blog: archive

May 1, 2012


Requiem of the Month Club April & May Part 1

by Jeff Miller

It's a double shot of the Missa pro Defunctis- with a twist this time…

All right, the last two entries in early music.  .

One Catholic, One Lutheran.

One in Latin, One in German.  

Both opening the musical doors to what would become the Baroque period of Handel, Bach and Vivaldi.

First, the music of Tomas Luis de Victoria of Spain (1548-1611).  He is considered a major composer of the Counter Reformation in the Catholic church.  Shoring up after the 'damage inflicted by infidels, such as Luther' was in the mind of many Catholics at the time, obviously.  It stands to reason therefore, that they would close ranks and retreat into a traditional shell.  Victoria's music does this as well.  He had likely studied with Palestrina and was well versed in the music of his predecessors.

He didn't eschew the new polyphony (independent, simultaneous parts- think horizontal musical lines like multiple melodies ), but preferred older style homophony (parts moving generally at the same time- think vertical parts, like chords).  

His setting of the requiem text is traditional except for the omission of the Dies Irae section.

Speaking of sections….

This is a double shot as well:

Tract & Sequence

I'll deal with the Tract here & the Sequence on the following post


Latin text:

Absolve, Domine,


Animas omnium fidelium defunctorum


ab omni vinculo delictorum


et gratia tua illis succurente


mereantur evadere iudicium ultionis,


et lucis æternae beatitudine perfrui.



English Translation:

Forgive, O Lord,


the souls of all the faithful departed


from all the chains of their sins


and by the aid to them of your grace


may they deserve to avoid the judgment of revenge,


and enjoy the blessedness of everlasting light.



Now, this is, arguably, the most blatant point of departure from where we find ourselves in today's Reformation movement.   We believe that forgivenessof our sins happened at the cross in the work of Christ and is realized by God's people during their physical life on Earth.  The sins of those already in death are either covered by the grace of the Triune God from before the beginning of time (the elect) or they are left bare (the unsaved).  We neither teach nor believe that people may be freed from sin after death.  This springs from the teaching of purgatory (from church tradition, beginning around 1100, not from Scripture) and was largely cast off in most Protestant denominations with the Reformation's teaching of Sola Scriptura.  

When we come to passages like this, it is helpful to remember where the church was at this time.  The Catholic Church was inside of 100 years of the Wittenberg Church powderkeg when this requiem was composed.  Victoria would likely have viewed leaving this text out of his work as an abomination.

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