|De Victoria, Tomàs Louis:
|Ensemble del Giglio|
(b Avila, 1548; d Madrid, 20 Aug 1611). Spanish composer and organist partly active in Italy. He was not only the greatest Spanish Renaissance composer but also one of the greatest composers of church music of his day in Europe, who has been admired above all for the intensity of some of his motets and of his Offices for the Dead and for Holy Week.
Victoria was the seventh of 11 children born to Francisco Luis de Victoria and Francisca Suárez de la Concha, who were married in 1540. There were important relatives on both sides of the family. For example, three of his Suárez de la Concha cousins achieved success, Cristóbal as a naval commander, Hernando as a Jesuit pioneer in Mexico and Baltasar as a merchant in Florence, where he married Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici’s sister-in-law and was ennobled. The uncle on his father’s side after whom Victoria was named was a lawyer who pleaded cases before the royal chancery at Valladolid; he entered the priesthood after his wife’s death and in 1577 was installed as a canon of Avila Cathedral. Victoria’s father died on 29 August 1557, and another uncle, Juan Luis, who was also a priest, took charge of the orphaned family.
Victoria learnt the rudiments of music as a choirboy at Avila Cathedral under the maestros de capilla Gerónimo de Espinar (1550–58) and Bernardino de Ribera (1559–63); Ribera and his successor, Juan Navarro (i), were among the leading Spanish composers of their time. The cathedral organists during this period were Damián de Bolea and Bernabé del Aguila. Victoria may also have known Cabezón, who played at the cathedral in November 1552 and again in June 1556; Cabezón’s wife came from Avila, and their family residence from about 1538 to 1560 was not far from Victoria’s. Victoria’s classical education probably began at S Gil, a school for boys founded at Avila by the Jesuits in 1554. The school enjoyed a good reputation from the beginning, and St Teresa of Avila insisted that her nephews attend it; in April 1557 St Francisco de Borja visited Avila to inspect it and to encourage other Jesuit establishments in the town.
After his voice had broken, Victoria was sent to the Jesuit Collegio Germanico, Rome, which had been founded in 1552. He may have been enrolled by 25 June 1563, though 1565 is a more probable date (see Casimiri). The 200 students at the college were of two kinds, a small group of young men in training for the German missionary priesthood and a much larger number of English, Spanish and Italian boarders, whose fees helped maintain the college; Victoria was among the latter group and was specifically enrolled as a singer. Here, if not already at S Gil, he achieved fluency in Latin. In the dedication of his first collection of motets (1572) he acknowledged his debt to Otto Truchsess von Waldburg, Cardinal-Archbishop of Augsburg, who with King Philip II had been a chief benefactor of the college. Victoria surely knew Palestrina, who at the time was maestro di cappella of the nearby Seminario Romano, and may even have been taught by him. He was the only peninsular composer before Manuel Cardoso to master the subtleties of Palestrina’s style, as is evident in even his earliest publications.
For at least five years from January 1569 Victoria was singer and organist at S Maria di Monserrato, the Aragonese church at Rome in which the two Spanish popes are buried; his monthly salary was one scudo. From 1568 to 1571 he may also have been maestro of Truchsess’s private chapel (Jacobus de Kerle had left the post by 18 August 1568). In September or October 1571 the rector of the Collegio Germanico engaged him to teach music to interested boarders at a monthly salary of 15 julios paid out of students’ fees. In 1573 the college authorities decided to separate the Italian boarders from the German seminarians, and on 17 October a parting ceremony was held, during which Victoria’s pupils and others sang his specially composed eight-part psalm Super flumina Babylonis. After the reorganization he was retained to teach the German seminarians, with whom he was able to converse in Latin, and was appointed maestro di cappella. The new rector, Michele Lauretano, paid him two scudi a month, increased to three in April 1574. On 9 January 1574 Pope Gregory XIII gave the Collegio Germanico the Palazzo di S Apollinare as their new home and on 15 April 1576 the adjoining church. A bull of the latter date prescribed that the student body sing the entire Office on at least 20 days of the church year. Victoria continued as maestro di cappella of the Collegio Germanico until 26 December 1576 or possibly a few months longer – his successor was in office by 20 September 1577. In 1575 he graduated from minor orders to the priesthood: Bishop Thomas Goldwell, the last surviving member of the pre-Reformation English hierarchy, ordained him deacon on 25 August and priest three days later. The ceremonies took place at the English church on the Via di Monserrato.
