17th century Spain & Portugal

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Program: #19-07   Air Date: Feb 04, 2019

Sacred works of Manuel Cardoso, popular music for harp, and the Cappella Mediterranea with music of the Golden Age.

I. De Vez en Cuando La Vida (Cappella Mediterranea/Leonardo García Alarcón). Alpha CD 412.

De Vez En Cuando La Vida

‘The memories of my childhood in Argentina always bring me back to the singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat, synonymous with shared family moments  . . . Serrat’s poetry and music around a barbecue in Argentina; “De vez en cuando la vida” made me cry as it has made millions of people cry in Latin America, Spain and elsewhere . . . Joan Manuel Serrat is part of our life, he is our Jacques Brel! . . . Or, if we project ourselves back to the sixteenth century, he is in a sense our little Camerata Fiorentina, that movement of Italian poets and musicians in Florence. Serrat has allowed the whole of Latin America and Spain to reappropriate the works of its poets . . . He has also been synonymous with freedom and the struggle against dictatorial regimes.
‘His song “Mediterraneo” is one of the emblematic pieces of his career. It is almost a hymn that has special resonance nowadays: “I was born in the Mediterranean”!
‘I asked my good friend Quito Gato to arrange these songs for our ensemble, Cappella Mediterranea. The orchestration retains typical seventeenth-century instruments: recorders, cornett, violins, viola da gamba, cellos, lutes, harp, harpsichord, organ, with some percussion and a double bass.
‘These period instruments allow us to travel back in time and compare Serrat’s romances with the Ensaladas of Mateo Flecha (1481-1553) – La Bomba – or a piece by Francesco Valls, a Catalan who is now forgotten yet was one of the greatest composers of seventeenth-century Spain, the polyphony of Guillaume Dufay, a composition by Juan Cabanilles that recalls a Bach Passion. The Xacaras, a satirical genre from the Spanish Golden Age (Francisco Gómez de Quevedo, Pedro Calderón de la Barca) dialogues with Serrat’s works. As does the Música callada of the Catalan composer Frederic Mompou, transcribed here for the harp.’
Leonardo García Alarcón

From Jean-Christophe Pucek: To be conscious of an identity, to determine a direction towards which one wishes to direct one's steps implies without a doubt to be able to stop to distinguish the traces of a past that the sands have not yet covered, these beaches on which plays still our childhood, to paraphrase the first two verses of Mediterráneo , one of the most famous songs of the Catalan Joan Manuel Serrat, tutelary figure and beating heart of the atypical project that offers us, at the beginning of autumn, the Cappella Mediterranea.

Leonardo García Alarcón explains it in his introductory text, he is a man nourished at the same time of culture "learned" and "popular" for which, from childhood, did not exist any border between Bach or Beethoven and Serrat , a songwriter whose lyrics are here chiseled (and very well translated by Loïc Windels), sometimes tender, sometimes crossed by a dull anger or derision, a smuggler of the poets of which he put certain texts in music, such as Antonio Machado or Pablo Neruda, too. The five songs selected in this program show us some of the facets of this artist, a committed man and for this reason formerly outlawed by the South American dictatorships who, in Catalan, express his desolation at the ecological massacre of which he is guilty. our time ( Pare ), a Mediterráneo proud of its origins, which sends to its land and its sea a vibrant declaration of belonging, a fine narrator telling with a bittersweet tone one of those love stories that end badly ( Romance from Curro "El Palmo" ), an attentive observer of everyday life and the tiny movements of the soul that his pen raises and magnifies while preserving simplicity and intimacy ( De vez en cuando la vida , Aquellas pequeñas cosas ). These contemporary creations, reinvented with the means of the repertoires of the past, rub shoulders here with the works of the Spanish Golden Age, a gesture which underlines the idea of ​​the inscription of the most recent ones in a plurisecular cultural continuity. The lover trying to coax Cupid in Esta Vez , Francisco Valls's Cupidillo offers a half-scared, half-teasing counterpoint to the "El Palmo" romance of Curro , the famous Bomba de Mateo Flecha El Viejo, played with a perfect balance between refinement and picturesque, adds its note of Latin theatricality to the sometimes burlesque projections, while Mortals that amáis of Juan Bautista José Cabanilles, torn meditation on the Passion of Christ carrying in germ the hope of the salvation, powerfully evokes dimension sacred still omnipresent in the Iberian culture. Two traditional Catalan tunes complete this resolutely Mediterranean panorama, the canço del lladre, whose rather melancholy atmosphere is crumbling with tragic light in La Lleida .

