Tomás Luis de Victoria


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We have a chronology of Tomás Luis de Victoria in his historical, cultural and musical context. We have also a summary.

Victoria was the greatest spanish polyphonist of all times, and probably one of the best of his time in Europe. He was born in Avila around 1548, as the seventh child of Francisca Suarez de la Concha and Francisco Luis de Victoria. Although they would still have four more children, Francisco Luis de Victoria was to die when the composer was only nine years old. Around a year later he became chorister in the cathedral of Avila, where he would stay until the age of eighteen. He started here with his studies of the theory of plainsong, counterpoint and composition, and also practiced playing the keyboard. During these years he studied under the supervision of the masters Jeronimo de Espinar, Bernardino de Ribera, Juan Navarro and Hernando de Isasi. Some specialists think he may also have met Antonio de Cabezon during this time.

Once he ended his time as chorister, Victoria was sent in 1567 to the Colegium Germanicum of the Jesuit Order in Rome. He possibly studied under the supervision of Palestrina, who was chapel master and instructor of Chant and Music of the nearby Roman Seminary, (where he also met Palestrina's sons, Rodolfo and Angel). In January 1569, he left the Collegium Germanicum and, while continuing his studies, became organist and singer in the spanish chapel of Santa Maria de Monserrat, the official place of worship of the crown of Aragon in Rome. In 1571 he returned to the Collegium Germanicum where he was appointed as teacher. In this year, he also succeeded Palestrina as chapel master of the Roman Seminar, (according to Casimiri, it was Palestrina who proposed him).

In 1572, he published his first book of motets Motecta quae 4, 5, 6, 8 vocibus concinuntur in Venice. It was dedicated to the Cardinal-Archbishop of Augsburg, Otto von Truchsess von Waldburg, who was Victorias' greatest supporter and maecenas. In 1573 he started singing, at least occasionally, in a different spanish church in Rome (the parroquia de Santiago). There he was paid according to the amount of music he composed, and the number or singers performing with him on accasions like the Corpus Christi and other major offices. In 1575 the Collegium Germanicum was moved to San Apolinar by order of pope Gregor XIII. Victoria was promoted to chapel master of this center, and thereby acquired new obligations: he was in charge of the musical education of the choirboys, he taught the most capable students in counterpoint and the elements of composition, and in general he supervised all music in all churches linked to the Collegium Germanicum. All these new tasks forced him to resign his position at the church of Santa Maria de Monserrat. The same year he took minor orders, (lector and exorcist), and he was ordained as priest on August 28th in the church of Santo Tomas de los Ingleses. During the following year (1576) he published his second anthology: Liber Primus qui Missas, Psalmos, Magnificat ... aliaque complectitur.

In 1578 he left the Collegium Germanicum and retired as chaplain in San Girolamo della Carita. However, Victoria enjoyed returning to his former institution, for example during the Epiphany of 1585. In his new position, Victoria lived for seven years with San Felipe Neri and went through a period of deep and intense religiousness. He also shared the company of two major musicians, the spanish Francisco Soto de Langa and the italian Giovanni Animuccia. During these years, several collections of masses and motets appeared. In 1581 two new anthologies of his work were published, (containing the Hymmi totius anni). In 1583 one more anthology appears, which is completed by two more in 1585. One of these last two, Motecta festorum totius anni, included two pieces by Guerrero and one piece by Soriano. Encina states, in a few epigrams added to this anthology, that Victoria was known "even in the Indies". His works were published in many different places, including Italy, Germany and Spain. In 1585, Victoria's most ambitious masterpiece saw the light: the Officium hebdomadae Santae, a collection including 18 responses, 9 lamentations, two Passion chorals, a miserere, improperia (reproaches), motets, hyms and psalms for the complete celebration of the catholic Easter.

In 1587, Victoria returned to Spain, although he visited Rome again in 1592 in order to supervise the publation of his Missae liber secundus. Two years later he also attended the funerals for Palestrina, and in 1595 finally returned to Spain. From 1587 till 1603, Victoria was chaplain and Choir master of the Real Convento de las Clarisas Descalzas in Madrid, where the empress Maria had retired. During this period, he received offers from the most important cathedrals in Spain, such as the cathedral of Seville or the Seo cathedral in Zaragoza, but Victoria declined all of these. In Madrid he continued publishing his work, selling several books of motets and masses to churches and cathedrals. A curious point worth mentioning occurred in a contract of Victoria with a printer in Madrid. It stipulated that apart from the normal printing of 200, the printer could produce 100 more which could be sold after some agreed date, and for which the composer would receive 2500 reales. In 1603 he composed the six-part Officium defunctorum, written for the funeral of Empress Maria, which was eventually published in Madrid in 1605. This published version contained a special dedication to princess Margarita. From 1604 on he stayed at the Real Convento de las Clarisas Descalzas as a mere organist, and died there, in almost complete oblivion, on August 27th of 1611.

Home, Tomas Luis de Victoria chronology, XVI century chronology.
Miguel Angel Bootello,
Translation: Carlos Hernandez Monteagudo et al.