Music Notes for Pentecost 4 — June 16, 2024

Jesu dulcis memoria – attr. Tomás Luis de Victoria (c. 1548–1611)

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Tomás Luis de Victoria was a Spanish composer who ranks with Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso among the greatest composers of the 16th century. His surviving œuvre, unlike that of his colleagues, is almost exclusively sacred and polyphonic vocal music, set to Latin texts. As a Catholic priest, as well as an accomplished organist and singer, his career spanned both Spain and Italy.

Jesu dulcis memoria, this Sunday’s brief eucharistic motet in church— although technically not a motet but a polyphonic setting of the first verse of a hymn text—has long been a favourite. Since its publication in Felipe Pedrell’s complete edition of Victoria’s work early in the twentieth century the scholar von May has asserted that it is not in fact by Victoria. Despite its questionable authorship it stands as a perfect little example of the art of Renaissance polyphony.

Jesus, how sweet the very thought,
giving true joy to the heart;
but sweeter than honey and all else
is his presence.

Gerald Harder