Early Baroque Spain

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Program: #16-46, Air Date: 11/07/16

Secular works by Juan Hidalgo, sacred music of Juan Bautista Gomes, and love songs from the 17th century court.

I. Cantar de Amor: Juan Hidalgo and 17th Century Spain (Juan Sancho, t./Accademia del Piacere/Fahmi Alqhai). Glossa CDGCD P33204.

Cantar de Amor: Juan Hidalgo and 17th-century Spain
For Cantar de Amor, Fahmi Alqhai and Accademia del Piacere are joined by their fellow Andalusian, the tenor Juan Sancho (well-received for his operatic roles), in an impressive new survey of seventeenth-century Spanish dramatic songs depicting the trials of love. Many of the tonos on this new disc from Glossa (home to a growing number of recorded programmes from Alqhai and his striking sound world) were composed by Juan Hidalgo, the foremost musical figure of the time – the quatercentenary of his birth fell late last year – one who worked with Pedro Calderón de la Barca in producing a wide variety of works of musical theatre. If many of such works as these were lost in a disastrous fire in Madrid in 1734, Sancho and Accademia del Piacere have been able to gather together an excellent array of surviving canciones to express the vibrancy and character of the torments of love in the Spanish theatrical manner.

Fahmi Alqhai and his instrumental colleagues also provide vital renditions of marionas, chaconas and passacalles in order further to go to the heart of the musical spirit of a Spain when limited cultural influences were entering the country from elsewhere in Europe. Juan Ramón Lara pens a contemporary view of the importance in the era of Hidalgo and fellow composers such as Mateo Romero and José Marín; a golden artistic age at a time of impending financial crisis.

01 Andrea Falconieri: Passacalle a tre
02 José Marín: No piense Menguilla ya
03 Andrea Falconieri: Ciaccona a tre
04 Juan Hidalgo: Trompicávalas Amor
05 Juan Hidalgo: La noche tenebrosa
06 Francisco Guerau: Marionas
07 Mateo Romero: Ay, que me muero de zelos
08 Juan Hidalgo: Esperar, sentir, morir
09 Gaspar Sanz / Fahmi Alqhai: Pavana
10 Juan Hidalgo: Ay, que me río de Amor
11 Juan Hidalgo: Ay amor, ay ausencia
12 Gaspar Sanz: Passacalle sobre la D
13 Juan Hidalgo: Rompa el aire en suspiros
14 Mateo Romero: Romerico florido

II. Juan Bautista Comes--O Pretiosum: Music for the Blessed Sacrament (Amystis Chamber Choir & Musicological Society/José Duce Chenille). Brilliant Classics CD 95231.

From MusicWeb International: Two years ago Brilliant Classics released a disc of the ensemble Amystis which included music by Joan Baptista Cabanilles (1644 - 1712) who worked all his life in Valencia (review). The present disc is again devoted to a composer from that town: Juan Bautista Comes. He lived and worked on the brink of the stile antico of the renaissance and the new baroque style which had been developed in Italy. However, listening to the music recorded here the former has a much stronger presence than the latter. José Duce Chenoll, in his liner-notes, states that in his villancicos "Comes shows total mastery of imitative counterpoint and of the relationship between text and music". The former is easily notable but the latter is not, at least not to those who don't understand Spanish. The booklet includes the lyrics but without translations. That does not make it easier to really appreciate the pieces which have been selected for this recording.

Comes has left quite a number of compositions. His oeuvre includes eight masses, two of which are lost. He also composed a St John Passion, a number of Psalm settings and motets, Magnificats, Lamentations and hymns and over 90 pieces which New Grove calls "devotional works". This category includes the villancicos which are part of the programme Amystis has recorded.

Comes was born in Valencia and received his first musical education as a choirboy in the cathedral. He may have worked as organist and choirmaster in nearby Sueca in 1602 and was singer and later maestro de capilla at Lérida Cathedral from 1605 to 1608. He then returned to Valencia and was appointed maestro de capilla at the cathedral. In 1618 he became vice-maestro de capilla in the royal chapel in Madrid but he seemed to miss Valencia and it is documented that he was absent from Madrid several times, apparently due to visits to his hometown. He returned permanently in 1628 and four years later he was appointed maestro di capilla to the cathedral. He must have been held at high esteem: in 1638 he was relieved of choir duties while retaining his full salary and the authorities continued to pay for medical treatment and other personal expenses. After his death his heirs were paid for the compositions he had bequeathed to the cathedral.

Many of Comes' compositions are devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. "Since 1437 the Valencia Cathedral had been home to the Holy Chalice, which according to Catholic teaching, was the cup used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. (...) As a result, the devotional life that Comes lived was focused on the Eucharist", Chenoll states in the booklet. He also refers to the importance of the Eucharist in the Counter-Reformation.

