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Tenebrae Responsories is a set of compositions by Tomás Luis de Victoria for four voices (though not always SATB). It consists of eighteen responsories written in Latin which adheres to "strict liturgical form, with six responsories for the second and third nocturns of Matins for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday"1.

Maundy (Holy) Thursday Responsories
1. Amicus meus osculi
2. Judas, mercador pessimus
3. Unus ex discipulis
4. Eram quasi agnus
5. Una hora
6. Seniores populi

Good Friday Responsories
7. Tamquam ad latronem
8. Tenebrae factae sunt
9. Animam meam dilectam
10. Tradiderunt me
11. Jesum tradidit impius
12. Caligaverunt oculi mei

Holy Saturday Responsories
13. Recessit pastor noster
14. O vos omnes
15. Ecce quomodo moritur justus
16. Astiterunt reges
17. Aestimatus sum
18. Sepulto Domino


This is some of the most beautiful and melancholy classical music I have ever listened to. Each composition begins with only one voice, before it is joined by the other three to play out complicated counterpoint - if I was to guess at the composer, I would have thought Bach, though this is probably more due to the fact that I have not studied classical music rigorously. Because the verses are from Catholic sacred texts pertaining to the events around the Passion of Christ, the music is somber and dark, and always in a minor key, which helps sets the mood and tone of the period during which it is sung; after all "Tenebrae" is the Latin word for "Darkness"2.

I highly recommend classical music lovers giving this a listen. These are very much religious pieces, but if you're like me, i.e. one who can't understand a lick of Latin, it shouldn't be a major deterrant - to give some justification, even though I am Catholic, I'm not a big fan of being reminded of Lent in the summer. So, if you're into dark and somber (and relatively depressing) music, check this out.


My personal favourites (in no particular order) are:

  • Amicus meus osculi
  • Judas, mercador pessimus
  • Unus ex discipulis
  • Animam meam dilectam
  • Aestimatus sum


Here's a link to a youtube playlist with all the 18 pieces*.

1. Tenebrae Responsories (Tomás Luis de Victoria)
2. Tenebrae

* Thanks to legbagede for suggesting to add a link.

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