Tomás Luis de Victoria’s Music for 3vv

Cópia de tlv partsI’m currently preparing a programme with Ensemble Eborensis comprising settings of Iberian polyphony for three voices (SAT). One of these – I could call “excerpts” – features a passage from Tomás Luis de Victoria’s hymn Christe redemptor omnium for Christmas.

As usual, Victoria writes the polyphony verses in alternatim with verses in plainchant, the first comprising the even verses (2, 4 and 6) and the second the odd verses (1, 3, 5 and 7). He sets the hymn for four voices (SATB), but in verse 4, Sic praesens testatur dies, he provides two versions: one for four voices (SSAT) and an alternative version for three voices (SAT).

I stumbled on this verse almost by accident as I was searching for polyphony for Christmas time and, after reading the verse one time, found it quite interesting. One might think that by reducing the texture from four to three voices, composers also reduced the difficulty of counterpoint but I think, by the contrary, they just made it more complex and challenging to sing it, since imitation is most of the times not very clear to understand and they avoid the cadential formulas quite often, leaving each voice on its own. The recording below uses the SSAT version of verse 4 as we might expected. I couldn’t manage to find any more versions of the hymn on YouTube. I hope to post a recording by Ensemble Eborensis’s of the alternative three-voice verse for this hymn.


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