My New Year’s resolution is to post a bit more this year. I promised some comments on Spanish polyphony, so here goes. I had the opportunity to program Victoria’s Magi viderunt stellam some years ago and I wondered how well known this lovely motet is. It’s set in the transposed mode 2 (a favorite of the Spanish), but the frequent Eb’s and cadential F#’s lend it a decidedly G minor flavor. There is a bit of musical imagery at the beginning as the Magi’s melodies travel up and down in a wavy pattern. Note the rise in the line at “stellam” as well. The entire second half of this beautiful work is taken up with repetitions of the 3 gifts, featuring some nice passages of parallel 3rds. I would often take the tempo up slightly at the Alleluia section for a bit more effect.
Victoria’s style is certainly Spanish, but Palestrina’s (or perhaps a general Roman) influence is never far away. Unlike Morales, Spaniards never thought of Victoria as a “foreign” composer. What is Spanish? I hear it in the lower ranges (perhaps to fit the shawm ranges) and occasionally the local chants, when they are present. Also the liberal use of cadential chromaticism is something one hears a lot in late Renaissance and Portuguese polyphony. A joyous Epiphany, everyone!
The score is the Victoria volumes of MME, but also at CPDL