In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Tomás Luis de Victoria

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Collections of Essays
  • Biographical Studies
  • Editorial Approaches
  • Style and Technique
  • Masses
  • Motets and Marian Antiphons
  • Hymns, Psalms, and Magnificat Settings
  • Officum Hebdomadæ Sanctæ
  • Music for the Mass and Office of the Dead
  • Use of Instruments, and Instrumental Arrangements
  • Transmission, Sources, and Authorship

Music Tomás Luis de Victoria
Owen Rees
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 May 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0091


Thome [Tomás] Luis de Victoria (b. c. 1548–d. 1611) is the best-known Spanish composer of the Renaissance. His surviving output, small in comparison to those of Palestrina and Lassus, consists entirely of sacred polyphony with Latin texts. Born in Ávila, he spent two decades in Rome from the mid-1560s onwards, first as a student at the Collegium Germanicum, and then combining activities as a priest and a professional musician. During this time numerous collections of his music were published, encompassing motets, masses, music for Vespers, and the Holy Week collection Officium hebdomadæ sanctæ. In the mid-1580s he returned to Spain and served as chaplain to Empress María of Austria, at the Descalzas Reales convent in Madrid, until her death in 1603, thereafter holding the post of organist at the convent. His published output during his years in Madrid was smaller than that from the Roman period, but it includes a collection of multi-choir works with a part for organ, and the Officium defunctorum of 1605 (incorporating the famous six-voice Requiem), which was his last collection. The revival of interest in the composer in the 19th and early 20th centuries saw the emergence of various themes that have remained prominent in studies and perceptions of Victoria. One such theme is that he displayed an intensely religious approach to composition (writers viewing the composer in such terms have frequently emphasized his avoidance of secular composition), which has been regarded as an instance of Spanish mysticism. Another common approach to the composer in the literature has been to compare his music with that of Palestrina, and such comparisons have often highlighted what is seen as the more vivid expressiveness of Victoria’s works. In addition, many writers have emphasized Victoria’s role in the development of functional harmony and tonality. In biographical terms, scholarship in recent decades has provided a particularly detailed picture of his career in Rome and the institutions with which he was associated there.

General Overviews

A solid starting-point is Stevenson 1961; this substantial study remains the most extensive overview of Victoria’s life and work in English. Filippi 2008 is a well-balanced account of Victoria’s biography and output in Italian, assimilating and evaluating recent scholarship. Among older works, Haberl 1896 and Pedrell 1918 provide solid descriptions of Victoria’s published collections and the prefatory matter to these collections, such as the dedicatory letters, but these works are principally of historiographical interest as representatives of the treatment of the composer in the early-music revival during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Likewise, Collet 1913 and Collet 1914 are historiographically significant, vividly encapsulating the common emphasis on Victoria’s musical mysticism. Haberl 1896, Collet 1913, Chase 1941, and Rubio 1983 all exemplify the tendency to make comparisons with Palestrina, which endures in some recent writings about Victoria.

  • Chase, Gilbert. The Music of Spain. New York: W. W. Norton, 1941.

    This widely available book provides (as chapter 5) a summary of Victoria’s life, a very brief introduction to his output, and a comparison with Palestrina, in which Victoria is characterized as the more “spiritual” man, and in which it is suggested that aspects of Victoria’s music may have influenced Palestrina’s, as well as vice versa.

  • Collet, Henri. Le mysticisme Musical espagnol au XVIe siècle. Paris: Félix Alcan, 1913.

    A seminal work in establishing the view of Victoria (who is discussed in chapter 9) as the epitome of Spanish musical mysticism. Following an account of Victoria’s life, the dedications of many of the printed collections are discussed as displaying the composer’s philosophical and religious views. A broad selection of works is analyzed, and the distinctions between Victoria and Palestrina are emphasized.

  • Collet, Henri. Victoria. Paris: Félix Alcan, 1914.

    A colorful encapsulation of the most prominent themes that emerged early in the modern revival of interest in the composer: Victoria’s religiosity and mysticism are emphasized in the accounts of his life and his works. He is portrayed as a self-sacrificing Christian in an ascetic Spanish mold, seeking sublime religious expression in music, frequently basing his musical themes upon chant, and eschewing secular composition and masses on secular themes.

  • Filippi, Daniele. Tomás Luis de Victoria. Constellatio Musica 16. Palermo, Italy: L’epos, 2008.

    A clear summary (in Italian) of the state of knowledge, incorporating a balanced assessment of earlier studies. It also makes particularly valuable contributions regarding the Roman context, Victoria’s polychoral works, the influence of Palestrina’s motet writing on Victoria’s, and interpretation of the Missa pro victoria.

  • Haberl, Franz Xaver. “Tomas Luis de Victoria: Eine bio-bibliographische Studie.” Kirchenmusikalisches Jahrbuch 11 (1896): 72–84.

    The biographical element focuses principally on Victoria’s connection with the German College in Rome. Haberl’s survey of the printed collections gives much information about copies and dedications.

  • Pedrell, Felipe. Tomás Luis de Victoria, abulense biografía, bibliografía, significado estético de todas sus obras de arte polifónico-religioso. Valencia, Spain: Biblioteca Villar, 1918.

    A Spanish edition of the “bio-bibliographical study” (in Spanish, German, and French) previously published in the eighth volume (1913) of Pedrell’s complete edition of Victoria’s works. A large proportion of the study is dedicated to descriptions of the printed collections, including transcriptions of their prefatory matter. Documentary evidence regarding Victoria’s late career in Madrid is also cited.

  • Rubio, Samuel. História de la música española 2: Desde el “ars nova” hasta 1600. Madrid: Alianza, 1983.

    Placed at the end of this general history of Spanish music from the 14th to the 16th century, this overview considers Victoria as a link between the Renaissance and the Baroque, emphasizing his polychoral output and his extensive use of chromatic alteration. The influence of Palestrina is disputed, and Victoria’s mysticism and expressive word-setting are highlighted. A works list is provided.

  • Stevenson, Robert. Spanish Cathedral Music in the Golden Age. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961.

    The most substantial account of the composer’s life and works in English. A revised version, “Tomás Luis de Victoria: Unique Spanish Genius,” appeared in Inter-American Music Review 12.1 (1991), pp. 1–100; a Spanish translation was published in La música en las catedrales españõlas del siglo de oro (Madrid: Alianza Editorial, 1993), pp. 403–546. The survey of Victoria’s output includes a particularly extended account of the masses.

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