10 Mar 2011

Tomás Luis de Victoria – a 400th anniversary profile

Originally Written for Gramophone magazine
10 march 2001

'Spain – the homeland of passionate musicians and fiery music…' claims a sleeve from works by de Falla, Granados and Albéniz (Leontyne Price, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Fritz Reiner). This opinion from the mid-20th century was probably influenced by, say, Picasso, Dalí and Gaudí and endures in the work of current artists such as the film-director Pedro Almodóvar. Add to this a touristic appetite for flamenco, castanets, bullfighting, Rioja and gazpacho and it is not surprising that guide-books are keen to convince us that modern Spain is a cocktail of incendiary temperaments and vibrant colours. Is it any wonder that Woody Allen chose this country as the setting for his complex and explosive exploration of personal relationships Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)?

It would be ridiculous to pretend that this reputation does not affect our view of Spanish music and, indeed, our performances of music from the whole Iberian Peninsula. Quixotically, such importation of fiery ideals seems particularly noticeable in the way many ensembles approach 16th-century music, and in particular the music of Tomás Luis de Victoria whose 400th anniversary we mark this year.

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