Lammermuir Festival > News > Glorious Victoria – the composer, not the queen!

Glorious Victoria  -  the composer, not the queen!

When I was a music student at Edinburgh many yonks ago we had a weekly class called, rather unappetisingly, ‘Contrapuntal Singing’. But it was a brilliant idea: basically, we sight-sang our way through the wonderful polyphonic (or contrapuntal) music  –  masses and motets  –  of the great Renaissance masters. Plenty of Palestrina, of course, and Byrd and Tallis. But there was also Tomas Luis da Victoria, the greatest representative of a vibrant 15th and 16th Century Spanish musical tradition. That class got us inside the music in the best possible way, through actually performing it. And even though all those composers composed pretty much by the same rules, the fascinating thing was how the tiniest subtlest differences gave each of them a unique character. With Victoria, even though he spent a lot of his life in Rome, there was definitely something of the mysterious culture of Spain in his music; something in his darkly burnished harmonies and luminous textures that seem to glow from within.

The thirteen voices of Stile Antico, already acknowledged as one of the world’s finest Renaissance vocal groups, sing some glorious Victoria, and music by his contemporaries, in St Mary’s Haddington on September 19. I can’t imagine a better setting  –  the warm golden sandstone of the church providing exactly the golden acoustic that this music comes alive in. We’ll have them singing not at the crossing, but up at the East end of the church where voices project most powerfully. It should sound incredible! Unfortunately, Stile Antico haven’t yet recorded any Victoria, but here’s another fine ensemble with one of the motets we’ll hear on the 19th:

Hugh Macdonald  –  Director, Lammermuir Festival