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Victoria, Ave Maria

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Ken Elpus
> Subject: Victoria Ave Maria editions
> I'm looking to do the Tomas Luis da Victoria "Ave Maria" with a
> high school group next year, and I was wondering if anyone could
> recommend a good edition. I have a copy of the Max T. Krone
> edition published by Warner Brothers (487-40464) but this is the
> only edition I've seen and I'm not sure if it's very good.
> Is there a more accurate edition, or is this one authoritative?

I don't know if it makes any difference which edition one uses, since
there is considerable doubt about the authenticity of the work. The Ave
Maria was never published during Victoria's lifetime. It first surfaced
two and a half centuries after his death, in a collection of motets by
various composers published in 1863. The editor claimed to have a
manuscript of the motet, but no one has ever seen it. On the basis of
this one publication, the piece was later included in the complete works
of Victoria published in 1902. But given the absence of any known
manuscript or autograph of the work, there is a growing belief that it
is a 19th century forgery, possibly by the editor of the 1863

This story is very similar to that of the "Crux fidelis" attributed to
King John IV of Portugal (1604-56) in another collection of motets
published in 1843. In this case also, there is no known manuscript or
other source for the motet, and there are grounds for believing it to be
a 19th century forgery. The difference between the two is that the "Ave
Maria" is a rather good forgery, while the "Crux fidelis" is not since
its style is not right for a piece supposedly written in the first half
of the 17th century.

There are 2 differences between the 1863 edition and the 1902 edition of
the "Ave Maria". Assuming the first note of "Ave" is A flat, then the 2
differences are:

Bar 15 (counting "gratia plena" as bar 1):
alto, first 2 eighth notes: D - B flat (1863), D - C (1902).
Bar fifth from the end:
alto, last eighth note: D natural (1863), D flat (1902).

All subsequent editions seem to derive from these two. For instance,
Rutter in "European Sacred Music" (1996) follows the 1863 edition, while
book 3 of the Chester Books of Motets (1977) follows the 1902 complete
works. Likewise, of the editions available in the Choral Public Domain
Library (, the one edited by di Marco follows the 1863
edition, and the one by Shrunk follows the 1902 complete works.

Is there any reason for preferring one reading to the other? If you
believe that the "Ave Maria" is genuine and that the editor of the 1863
really did have a manuscript of the piece (which no one else has ever
seen), then the 1863 version is the better one, since there is no
manuscript-based reason for the 2 variants in the 1902 complete works.
But if you believe -- as many do -- that the piece is a forgery, is
there any point in trying to identify the "authoritative" version of a

If the motet is to be taught to a high-school choir because it is a
well-known and well-loved piece of music, then I guess there is no harm
in that. But if it is being presented as a typical composition by
Victoria, then, given the doubts about its authenticity, it might be
better to choose another piece.

Michael Hartney
Ottawa (ON) Canada