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In his history of music, published in 1928, Cecil Gray discussed the sacred polyphony of Morales, Guerrero and Victoria. Its most distinctive traits, he thought, are an |expressiveness tinged with melancholy, combined with an intensely mystical and devotional turn of mind'.(1) The difference between Palestrina and Victoria, according to Gray, is the difference between the soft, undulating, sensuous line of the Alban hills near which the Roman master was born, and the mystic, arid, treeless plains of Castile in the midst of which stands Avila, the birthplace of Victoria and St Theresa; it is the difference between Raphael and El Greco, between St Francis and St John of the Cross ... [Victoria] resembles that saint who, when celebrating mass, attained to such a pitch of ecstasy and illumination that he was often suddenly levitated to a considerable height above the ground, to the wonder and admiration of the onlookers, but somewhat to the detriment of the divine rite. And Victoria's frenzied, exultant rhythms and soaring melodic lines frequently generate an emotional intensity which is apt to be slightly disturbing, and is certainly less conducive to the cultivation of a devotional mood than the calm, tranquil, self-possessed concord of his Roman rival.(2)
Pedrell's complete edition of Victoria had appeared between 1902 and 1913, but even so exuberant a critic as Gray could hardly have delivered these felt responses and magisterial pronouncements simply as a result of perusing a printed score. He tells us in his autobiography that for three years while he was working on his history he lived like a medieval monk, moving only between the British Museum, his rooms opposite in Bury Street, and Westminster Cathedral, where he went to listen to the singing.(3) For there in London for a quarter of a century had been performed week by week the polyphonic riches of 16th-century Europe. Nowhere else at that time could he have had a similar experience. That this was possible in Westminster was because the cathedral had appointed as its first choirmaster a man called R. R. Terry.
The old forms of worship that the leading musical Tractarians wished to restore or create afresh in the middle of the 19th century were essentially congregational, built round Gregorian chant rather than choral polyphony. Though the Musical Antiquarian Society published editions of the Latin church music of Byrd and the Motet Society adaptations of Palestrina and Lassus and Victoria in the 1840s, for 19th-century English church musicians at the ancient choral foundations there was a whiff of Roman Catholicism about Palestrina which translated texts could not remove. For Catholics themselves old music meant Mozart and Weber and Rossini. At St George's in Worcester in the 1870s the teenage Elgar was performing music by Pergolesi, Hummel, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven; he made a Gloria out of the Allegro from Mozart's Violin Sonata in F, K547, and composed a Credo based on themes from Beethoven symphonies. It was not until 1903 that the papal decree of Pius X, the Motu proprio, held up Gregorian chant as |the supreme Model for sacred music', and emphasized the importance of |the classic polyphony' and especially of Palestrina and 1the Roman School'.(4)
So when R. R. Terry was received into the Catholic Church in 1896 and in that same year was appointed a music master at Downside School, it was by no means obvious that he would immediately begin to direct performances of 16th-century polyphony. Yet this is what happened, and it was at Downside that he began his researches into pre-Reformation English music. He took up his duties as director of the choir at Westminster Cathedral at the beginning Of 1902 and remained there until the spring Of 1924. In 1903 the repertory of the choir included between 50 and 60 Mass-settings and over 100 motets; Palestrina, Victoria and Lassus formed the core, but among 16th-century composers Sweelinck, Willaert, Hassler, Aichinger, Guerrero, Morales and Goudimel also figured prominently.(5) Terry continued to explore foreign composers: in 1911 he devoted special attention to Spanish music, and more than three dozen Spanish works were on the cathedral lists for Holy Week that year, including antiphons, Tenebrae responsories, a Te Deum, and a Nunc dimittis by Victoria, as well as two of his four-voice Masses--Missa Simile est regnum coelum anti Missa O quam gloriosum--Magnificats by Aguilera de Heredia and Juan Navarro, and Passion settings by Francisco Guerrero.(6)
Increasingly, though, it was the Tudor composers that came to dominate the repertory. Terry scrutinized manuscripts in the British Museum, at Peterhouse in Cambridge, at the Bodleian, at Lambeth Palace and at Eton. By 1907 he had scored all the five-part Cantiones sacrae of Peter Philips and 14 Of the eight-part motets had been performed; in that year too during Holy Week he introduced the five-part Lamentations of Robert White. During 1910 the choir sang all the motets in Byrd's Gradualia, and in time he performed all the 1589 Cantiones, much of the 1591 set, and most of the 1575 Tallis and Byrd collection. From the beginning Terry performed the three Masses of Byrd, Tallis's Mass for four voices, Tye's …