Tomás Luis De Victoria

Article excerpt

Tomás Luis de Victoria. Sacred Music, God's Composer. DVD. Harry Christophers / The Sixteen. [Oxford, England:] Coro, 2012, 2011. COR16100. $13.98.

Harry Christophers and his Renaissance vocal ensemble, The Sixteen, continue their association with the British Broad - casting Corporation in this documentary of the late-sixteenth-century Spanish composer and organist Tomás Luis de Victoria. Previous releases in this series have included Sacred Music, a four-part exploration of Western sacred vocal polyphony from Léonin onward, A Christmas History, and two live concert films.

This is unmistakably a film intended for television, running just shy of 60 minutes and organized as a broad biographical sketch with appropriate musical examples. In order to fit in the major points and most remarkable details of Victoria's life, a brisk pace must be maintained. British actor Simon Russell Beale serves as an informed and enthusiastic presenter as he strides through cathedrals, art galleries, archives, convents and palaces while swiftly narrating the composer's early life, his two decades in Rome and the final homecoming to Spain. Mapping musical form onto literal architecture is a subtle and effective conceit of the script, as when Beale and the camera gaze up at vaulted ceilings of San Antonio de los Alemanes, "founded in 1606 by Philip III in Victoria's lifetime," to convey the controlled expansiveness of Victoria's settings of the Offices for Holy Week.

The Sixteen are twenty-one here, augmented by two extra singers and three continuo players for a fuller sound that remains meticulous and smooth. Annoyingly, the group's performances are overlaid with mildly relevant but intrusive commentary by Beale and Christophers. …