Iberia and Beyond

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Program: #20-40   Air Date: Sep 21, 2020

A world premiere recording of sacred music by Duarte Lobo, the latest from the Academy of Ancient Music dedicated to a mass by Francisco Valls, and into the New World with Ignacio Jerusalem.

I. Duarte Lobo: Masses (Cupertinos/Luis Toscano). Hyperion CD CDA68306.

From Music Web International: If there is anything more enthrallingly beautiful than the sacred polyphony of sixteenth-century England, it’s to be found in Iberian music of the period and slightly later. Victoria, of course, but the two Lobos, the Spaniard Alonso and the Portuguese Duarte, are up there with the finest. Duarte is sometimes spelled with a circumflex accent to distinguish the two: Duarte Lôbo. He seems to have had an international reputation in his time, his music printed by Plantin in Antwerp, and he was influential on many of the next generation of Portuguese composers. Most of them are now just names, with just the odd work recorded in collections; perhaps Hyperion might bring us some of their music? 

If it sounds ungrateful to be asking for more, let me add at once that when Hyperion bring us two Mass settings by Duarte, in first recordings, it’s good cause for rejoicing. When I last encountered Cupertinos – for the first time – in Cardoso’s Lamentations and Responsories for Maundy Thursday and Requiem, that was a Recommended recording, even in preference to another Hyperion recording of similar material on which El León de Oro are directed by Peter Phillips – Winter 2018-19/2. Though Cardoso’s music has not been neglected, that was – and remains – the only current recording of his 4-part Requiem, so especially recommendable. Richard Hanlon also welcomed that debut album from Cupertinos – review.

It’s not surprising that Cupertinos have gone from Cardoso to Lobo, as The Sixteen did when they combined the two on a recording entitled Renaissance Portugal (COR16032). I reviewed that, too, in Winter 2018-19/2 – it’s back catalogue, dating from 1993, but very worthwhile back catalogue, and it includes a version of Audivi vocem de cælo to compare with the new recording.

I also listened again to an earlier Hyperion recording of the music of Lobo and the even more elusive Magalhães (CDH55138, William Byrd Choir/Gavin Turner, download only). That includes Audivi vocem and the 8-part Requiem and, although it’s now more expensive than when I reviewed it, it remains very worthwhile. (Lossless download or Archive CD from hyperion-records.co.uk.) There’s also a very fine account of Audivi vocem on a recording of Spanish and Portuguese seventeenth century sacred music by the choir of The Queen’s College, Oxford, and Owen Rees (Guild GMCD7323 – review).

For a small group – three sopranos, two each of altos, tenors and basses – Cupertinos make a bold sound. I don’t mean to sound patronising when I comment on how cleanly they hit the notes – I’ve heard too many Iberian choirs mangle the music of their own peninsula, but recordings like this, their earlier Cardoso, and the Hyperion album with El León de Oro show how far performance style has progressed, and can now be compared with the very best.

Audivi vocem is the first track on the new recording and, though the text is associated with funerals, Cupertinos take it at quite a pace; faster than the Marian Consort and Roy McCleery on a recording of the music of lamentation from renaissance Portugal (Delphian DCD34205) and Bo Holten with Ars Nova (Portuguese Polyphony Naxos 8.553310). Turner, on Hyperion, takes the piece more slowly still, yet there is no lack of reverence in the singing of Cupertinos, or of The Sixteen, who also take the music at a fast pace.

In any case, the text speaks of hope and consolation: ‘From henceforth blessed are the dead who die in the Lord … for they rest from their labours’, so there is no need to be too lugubrious. Not that the three slower recordings are lugubrious, but, all in all, there is a strong case for keeping this short piece moving.

It would have been good to have had at least one recording of Audivi vocem from a choir with boys’ voices on the top line – say, from Westminster Cathedral Choir, who have recorded the music of Alonso Lobo, but not that of Duarte. Perhaps we may hope for a recording of Duarte’s music from them; it would be good to hear them in one or both of the Masses which form the main content of the new Hyperion, or, better still, more unrecorded repertoire.

