Tomas Luis de Victoria was the leading Spanish composer of the late sixteenth century and one of the most important composers of the period. Born in Avila in 1548, he left Spain c. 1565 to study in Rome where he remained as a church musieian for some twenty years, entering the priesthood in 1575. He returned to Spain c. 1585, having been appointed to the post of Master of the convent choir of the PhHip ll's sister in Madrid, and he continued in the service of the Chapel until his death in 1611.
His music displays a complete mastery of the 'Palestrina' style of imitative counterpoint although he adopted a more flexible approach to matters of musical grammar and melodic writing. His distinctively intense style combines both optimism and poignancy suggestive of his Spanish origins and temperament. He may well have been taught by Palestrina whose funeral at old St Peter's he attended in February 1594. His known output is entirely sacred and embraces a comprehensive liturgical range: 22 Masses (two are of doubtful authenticity while a further two are Requiem settings), 52 Motets, 18 Magnificats, 9 sets of Lamentations, 8 Psalms (aU polychoral), 37 Hymns, 13 Antiphons and 25 Responsories together with two settings of the Passion and three eight-part sequences. Nowadays he is perhaps best remembered for his masses and motets which were published in ten volumes between 1572 and 1605, principaDy in Rome but also in Venice and Madrid.
His masses are scored for between four and twelve voices. Five, in eight or more parts, are polychoral while he deployed the parody technique in fifteen of his settings. Twelve of these are based on his own motets but the Missa Simile est regnum coelorum, published in his Liber Primus in Venice in 1576, derives its material from a motet of the same name (also published in Venice, in 1570), by his important Spanish contemporary and personal friend, Francisco Guerrero (1528-99). The text of the motet (Matthew 20, 1-4) is the parable of the hired servants. Alonso Lobo (c. 1555-1617), Guerrero's pupil and another friend of Victoria, published a Mass in 1602 also based on his master's motet.
Victoria's concise four-part work makes compaet and effeetive use of Guerrero's motifs, particularly at the beginning of almost every movement. A spedally noteworthy feature is the radiant polychoral eight-part Agnus Dei n which is, in effect, a strict quadruple canon.