Tomas Luis de Victoria, also known as the ‘Spanish Palestrina’, was a prominent music composer, singer and organist. He was a notable composer of the ‘Counter-Reformation Period’ in the sixteenth century. His works were often compared to the works of ‘Orlando di Lasso’ and ‘Giovanni da Palestrina’. His compositions were mainly religious hymns dedicated to the church. Victoria’s works had its own charm and one could pick out and appreciate the strong spiritual fervor in his music. This set him apart from the rest of the composers of his time, including his own master, Palestrina. Unlike his contemporaries, Victoria’s compositions were full of plain and monophonic textures. In one instance, during his life, he composed Venetian music for a set of singers who were in the service of St. Marks, Venice. It was here, Victoria received admiration from Padre Martini for his ingenuity and melodious music. He was renowned for his two best works namely ‘Requiem’ and ‘Tenebrae Responsories’, published in 1585 and 1605 respectively. Most of his works were revivified and re-published in the twentieth century.
Tomas Luis De Victoria’s Childhood & Early Life
Tomás Luis de Victoria was born in 1548, Castile, to Francisca Suarez de la Concha and Francisco Luis de Victoria. His uncle, Juan Luis, was Victoria’s guardian, following the death of Victoria’s father in 1557. Victoria started playing the keyboard from a very young age and received training under his teacher in Alvira. He later went to St. Giles Boys School in Ávila where he studied classical music. During his childhood, Victoria served as choirboy in Ávila Cathedral. Even in his early years, Victoria held the reputation of being an organist. His uncle, Juan Luis, offered Victoria’s ‘Liber Primus’ to the cathedral in Avila. In 1565, Victoria was granted a scholarship to study in Rome, where he received training from Palestrina, who was serving in the Roman Seminary at the time.
In 1571, Victoria was conferred the position of choirmaster at the Roman Seminary and also served as a cantor at the ‘Collegium Germanicum’. He later held the post of ‘maestro’ at the Roman Seminary. Before he was ordained a priest in 1574, Victoria briefly served as a deacon at the church. In 1575, Victoria was rendered the position of ‘Maestro di Capella’ at St. Apollinaire. He earned the respect of church officials and served his position with honor and dedication. However, Victoria did not remain in Italy for long. He expressed his wish to return to Spain which was approved by Philip II in 1587. Philip II, of Spain, appointed Victoria as a chaplain to his sister, Dowager Empress María, who was living with her daughter, Princess Margarita at the ‘Monasterio de las Descalzas de Clara’, Madrid. Victoria served as a chaplain, teacher and organist to Empress Maria for over 17 years.
In 1572, Victoria came up with his first book of motets followed by ‘Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae’, a catholic liturgy, in 1585. ‘Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae’ comprised of 37 pieces that were integral to the ‘Holy Week’ celebrations. Out of the 44 motets that Victoria produced, the first four parts exuded energy and liveliness.
His famous works include ‘Tenebrae Responsories’, which was published in 1585; followed by the ‘Requiem’, which was published in 1605. The ‘Requiem’ was a milestone in his career and was considered a masterpiece by all those who listened to the piece. It is said that, Victoria composed the ‘Requiem’ for the Dowager Empress Maria.
Victoria was ordained a priest in the year 1574. Victoria praised the works of ‘Giovanni Maria Nanino and Luca Marenzio who were great influences in his life. Legend has it, that Victoria produced many of his inspiring works under the patronage of his Royalty, Otto Cardinal von Truchsess.
Death And Legacy
Victoria passed away on August 20, 1611, at his chaplains’ residence. He was laid to rest at the convent, and his tomb has not been found since. Most of his works have been re-published by budding musicians in the twentieth century. Towards the beginning of the 21st century, Victoria’s works were released in 10-CD boxes on the 500th anniversary of his death.
- ‘Tenebrae Responsories’
- ‘Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae’
- Victoria’s first book of Motets