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La Grande Chapelle’s new album offers a complete version of Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Office of the Dead (Officium Defunctorum), a masterpiece of the Spanish musical Renaissance

This album is the result of research from ICS at the University of Navarra and will be presented at a virtual event on October 21, with speakers from the University of Oxford and Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, among other institutions

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22/10/20 17:59 Isabel Solana

For the first time in recording history, the complete version of Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Officium Defunctorum (Office of the Dead), a masterpiece from the Spanish musical Renaissance, has been restored. Stemming from extensive research developed by Albert Recasens at the Institute for Culture and Society (ICS) of the University of Navarra, the recording will be released with the sponsorship of the Center for Hispanic Europe Studies and with support from Madrid’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

Recasens undertook this recording project with his sacred music ensemble La Grande Chapelle, in collaboration with the Schola Antiqua de Madrid, a group specialized in Gregorian chant and directed by Juan Carlos Asensio, himself a renowned expert in Gregorian chant.

The album will be presented this Wednesday, October 21, during a virtual event that is free and open to the public with prior registration. In addition to Albert Recasens, the following speakers will participate: Tess Knighton, an ICREA Professor within the Department of Art and Musicology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and emeritus member of Clare College (Cambridge University); Owen Rees, Professor of Music at the University of Oxford and author of The Requiem of Tomás Luis de Victoria (2019); Daniele V. Filippi, researcher at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Switzerland and author of Tomás Luis de Victoria (2008); and Juan Carlos Asensio, Professor at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya and director of Schola Antiqua.

Historical context and musical value

Among other topics, the speakers will address the historical context and musical value of the piece, Tomás Luis de Victoria’s life in light of recent research, the importance of the Hispanic Renaissance in the European context, as well as research carried out on the piece and the processes involved in recovering and making it available to the public.

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) composed the Officium Defunctorum “in the style of a swansong” for the funeral rites of the composer’s patroness, the empress Maria of Austria, sister of Philip II and widow of the emperor Maximilian II. “She was one of the most powerful women of her time and, after being widowed, she returned to Spain, where she continued her diplomatic work while promoting the arts and the counter-reformist spirit,” Albert Recasens notes.

Her funeral, which took place in 1603 at the Convent of las Descalzas Reales and at the Imperial College (now San Isidro church) in Madrid, constituted an important state act. “It was celebrated with the solemnity that corresponded to a royal dignitary. The temple was adorned with fabrics, tapestries, rugs, and a burial mound with insignia, shields, symbolic emblems and hieroglyphs was built, bringing together a performance endowed with Baroque theatricality,” Recasens details.

The recording restores the Officium by reconstructing the actual musical documentary, liturgical contextualization– with the two original days– and, finally, by including four pieces excluded from the 1605 edition.

“The musical reconstruction of Victoria’s Requiem inspires a new reading of one of the most outstanding pieces in the history of Spanish music and a unique approach to one of the great public ceremonies of the Habsburg dynasty in Madrid at the beginning of the seventeenth century,” the ICS researcher and director of La Grande Chapelle maintains.

Event details

Day: Wednesday, October 21

Time:18:00-19:00 (Madrid, GMT+2)

Registration and access link

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