Advent Calendar Day 12 – Alma Redemptoris Mater (Victoria)

A little polyphony to start your week… and yes, it’s more Mary stuff. I don’t have much to say about this piece of music except that I find it beautiful. I can tell you that Victoria was a late 16th – early 17th century Spanish composer, and that the text is that of a hymn for Mary that is generally used in Advent (see what I did there?), but really, I chose this because I loved listening to it.

And, actually, that’s at least somewhat appropriate for this style of music. The thing with polyphony is that even if you are fluent in the language it is being sung in, it’s not generally easy to pick out meaning from the words when everyone is singing different things at different times, and composers of this era, being smart cookies, were well aware of this. Add to this an era when, perhaps, relatively few of the people listening to church music could understand Latin anyway and you get a whole lot of church music which is intended to aid contemplation and prayer rather than teach or provide meaning. (Tomorrow, we shall see some of the other things that happen, musically speaking, when the the congregation cannot, on the whole, understand the language of the church…)

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