Peter Phillips

In times of trouble

This year is the 500th anniversary of the death of Tomás Luis de Victoria, whose work, as I have written before, I consider to be the most moving High Renaissance music there is.

This year is the 500th anniversary of the death of Tomás Luis de Victoria, whose work, as I have written before, I consider to be the most moving High Renaissance music there is.

This year is the 500th anniversary of the death of Tomás Luis de Victoria, whose work, as I have written before, I consider to be the most moving High Renaissance music there is. But we could have had little idea how the world’s tragedies would follow the Tallis Scholars around, making performances of his ineffable six-voice Requiem as useful as they have been appropriate.

From the earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand, through the disaster at Fukushima to the bombed restaurant in Marrakesh and the murderous performance recently in Oslo, my troupe and/or I have been there or thereabouts. To be more precise, my trip to Fukushima was cancelled, as readers of this column will know, but the Tallis Scholars went back on tour to Japan in June when, as in many other places, we sang Victoria’s Requiem every night in memory of the dead.

Norway has certainly been in the news these last weeks, adding polar bears to guns as a means of access to the hereafter. The Breivik massacre shocked Norwegians to an extent that seasoned observers of crime in the US would find hard to credit. When we sang in Trondheim — many hundreds of miles from where the shooting took place — just afterwards, everybody was close to tears, since everybody knew somebody who was related to one of the victims. Singing alongside the cathedral choir we broadcast a programme of music that had been chosen months earlier, but which almost inevitably seemed to suit the mood of the occasion — Allegri’s Miserere, Victoria’s eight-voice Salve regina and finally, as the encore, the funeral motet Versa est in luctum from Victoria’s Requiem.

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