Requiem: Music for Royal Spanish Funerals

Musiques pour les funérailles royales Espagnoles
La Maîtrise de Toulouse, Les Sacqueboutiers, Mark Opstad
Regent REGCD551. 61’34

In a search for a collaborative musical partnership, the Toulouse-based children’s choir La Maîtrise de Toulouse and early brass ensemble Les Sacqueboutiers settled on Victoria’s Requiem as a way of combining the Spanish Renaissance traditions of the niños cantorcicos children’s choirs and the ministries, or Cathedral wind players. It is the focus of this recording of music for a Royal Spanish funeral. combined with other related pieces, some recorded for the first time.

Tomás Luis de Victoria (c1548–1611) had, since his return to Spain in 1587,  been chaplain and choirmaster to Philip II’s sister, the Dowager Empress María in her retirement in the Monasterio de las Descalzas de St. Clara in Madrid. He served the Empress until her death in 1603, and composed his Officium defunctorum for her funeral. It included the Missa pro Defunctis and was intended for the twelve priests and four boys of the Chapel of the Royal Convent. It was written in elaborate multi-part polyphony with divided trebles and tenors.

On this recording, the Requiem is surrounded by funerary pieces from four composers contemporary with Victoria, and two of a slightly later era. The distinctive sound of the cornets, sackbuts, shawm, dulcian and organ of Les Sacqueboutiers open the recording with their instrumental version of Manuel Correa’s Commisa mea pavesco. The unaccompanied voices of La Maîtrise de Toulouse follow with Francisco Guerrero’s Hei mihi, Domine and are then joined by the dulcian and organ for Miguel Juan Marqués’s Versa est in luctum. It was composed for the funeral of Queen Isabella of Bourbon in 1644 and shows the influence of the Spanish Baroque in its expressive texture.

The programme notes reference the combination of instruments and voices with the comments of a French traveller about a funeral for a monk in Madrid in 1666. He referred to “the sound of instruments and musical concerts …  the people gathered there maintain their gravity whilst the musicians play on furious”. A Royal funeral would clearly have at very least maintained that level of grandeur, but probably enhanced it.

The Victoria 1603 Requiem (from his 1605 publication Officium Defunctorum) is not his only Requiem, despite the usually shortened name. It lasts for about 30 minutes. The eight movements start with Taedet animam mean and an expansive Introitus. The Christe section of the Kyrie is the only section written in four parts rather than six, although the texture of the six-part sections does include smaller forces on occasion. The music generally flows in unfolding polyphony, with an only occasional emphasis on text of texture, for example in the emphatic chordal passages and the high/low contrasts in et lux perpeta of the Graduale. The intonations and chants are in the second Cantus part from one occurrence in the Altus. the sound of a pure solo child’s voice singing the first part of the intonation is particularly attractive.

After the Requiem, we hear Lobo’s Versa est in luctum, Victoria’s O sacrum convivium (performed instrumentally), Romero’s  Libera me and the final piece, Carlos Patiño’s Taedet animam mean for triple choir and obligate instruments. It includes some dramatic interplay between the voices.

The Maîtrise de Toulouse was founded in 2006 as a specialised education for children as part of the Toulouse Conservatoire. The 26 child choristers sing the upper parts together with eight sopranos and altos from the Toulouse Conservatoire. The lower voices are provided by 23 adult ex-choristers, students from the Conservatoire, and some professional singers. This does sometimes cause a slight inconsistency in texture, with the occasional individual voice sounding through the otherwise impressive consort sound. But, otherwise, the combined voices and instruments make for a grand sound when at full tilt, but are also heard in some beautifully gentle sections.

Manuel Correa (1600–53) Commisa mea pavesco
Francisco Guerrero (1528–99) Hei mihi, Domine
Miguel Juan Marqués (16?–16?) Versa est in luctum
Tomás Luis de Victoria (c1548–1611) Requiem 
Alonso Lobo (c1555–1617) Versa est in luctum
Tomás Luis de Victoria O sacrum convivium
Mateo Romero (c1575–1647) Libera me
Carlos Patiño (1600–75) Taedet animam meam