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Then, after the Offertory: Domine Jesu Christe, having been drawn so completely into this web of music, the lights went on and the audience was given an interval of twenty minutes. Somehow a glass of wine at the back of the church, on most occasions a pleasant event, seemed here something of an unwarranted intrusion. I asked Christopher afterwards what had been the logic behind the decision to split the performance in two. It had not been easy, he told me, but in the end it was felt that over an hour of such music, unbroken, might prove rather a strain on the audience's concentration. When we returned our seats, both choir and audience resumed with the same level of focus present in the first half, and the singers' voices had been given a useful break, but I can't help feeling that something had been lost: that suspension of disbelief, perhaps, where for a while we had felt ourselves touched by something of the spirit of the work's genesis. Why, after all go to so much trouble to create, then break, such an effective atmosphere?

After the Mass itself, there remain the motet Versa in Luctum and the Libera me with its Kyrie responses, the latter part of which was delivered, once more, from the East end. Victoria saves some of his most dramatic writing for this movement: in this context the staccato pronouncement -- movendi sunt -- as the heavens and earth move on the day of judgment, is quite as chilling as anything devised by later, Romantic, composers. Finally, all is resolved, in the final, long-held syllable of the last eleison. Nor do I think I was the only member of the audience holding my breath at this moment.

The Armonico Consort
The Armonico Consort

The Armonico Consort is a fine choir, and this was a memorable performance. If I were to be hyper-critical, the only thing about which I would have slight reservations is a certain 'sameness' in the tonal colouring of the sopranos. The men's voices I praise unreservedly. (There will be a performance of Rachmaninov's Vespers later this year, and the basses are more than up to the challenge). And I particularly enjoyed the alto sound, a subtle yet heady blend of male and female voices. The group will soon be recording the Victoria Requiem, for the Deux Elles label. On this evening's showing, it will make a most competitive entry into the catalogue, despite the prestigious names already to be found there.

Copyright © 16 February 2003 Rex Harley, Cardiff, UK


The Armonico Consort will give a dramatic Eastertide presentation of Victoria's music, in conjunction with Playbox Theatre, Warwick, UK. Details of this, and other future performances, may be found on the group's web-site:

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