goosebump-inducing. Look on YouTube - there are several good versions.

gemoftheocean said...

Thanks for the tip. I must have been sleeping through that bit of Music History in frosh year. Never had heard of him before. I remember thoroughly starting off with Gregorian chant [and I remember going up to the Benedictine Abbey for a field trip on that one], but Victoria slipped the net for me.

Amfortas said...

Westminster Cathedral has championed Victoria and has recorded many of his works. We have so much to thank Spain for during that period.

John Nolan said...

Tomas Luis de Victoria was a priest who composed no secular music. His music is often heard during Holy Week, particularly the Tenebrae settings and the Good Friday Improperia (the latter looks so simple on paper but is achingly beautiful in performance). The 1605 Requiem is the greatest polyphonic setting of the text.

He was as much a mystic as St Teresa and St John of the Cross, but it seems no-one has promoted his cause - one gets the impression that the Church, then as now, doesn't take music that seriously, so we get what we deserve with the likes of Paul Inwood.

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