At no time does this record seek to pretend to be what it is not by highlighting its "baroque music" component in order to attract the barge, an honesty that definitively distinguishes it from the hacks as deceptive as arrays of which For too many years, we have been stunting a band like L'Arpeggiata. It is a journey that we propose here the Cappella Mediterranea where strands of History and personal experience intertwine to form the tangible thread of a memory. The real intelligence of this program in which the head and the heart join hands makes it immediately endearing, even mesmerizing. Each piece is approached with loving care, those of the Golden Century with all the necessary rigor and commitment that is one of the hallmarks of Leonardo García Alarcón and his musicians, the songs of Serrat with both a look respectful that a listening of originals reveals instantly and the desire to bring them, by allowing them to reconnect with their roots, a breath of timelessness. The bet is totally successful; the arrangements of Quito Gato are not only subtle, integrating elements directly from the repertory "scholar" (the fanfare which, in the manner of that of an opera of Seicento, raises the curtain on the Romance of Curro "El Palmo" , the short fugato passage of Mediterráneo, or the archaic harmonies, very Quattrocento, of Pare, sometimes surprisingly close to certain songs of Loreena McKennitt), but of a great delicacy of poetic evocation: listen, for example, the way in some aerial and dancing notes it summons the space, the light and the salt air from the first moments of Mediterráneo or that of which are suggested the birth, the flight then the dissipation of the dream in De vez in cuando la vida , a jewel whose trembling sweetness hugs the heart to tears. It must be said that Mariana Flores agrees to capsize you with emotion; the opening quarter of the disc, which she lives with a passionate intensity, is a succession of moments of grace that fit deep into the soul like a familiar music and leave wondering, sometimes almost panting of recognition. Maria Hinojosa has a slightly darker tone to which she knows how to instil the necessary bitterness to translate just the scratches of the three pieces in Catalan that she interprets by infusing them with a real human density, and Valerio Contaldo is, as for to him, impeccably valiant in his apostrophe to Cupidillo whose good graces he tries to conciliate. We can only salute the quality of the work of the singers and the instrumentalists who, whether they remain in their customary repertoire, or whether they venture far away, do so with the same precision, the same sense of color and the same enthusiasm. It is clear from the impetus and direction he gives to his troops that this achievement has a special dimension in the eyes of Leonardo García Alarcón; there is in her approach a fervor, a humility, a deep joy and an immense tenderness which do not deceive as for the memories which nourishes them and the gratitude experienced to have lived these moments remembering today through so many Presences, so many thanks. To let yourself be carried away by this beach disc in the beach is like finding one of those little boxes where, as a child, jealously kept little things, these pequeñas cosas that we looked like treasures and that accompany us at the end of this musical journey , memories of other lives that could remain foreign to us, but that the Cappella Mediterranea shares with us with so much simplicity and generosity that they become a little bit ours.

Joan Manuel SERRAT (b. 1943)
Arrangements by Quito Gato
Romance de Curro "El Palmo" [8:03]
Mediterráneo [4:34]
De vez en cuando la vida [3:50]
Pare [6:36]
Aquellas pequeñas cosas [2:58]
Francisco VALLS (c1671-1707)
Esta vez, cupidillo [3:06]
Lucas Ruiz DE RIBAYAZ (1626-1677)
Xácaras por primer tono [2:27]
ANON La canço dell ladre (arr. Gato) [3:57]
Juan Bautista José CABANILLES (1644-1712)
Mortales que amáis [9:27]
Mateo FLECHA "El Viejo" (1481-1553)
La bomba [10:21]
ANON (after a Catalan folksong)
La presó de Lleida (arr. Gato) [5:00]
Federico MOMPOU (1893-1987)
Música callada - I (Transcription for harp - Gato) [1:28]

II. El Teatro del Arpa: the Harp’s Theatre. DUX CD 1359.

Sara Águeda (harp)
Adriana Mayer (mezzo-soprano), Víctor Sordo (tenor), Calia Álvarez (vihuela de arco), Daniel Garay (percussion)

From Music-Web.com: In the 16th and 17th centuries the harp was a popular instrument, especially in Spain and Italy. In Spain the harp became a chromatic instrument in the mid-16th century by adding an order of chromatic strings interwoven or intertwined with the diatonic ones. It seems to have been an exclusively Spanish thing and not to have been used elsewhere. The harp was used as a solo instrument and for the accompaniment of singers.

