VICTORIA Works for 6 Voices
This is perhaps Nordic Voices’ most satisfying recording to date. Peter Quantrill’s review of their ‘Lamentations’ disc (which also included Victoria’s music – Chandos, 12/09) praised their near-flawless technique while feeling that rival interpretations cut deeper expressively. In truth, their very bright sound lends itself more readily to the selection of music on this new offering, which showcases Victoria at his most joyous. In that sense it is a counterweight to the previous recording, whose contents were uniformly and determinedly sombre.
Admirers of the effortlessly cool Nordic sound won’t be disappointed and may even find themselves on familiar territory (perhaps recalling a fine account of Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories by Lumen Valo many years ago – Alba, 11/98 – nla). There’s no denying the beguiling sonority but just occasionally a more determined inflection of the basic delivery wouldn’t go amiss. A case in point is O Domine Jesu Christe, whose devotional text emphasises the penitent’s humble contemplation of Christ’s Passion. Victoria’s setting is rapt and intense but Nordic Voices might have made more of its penitential overtones. As it is, I was left marvelling at the extent of Victoria’s borrowings from Palestrina, which may just cross the line between direct modelling and blatant appropriation (in modern terms, plagiarism). Compare the two composers’ settings of Tu es Petrus and you’ll see what I mean. One can only assume that overt flattery was intended, but other nods in the elder figure’s direction can be heard throughout. Such observations came to me unbidden, in fairness, because the performances are as legible as one could wish.