Victoria next joined the Congregazione dell’Oratorio, a newly formed community of lay priests led by Filippo Neri, and on 8 June 1578 he received a chaplaincy at S Girolamo della Carità, which he held until 7 May 1585. During these years he published five sumptuous volumes in folio, one each of hymns, Magnificat settings and masses, an Office for Holy Week and an anthology of motets; the last-named contained two motets by Francisco Guerrero, who was a personal friend, and one by Francesco Soriano. From 1579 to 1585 he derived his personal income largely from five Spanish benefices conferred by Gregory XIII (S Miguel at Villalbarba, S Francisco and S Salvador at Béjar, S Andrés at Valdescapa and another rent in the diocese of Osma), which produced a total of 307 ducats a year. While a chaplain at S Girolamo della Carità, and even earlier, he further increased his income by occasionally serving at S Giacomo degli Spagnoli. Each year from 1573 to 1577 this church paid him four scudi for Corpus Christi services; in 1579 he received six scudi and 60 baiocchi and in 1580 nine scudi and 60 baiocchi; on 18 November 1582 he and a number of choristers received nine scudi for celebrating the victory by Spanish naval forces at the Battle of Terceira, in the Azores. In 1583 he was elected to the office of visitor to the sick and Spanish destitute in Rome, who were under the charitable care of the Confraternity of the Resurrection. Founded in 1579, this confraternity, attached to the church of S Giacomo, subsidized the celebration of the twice-yearly Forty Hours Devotion, and paid for Easter services. Victoria’s disbursements to the sick and needy were reimbursed 23 times during the time that he was visitor to the sick (19 April 1583–3 April 1584). On two occasions, 31 October 1583 and 8 March 1584, he also received 50 julios to pay the eight singers of polyphony who sang the Salve Regina in the Forty Hours Devotion. The 25 signed receipts in the archive of S Giacomo degli Spagnoli constitute the largest single collection of documents in Victoria’s handwriting.
In the dedication of Missarum libri duo (1583) to Philip II, Victoria expressed his desire to return to Spain and to lead a quiet life as a priest. The king, as a reward for his homage, named him chaplain to his sister, the Dowager Empress María, daughter of Charles V, wife of Maximilian II and mother of two other emperors, who from 1581 lived in retirement with her daughter Princess Margarita at the Monasterio de las Descalzas de S Clara at Madrid. The convent was established in 1564 by Juana de la Cruz, sister of St Francisco de Borja, and liberally endowed by Charles V’s daughter Juana, who married João III of Portugal; it housed 33 strictly cloistered nuns, who heard Mass daily in an exquisite small chapel attended by priests who were required to be accomplished singers of plainchant and polyphony. Victoria served the dowager empress from 1587 at the latest until her death in 1603, with an annual salary of 120 ducats, and he was maestro of the convent choir until 1604. From then until his death he held the less arduous post of organist, earning 40,000 maravedís in each of his first two years in it and 75,000 a year thereafter. The chaplains enjoyed a number of benefits, including a personal servant, meals served in their private quarters adjacent to the convent and a month’s holiday each year. Until 1601 they were all required to participate in the daily singing of two masses, one a votive mass with deacon and sub-deacon. At the time of Victoria’s arrival the choir comprised 12 priests (three to a part) and four boys. Instrumentalists were engaged for Easter and for Corpus Christi and its octave. In 1601 a royal decree provided for a bassoonist, who was to play in all musical services, and for two clergymen chosen for their excellent voices to replace three of the foundation’s 12 chaplains. At the same time the number of choirboys was increased to six; they were required to practise daily and to learn plainchant, polyphony and counterpoint from the maestro.
Life at the convent held such advantages for Victoria that no cathedral post could tempt him – in 1587, for example, he turned down invitations from Seville and Zaragoza to become maestro de capilla there. The élite of Madrid often went to services at the convent, where his works were regularly sung. It is doubtful whether any cathedral would have allowed him the extended leave that the convent gave him in 1592 to enable him to supervise the printing at Rome of his Missae … liber secundus, which he dedicated to María’s son Cardinal Alberto. On 18 July 1593 his motet Surge Debora et loquere canticum was performed in his presence by the Collegio Germanico during Mass and Vespers at S Apollinare to celebrate the defeat of the Turks at Sisak. On 2 February 1594 he joined the cortège at Palestrina’s funeral. A royal warrant of 21 January 1594 authorized the Spanish ambassador at Rome to pay him 150 ducats owing to him from a benefice at Córdoba. He returned to Madrid in 1595.
María bequeathed three chaplaincies to the convent, one of which went to Victoria, who thereby continued to receive his salary of 120 ducats after her death. Most of his income, however, derived from his numerous simple benefices, whose yearly revenue had grown by 1605 to 1227 ducats through the addition of pensions from the dioceses of Córdoba, Segovia, Sigüenza, Toledo and Zamora. On 1 October 1598 he engaged Julio Junti de Modesti of Madrid to produce 200 copies of a collection of polychoral masses, Magnificat settings, motets and psalms in partbooks, which eventually appeared in 1600. The printer, who was paid 2500 reales in three instalments, was himself allowed an additional 100 copies to sell, beginning 12 months after publication. The masses of this collection were extremely popular at the time, but are not frequently performed today. The nine-part Missa pro victoria was a favourite work of Philip III; the eight-part Missa ‘Ave regina coelorum’ and Missa ‘Alma Redemptoris mater’ were so popular in Mexico City that in 1640 they had to be recopied by hand because the original partbooks were worn out. Victoria or his agents sent sets to such distant places as Graz, Urbino and Bogotá, Colombia. In accompanying letters he asked for contributions to cover printing costs and in at least one instance solicited money to secure the release of a younger brother from prison. His strong family ties were especially evident during the last years of his life, when two of his brothers and two of his sisters lived in Madrid; one of the brothers, Agustín, was also a chaplain of the Descalzas Reales convent. Victoria died near the convent in the chaplains’ residence. He was buried at the convent, but his tomb has not been identified.
Profile from The New Grove dictionary of Music and Musicians