There was little solo repertoire specifically written for the harp. It usually played music, which was intended for the keyboard or the vihuela. Several collections of music were published, which mentioned the three instruments as alternatives on the title page. One of the best-known examples is Obras de música para tecla, arpa y vihuela, a collection of pieces by Antonio de Cabezón, which was published by his son Hernando in 1578. One century later Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz, who played the guitar as well as the harp, published Luz y norte musical para caminar por las cifras, a treatise on playing these instruments, which included musical examples.

The harp was also used in vocal music, especially in songs, known as tonos. These could be sacred or secular; the latter - called tonos humanos - were often performed in the theatre. This inspired Sara Águeda to put together a programme of instrumental and vocal pieces in form of theatrical play, as the disc's title indicates. The programme is divided into three acts. Every item is connected to "very typical situations, contexts and characters from the theatrical circumstances in the 17th century", as she puts it in the booklet. So we find here pieces related to the merchant, the servant or the old woman, to 'the secret', 'the poetry' or 'the promise' and to peoples: the French, the English. In the booklet every track has a text; in the case of instrumental items these are taken from various literary sources, in particular the writings of Miguel de Cervantes and Lope de Vega.

Most vocal pieces are from the pen of Juan Hidalgo, himself a harpist, and the main composer of music for the theatre of the 17th century. The work-list in New Grove includes works for the stage but also "secular and theatre songs". The booklet does not indicate where these songs come from, and whether they were intended as independent pieces or were part of a theatrical play. Far less known is Juan Serqueira de Lima, a guitarist and harpist of Portuguese birth, who for most of his life worked in Spain. According to New Grove"Serqueira was the most prestigious and talented theatre musician of his time in Spain, working for companies in Madrid for nearly 50 years."

The subtitle of this disc says that it includes harp music in Spain in the 17th century. Therefore Cabezón is not represented, in contrast to Ruiz de Ribayaz. Diego Fernández de Huete was also a harpist who worked in this capacity at Toledo Cathedral and published a treatise on harp playing. I could not find any information about Don Bernardo de Zala y Galdiano, who is represented with a suite. He must have been a harpist, as I found a reference to a Libro de arpa from his pen, dating from 1700. The latest composer in the programme is Antonio Martín y Coll who died after 1733. He was an organist by profession, and his Folías which end the programme, was certainly intended for the keyboard. It does very well on the harp, and it is a fitting end of this disc, because the folia was of Portuguese origin and made its first appearances in Portuguese and Spanish theatrical works of the early 16th century. During the 17th century it became famous across Europe and was often used for variations. Martín y Coll is also responsible for a specimen of a composition technique which was very popular in the 17th century: the basso ostinato, here Achas.

The way Sara Águeda presents her selection of music is quite original and makes much sense. Not only is she inspired by the theatre, her playing is also theatrical. Some music lovers may not feel attracted to a disc with mainly music for harp solo, but they should give this a try. This disc is the best possible case for the harp. The percussion and the vihuela de mano are additions which underline the theatrical concept of the programme, but are used sparingly and appropriately, for instance in Huete's Zarambeques. Víctor Sordo sings just one item, the other vocal pieces are performed by Adriana Mayer. Both are perfect in this repertoire.

Diego Fernández DE HUETE (1633/43?-c1713)
Canción Alemana [3:00]
Zarambeques [2:34]
Juan SERQUEIRA DE LIMA (?-c1726)
¡Ay de mi ganadito! [2:12]
Diego Fernández DE HUETE
Pasacalles de segundillo [2:34]
Lucas RUIZ DE RIBAYAZ (17th C)
Españoletas [2:51]
Juan HIDALGO (1614-1685)
Quién es Amor [2:37]
Prolatio [1:52]
Pabanas [2:35]
No queráis dormir, mis ojos [3:43]
Diego Fernández DE HUETE
Monsiúr dela boleta
Tarantela [1:49]
Minuet de primer tono [1:24]
Tened, parad, suspended
Bernardo DE ZALA (?-?)
Suit segunda [9:02]
Valgate amor por niña [3:28]
Diego Fernández DE HUETE
Gaitas [3:11]
Antonio MARTÍN Y COLL (?-after 1733)
Achas [3:02]
Juan F. GÓMEZ DE NAVAS (c1630-c1695)
Aura, tierna amorosa [3:32]
John DOWLAND (1562-1626)
Fortune [2:23]
Canarios [2:56]
El agua del llanto [1:57]
Folías [7:20]

