Filling the second half was Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Requiem Mass. Written in 1603 for the
funeral of Empress Maria, it requires — and received — perfect tuning, being largely in six
parts, and careful attention to accentuation to ensure the text “speaks” to the audience.
Tenebrae’s performance was a delight, showing both the beauty and solemnity of this music.
Versa est in luctum by Victoria’s contemporary, Alonso Lobo, opened the program and set
the high tone for the rest. Near the end, we heard Victoria’s setting of the same text; not as
adventurous, but equally beautifully sung, despite a little flagging, most likely from jet lag.
A selection from Victoria’s settings for Holy Saturday — also music of suffering and death
— allowed us to hear the composer in more dramatic mood, the word-painting here evident in
strong attacks (not all CD-perfect, but otherwise presented with great passion) and a wide
dynamic range. The delicate singing of Responsory XVIII, when Jesus is buried, contrasted
strongly with the rage of the surrounding movements.
Some stage effects other than candles might have varied the otherwise static presentation,
but the lushly chromatic encore, by English composer Herbert Murrill, confirmed why
Tenebrae has acquired its exciting reputation.