Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 3 Tracks 41-42
Though tempted, Tomas showed restraint. The inspired opening theme of his O magnum mysterium
is one that any worthwhile composer would use more than once. It is a theme, in spite of its simplicity, that invites a composer to create a maze of counterpoint. Encountering the theme in this mass, the listener finds the pious Luis de Victoria writing a fugue genuinely, that is to say, not for the sake of being clever.
For Victoria, it was another inspired notion that coupled this theme with a second, similar theme. Since the original blended two voices so well, placing it in a double fugue reinforced the idea. For the critical, this should justify our composer's yielding to the temptation to recycle. Impressively, with this increased complexity Victoria was able to hold onto a clear, uncomplicated style. Perhaps this is due, in someway, to the man's pious outlook. At any rate, this Kyrie
is a meaningful reworking of the motet and a beautiful work in itself.
What I like about this Kyrie
is to imagine how, as a member of the congregation, one might have encountered it for the first time. I am sure that members of the Victoria's church would have been aware of the motet. When this excerpt appeared in the service there must have been a few smiles of recognition and appreciation.