III. Manuel Cardoso: Requiem (Cupertinos/Luís Toscano). Hyperion CD CDA 68252.

CDA68252 - Cardoso: Requiem, Lamentations, Magnificat & motets

The empire of Portugal reached its zenith in the middle of the sixteenth century. Over the preceding hundred years, under the rule of Manuel I and João III, its seafaring explorers had established a network of colonies and trading posts across four continents. This maritime dominance brought goods, peoples and cultures back to Europe to feed a burgeoning cosmopolitan society. This carried through into the arts, as the powerful and wealthy dynasties of Europe competed for the prestige of bringing the finest artists and musicians into the employ of their private courts. The new demand for musicians, coupled with the advent of music printing, gave rise to a network of centres for publishing and patronage, attracting musicians from across the continent, and thus bringing an unprecedented influx and exchange of influential music, ideas and musicians from Renaissance Europe to the Iberian peninsula.

When Philip II of Spain, from the house of Habsburg, inherited the Portuguese crown in 1580, it heralded the beginning of the Idade de Ouro—a ‘golden age’ for Portuguese music, marked by the emergence of a group of first-rate composers such as Pedro de Cristo (c1550-1618), Duarte Lôbo (c1565-1646), Filipe de Magalhães (c1571-1652) and Manuel Cardoso (1566-1650).

Baptized in Fronteira, Cardoso studied music as a choirboy at the prestigious Évora Cathedral before moving to Lisbon in 1588 to join the Carmelite order as organist and mestre de capela at the Convento do Carmo, a position he held for six decades. Cardoso was praised throughout his lifetime for his devoutness and musical ability, integrating old and new elements to create a highly individual and expressive style. This is most apparent in his devotional music, which sets some of the most dramatic texts within the liturgy. His surviving oeuvre consists of five volumes of unaccompanied sacred choral music which were published in Lisbon between 1613 and 1648.

The first, the Cantica Beatae Mariae Virginis, quaternis et quinis vocibus, is a collection of settings of the Magnificat (or Canticle of Mary), which comes at the heart of the daily Office of Vespers. As was common practice for the era, verses intoned to the plainchant psalm tone alternate with verses of polyphony; each of the eight psalm tones is given a four-voice and a five-voice setting. The Magnificat secundi toni on this recording is an alternatim setting with the even verses set to plainchant and the odd verses in four-part polyphony—with the exception of the verse beginning ‘Et misericordia’, where the texture reduces to three voices, as was tradition. Cardoso also uses the second tone as the basis for his polyphonic invention, setting the chant melody as a long-note cantus firmus in the upper two voices, a structural foundation to be elaborated upon by the lower parts.

In Cardoso’s second book, the Missae quaternis, quinis, et sex vocibus. Liber primus from 1625, he integrates two of the most prominent stylistic influences in Renaissance church music: the parody Mass and Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. It contains five Mass settings which use motets by Palestrina as the model for polyphonic elaboration—‘parodying’ these gems of Renaissance polyphony, which Cardoso had doubtless studied, as a tribute to the Italian master. The volume bears a dedication to Cardoso’s patron the Duke of Braganza, who would later become João IV of Portugal when the country regained independence from Spain in 1640 (King João was himself a capable musician and composer). Also included within this book is the six-voice motet Sitivit anima mea, one of Cardoso’s best-known and most widely performed works. Alongside the dedication to the future king, the text longing for freedom and anticipating the coming of the Saviour invites interpretation as one of many more or less veiled calls for Portuguese independence which permeate the music of the Idade de Ouro.

The majority of the pieces on this recording are preserved in the Livro de varios motetes, officio da semana santa e outras cousas, published in 1648 and again dedicated to King João IV, by then in the eighth year of his reign. It is in these works that Cardoso leaves the clearest fingerprints of his personal style, often choosing to use uncommon texts with highly dramatic or descriptive passages, placing great emphasis on the relationship between the music and its text. In the book’s dedication, Cardoso attests to its status as the model of his compositional style, saying: ‘I must confess that this book, being the child of my old age, is dearest to me.’

Tua est potentia, the second piece in the Livro de varios motetes, features an unusual and rich six-voice texture, with doubled soprano and bass parts. Its text, not attached to a particular feast within the liturgical calendar, affirms the power of God; according to the then-universally acknowledged doctrine of the divine right of kings, it was by this power alone that the monarch received their authority. It thus seems likely that Cardoso chose to set this text as a celebration of Portugal’s newly reclaimed independence, and as a further paean to his ruler, friend and patron.

