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CD Review

Sebastian de Vivanco

Sacred Music

  • Missa Crux Fidelis and Motets
  • 2 Funeral Motets
  • 2 Marian Motets
Choir of King's College, London/David Trendell
Academy Sound & Vision Gaudeamus CDGAU346 64m DDD
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A slightly younger contemporary of de Victoria, Sebastian de Vivanco was born around 1551 in the town of Avila, famous of course for the Carmelite Saint Teresa and her mystic contemporary John of the Cross. We know practically nothing of the composer's life for the first twenty years but it is fair to assume that he was a chorister at Avila Cathedral.

In 1573 he was appointed Maestro di Cappella at Lerida Cathedral. After he was abruptly dismissed from this post in July 1576, early the following year he succeeded in getting the same appointment, this time at the more prestigious Segovia Cathedral and it was here that he was ordained priest in 1581. After two weeks in Seville in March 1588, he returned to Avila where he remained in the post until 1602. That same year, he became maestro di capella at Salamanca Cathedral. De Vivanco died in 1622.

His style is considered versatile, direct and times, liberal in the use of dissonance with music also imbued with that intensity which matches the ecstatic visions of the two saints. Another interesting feature is his adaptability to the text, being equally at home in joyous as well as penitential pieces.

The Funeral and Marian Motets are a prime example of this ability to capture the true spirit of the sacred words. The main piece on this CD is the 'Missa Crux Fidelis', a work filled with some gloriously rich polyphony and although its organisational context is similar to most continental masses of the time, it still contains some distinctive passages that mark it as being different and indeed special.

The Choir of King's College, London sing with a true devotional reverence making the music sound not only divinely angelic but also serenely jubilant. David Trendall's direction is as astute and inspirational as his notes are arresting and scholarly. A disc which should work wonders for this unjustly neglected composer.

Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech