Tomás Luis de Victoria's renaissance masterpiece the Tenebrae Responsories from 1585. One of the main pieces in music history and vocal music performed by Ars Nova Copenhagen led by Paul Hillier, a constellation that belong to the world elite when it comes to the performance of polyphonic vocal music form the Renaissance.
Victoria's Responsories sometimes gives reminiscence of Italian madrigals in the way he processes the text. With discrete means he highlights individual words and passages. The eighteen responsories are all for four voices, but with widely varying constellation of singers, which adds to the work a wide palette of vocal colors. Victoria supplements the text musically without drowning it while at the same time creating a coherent and introspective tale.
The Tenebrae responsories are written to the Catholic Church's traditional evening matins of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Saturday. Tenebrae means shadows or darkness, which comes from the ritual associated with the service. Fifteen candles placed on a triangular candleholder called a hearse are extinguished one by one to symbolize Jesus' path into darkness. The candles represent Jesus himself, the supreme light, his disciples, where Judas is left out for obvious reasons, and the three women who went to the tomb after his death. The last candle isn't put out, but instead covered followed by the Strepitus (the big noise). The noise of the congregation slamming books on the stools and stamping on the floor symbolize the great earthquake after Jesus died. The noise continues until the candle is again placed in the hearse as a symbol of resurrection.
Listen to a preview of music from Victoria's time. Here Ars Nova Copenhagen performs Stabat Mater by Victoria's mentor Palestrina.