The book is organized around the Christian year, with the motets ordered according to the liturgical festivals from which their texts are drawn, beginning with Advent and progressing through Lent to the music for Holy Week and Easter. At less than three minutes each, the motets for the four Sundays of Advent are miniature gems, offering a concise musical exegesis on their biblical texts with frequent and striking musical depictions of poetic features: in Amen dico vobis, ‘non transibunt’ (‘will not pass away’) is portrayed by solid, block-chord declamation; at the end of Cum audisset Johannes, the three lower voices hold their final chord on the word ‘exspectamus’ (‘we await’) as they wait for the soprano’s final note; the abrupt shift in mood in Ipse est qui post me takes us from joyous anticipation of the coming of the Saviour to humble supplication at ‘non sum dignus’ (‘I am not worthy’); the filling-in of the valleys and the levelling of the hills in Omnis vallis is reflected in the melodic contour of all four parts, which rises and falls to depict the landscape of the text both in the sound and also in the visual appearance of the music on the page.

The Advent motets are followed by Quid hic statis?, a longer five-voice motet for Septuagesima Sunday (the ninth Sunday before Easter and the third before Ash Wednesday, so marking the beginning of the period leading up to Lent). Setting a text based on the parable of the workers in the vineyard, it uses long initial note-values and a succession of thematic repetitions to evoke the indolent atmosphere of the idle workers in the marketplace, which cedes to a suggestion of positive toil, as all are promised fair recompense for their work.

Domine, tu mihi lavas pedes? Is a setting of the Antiphon for the ceremony of the washing of the feet in Holy Week, taken from John’s account of the Last Supper. Its structure is much more complex, and its message more cryptic, than the other motets on this recording. The rich and prolonged contrapuntal setting of the dialogue between Peter and Jesus contrasts with the brief homophonic interludes from the biblical narrator. Jesus’ response to Peter’s initial question begins with the alto alone, while the three upper voices relate Peter’s restrained and reverent response.

Cardoso’s compositions for the Maundy Thursday service of Tenebrae are perhaps the most expressive and dramatic pieces in this programme. The declamatory, almost entirely homophonic word-setting and introspective monodic verses of the two Responsories, In monte Oliveti and Tristis est anima mea, create a solemn, stripped-back atmosphere to reflect upon the serene anguish of Christ accepting his fate. Coming between the two Responsories within the Tenebrae service, and even more dramatic and mournful, is the Lamentation. This monumental six-voice setting of the second lesson at Matins on Maundy Thursday elaborates upon the Hebrew letters which precede each verse of the Lamentations of Jeremiah (Vau and Zain, the sixth and seventh letters of the Hebrew alphabet). These prefatory passages are perhaps intended to evoke the grandeur of Jerusalem before its destruction, while Cardoso’s sensitive text-setting comes to the fore in the verses, as they describe the distress, despair and anguish at the city’s fall.

The final section of the Livro de varios motetes is dedicated to music for the liturgies for the dead, in keeping with Iberian traditions of the time which placed great importance on services to commemorate the deceased: in all, around fifteen Requiem Masses by various composers active in Portugal between 1550 and 1650 are preserved. The Missa pro defunctis presented here is Cardoso’s four-voice version from the Livro de varios motetes, a smaller-scale setting than his better-known Requiem for six voices from the Liber primus Missarum of 1625. In both Mass settings the cantus firmus (presented in long notes in the upper voice) is fundamental to the structure of the piece, as was standard practice for Iberian composers of the period. A mood of contemplative stillness prevails, beginning with the confident supplication of the Introit, the dignified tread of the Kyrie written entirely in white notes (minims or longer), and the melancholic serenity of the Gradual. The vivacity of the Offertorium again cedes to the solemn homophony of the Sanctus and Benedictus and the Agnus Dei, and the glowing assertiveness of the Communio brings the Mass to a consoling conclusion.

Lamentations for Maundy Thursday
Missa pro defunctis a 4 (Requiem)
Domine, tu mihi lavas pedes?
Magnificat secundi toni a 4
Amen dico vobis
Cum audisset Johannes
Ipse est qui post me
Omnis vallis
Quid hic statis?
Tua est potentia
Sitivit anima mea

Composer Info

Joan Manuel SERRAT (b. 1943), Francisco VALLS (c1671-1707), Lucas Ruiz DE RIBAYAZ (1626-1677), Juan Bautista José CABANILLES (1644-1712), Mateo FLECHA

CD Info

Alpha CD 412, DUX CD 1359, Hyperion CD CDA 68252.