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The high production values lavished on this film by the BBC, elegantly shot with Simon Russell Beale roaming appropriate locations in Spain and Italy, surely bring one as close as one might get to actually being there. The camera work is imaginative without asserting itself in an overly arty way and the sound quality for the music is excellent. While the presenter peregrinates in the steps of Victoria, the choir is captured in the early baroque bejewelled casket of the Church of San Antonio de los Alemanes, Madrid – a venue which reflects the mysticism and glory of Victoria’s music. Russell Beale is the star, with his calm demeanour and well- modulated tones, whether speaking to camera or interviewing experts, contextualising the composer in history. The BBC has found in him an almost perfect presenter: an ego-free, well-informed, credible and engaging presence. There are also verbal contributions from Harry Christophers. The performances are very fine but your enjoyment may depend on how much you like watching people sing, however beautifully, and whether you are irked by the music being partially talked over. Having said that, it’s all there, sans speech, as extra audio tracks, along with bonus tracks from their back-catalogue plus a number of extra features of variable value, including ruminations by some of the participants and trailers for their other BBC docu-recitals.

From an academic point of view it can’t be faulted, and this will be a fine educational tool as far as it goes. Where it disappoints is in the lack of spoken acknowledgement of Victoria’s place in music history as a precursor to the baroque. Where appropriate, performance practice adopted by the choir and occasional instrumentalists takes this into account, and the venue makes the point visually, but it seems that the producers were chary of introducing technicalities that might loosen their connection with the person in the street.

REBECCA TAVENER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Choir & Organ, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing