Returning to the Church after our foray into folk tradition, here’s some gorgeous polyphony by Tomas Luis de Victoria.
Ne timeas Maria means “Fear not, Mary,” and the text for this music is taken from the annunciation, which I suppose means I should technically be putting it on this blog in March, but I’m not doing a nine month calendar for Mary, so we’ll have to make do with Advent instead. (Incidentally, the English translation is actually on the video notes, which is why I’m not providing it here.)
De Victoria was a Spanish composer of the 16th and early 17th century, which means he was writing within the Catholic tradition. His music is frequently compared to Palestrina, which makes sense, because it has a very similar sound, at least to my ear, being polyphonic but fairly still in spite of this – he doesn’t have different parts running off in different directions all the time, and there are a fair number of chords in there. And this paragraph goes to show that I really need to study more music history, because I really don’t know how to describe his style well.
One thing of note in this sort of music is that the words were never meant to be particularly intelligible – the music was written to inspire prayer and contemplation, so it didn’t matter all that much whether the congregation could make them out, even assuming they could speak Latin. Victoria doesn’t seem to be into the sort of painting-with-music that people like Dering enjoyed, or even the little musical jokes that Handel liked – one gets the impression that for him the lyrics really were incidental. It was all about the music.
For an interesting and rather beautiful solo version with male alto, follow this link.