The programme opens with four motets for the feast of Corpus Christi which are all scored for eight voices in two choirs. The technique of cori spezzati was not confined to Venice. Spain had its own tradition; pieces for double choir are also present in the oeuvre some of the main composers of the 16th century. Comes seems to have had a preference for writing such pieces: his oeuvre includes a number of works for two to four choirs. Such a scoring in sacred music was not uncommon but this disc includes also some villancicos for two choirs. Originally the villancico was a secular work. In the second half of the 16th century this form was increasingly used for religious music. As a result the villancico is a mixture of secular and sacred elements. The texts are sacred but often make use of images which are common in secular texts. The often marked, even compelling rhythms also refer to the genre's origin. The villancicos performed here are much more intimate and restrained, which is probably the effect of their being devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. Therefore the scoring for two choirs of some of them is probably less surprising. It lends them a kind of dignity. The polychorality is the aspect which connects them to the traditional sacred music of the past.

Villancicos are usually divided into coplas (stanzas) and an estribillo (refrain). Some of the villancicos performed here are a bit different. In El amor que todo es fiestas the refrain is embraced by two romances. Del cielo es ese pan has only a refrain. A la sombre estáis has three sections: romance, refrain and verses (stanzas). This is probably what Greta Olson refers to when she in her article on Comes in New Grove writes: "Nearly half of Comes’s extant works are settings of devotional Spanish texts as villancicos or tonadas. These have sections for solo voice(s) and chorus and use folklike and serious musical styles in an unusual three-part structure."

It shows that Comes is not just one of many composers of the early 17th century. Obviously the choice of pieces devoted to the Blessed Sacrament results in a somewhat one-sided picture. However, the quality is such that one would like to hear more from his oeuvre.

O pretiosum a 8 [5:53]
Quid hoc Sacramento mirabilius a 8 [6:37]
O Sacramentum pietatis a 8 [5:06]
Immensa divine largitatis a 8 [5:55]
[Villancicos]
El amor que todo es fiestas a 12 [6:52]
Pues que matas de amores a 6 [6:52]
Del cielo es este pan a 4 [3:03]
Bien te puedes alegrar a 6 [5:46]
Hombre pues eres soldado a 8 [8:06]
A la sombra estáis a 8 [7:29]

III. Juan Hidalgo: Musica para el Rey Planeta (La Grande Chapelle/Albert Recasens). Lauda LAU015.

Although he is primarily remembered as the creator of zarzuela and Spanish opera, the sacred and secular vocal chamber music of Baroque composer Juan Hidalgo enjoyed success during his lifetime. Juan Hidalgo: Musica para el Rey Planeta buy CD music Hidalgos sacred works are perhaps less well known and were composed primarily for specific devotional practices in the palace, and most of his output was likely destroyed in the calamitous fire of the Royal Palace. However a partial restoration of Hidalgos scores has been possible through recovered manuscripts and in this collection comprised of songs never before released, La Grande Chapelle has selected a varied group of these sacred songs known as tonos and villancicos that greatly illuminate the Baroque culture in Spain of those times.

1 ¡Venid Querubines Alados!, Villancio A Nuestra Señora A 4 5:01
2 Al Dichoso Nacer De Mi Niño, Tono Para Navidad A 4 2:41
3 Mas ¡Ay, Piedad!, Villancio De Miserere A3 4:55
4 Mariposa Iccauta, Dúo Al Santísimo Sacramento 2:51
5 ¡Ay Amor, Ay Ausenical!, [Tono A] 2:47
6 Quedito, Pasito, Cuatro Teatral 2:12
7 Anarda Divina, Dúo [Humano] 3:01
8 Escuchad Mi Voz, Dúo Al Santísimo Sacramento 4:36
9 Cuando El Alba Aplauda Alguno, Vallancio Al Santísimo Y A Nuestra Señora A3 4:21
10 Suprema Deidad Que Miro, Villancio De Pasión A4 (1677) 4:18
11 Antorcha Brillante, Villancio Al Santísimo Sacramento A Solo Y A 4 4:09
12 Pues Adoro Una Oblea, Dúo Al Santísimo 4:00
13 Rompa El Aire En Suspiros, Recitativo A Lo Humano [Solo] 4:26
14 ¡Ay, Corazón Amante!, Tonada Humano A Solo 7:20
15 Luceros A, Flores, Arded Y Lucid, Solor A Nuestra Señora [Versión A Lo Humano] 2:32
16 Aunque En El Pan Del Cielo, [Tono] Al Santísmo Sacramento A 3 3:51
17 ¡Ay, Cómo Gime!, Tono Teatral A 4

Composer Info

Andrea Falconieri, José Marín, Juan Hidalgo, Francisco Guerau, Mateo Romero, Gaspar Sanz, Juan Bautista Comes

CD Info

CDGCD P33204, CD 95231, LAU015