That said, the lack of boys' voices is not a huge issue.  I really cannot criticise Cupertinos in these two Masses. The music of Portugal in the early seventeenth century would have sounded very conservative to a Venetian who had heard Monteverdi, but that in no way detracts from its power and beauty, both aspects to be found in good measure in these performances. Indeed, far from being unadventurous, the music often goes well beyond the precepts of the theorists, while remaining broadly in line with them. The size of the group means that the words of the texts can mostly be heard – not always possible with compositions of this complexity – yet when the music swells, like an approaching wave, there is plenty of strength in the singing.

Perhaps with an eye on the Christmas market, the space between the two Masses is filled with performances of responsories for the Nativity period, only recently published and, like the Masses, recorded for the first time. All are short but attractive, and the recording is rounded off with the brief 8-part Alma Redemptoris Mater, the antiphon for the period from Advent Sunday to Candlemas, the only other work otherwise available; like Audivi vocem it’s also included on the Guild recording from Queen’s College, Oxford.

The Gimell twofer offers an excellent chance to compare the music of Victoria with that of the two Lobos, and serves to remind the listener that, different though they are, the music of Duarte can hold its own in the company of the others. The performances by Cupertinos serve to strengthen the case for his music; the very fine performances are supported by first-rate recording and the usual excellent Hyperion presentation. Another recording to lift the spirits.

Brian Wilson 

Audivi vocem de cælo (Liber Missarum, 1621) [2:42]
Missa Sancta Maria (Liber Missarum, 1621) [19:33]
Hodie nobis cælorum rex (Opuscula, 1602) [4:32]
Hodie nobis de cælo (Opuscula, 1602) [1:49]
Quem vidistis pastores? (Opuscula, 1602) [3:08]
O magnum mysterium (Opuscula, 1602) [2:39]
Beata Dei genitrix (Opuscula, 1602) [1:53]
Sancta et immaculata (Opuscula, 1602) [3:06]
Beata viscera (Opuscula, 1602) [2:54]
Verbum caro (Opuscula, 1602) [3:58]
Missa Elisabeth Zachariæ (Liber Missarum, 1621) [21:50]
Alma redemptoris mater (Opuscula, 1602) [2:12] 

II. Valls: Missa Regalis (Choir of Keble College, Oxford/Academy of Ancient Music/Matthew Martin). AAM CD 008.

From Music Web International: First, a word of explanation about the alternative spellings of the names of all three composers, about which the AAM booklet itself is not consistent. Then, as now, Spaniards needed to be bi-lingual in high Castilian and their own language or dialect, in the case of Catalan somewhere between Castilian and Provençal. Valls is more usually given the first name Francesc, while the other two composers are generally known by the names which I have given in brackets.  Just to complicate matters, Arauxo is sometimes spelled Araujo; there's another composer called Juan de Araujo (1664-1712) and a Pedro de Araujo (fl. 1662-1720).

This is the only available recording of the Missa Regalis, or Royal Mass, by the Catalan composer Francesc Valls, so I suppose that compensates for the very mean playing time. I’m sure that more, perhaps hitherto neglected, music could have been found to give us at least a respectable hour of playing time on this full-price recording. We could, for example, have been given more from Arauxo’s 1626 collection: a Tactus recording on the organ of San Martino, Bologna, for example, contains the tiento included here and tres glosas from that set (TC550003).

There seems to be something of a tradition of giving short value on CDs of Valls’ music: the London Oratory Choir and the Thames Chamber Orchestra, conducted by John Hoban, offer just his Missa Scala Aretina on a CRD CD (CRD3371). At least, CRD can offer in their defence that this is a reissue of an LP from 1980.  

Can an Oxford or Cambridge college choir capture the raw energy of Iberian choral music of the late Golden Age? In one important respect, they can even excel; until recently Spanish choirs were not noted for accuracy of pitch. I have some recordings made by the famous Choir of Montserrat Abbey to which I can hardly bear to listen (EMI and BASF CDs, under licence from Deutsche Harmonia Mundi and now, thankfully, unavailable). If you wished to be kind, you might describe the singing as ‘forthright’.

With Savall’s partners, La Capella Reial de Catlunya and le Concert des Nations, you have an authentically Iberian sound and period instruments, but no split and missed notes – just the opposite. The London Oratory Choir, too, would appear to offer the right credentials, accustomed as they are to singing music for the Latin rite in a manner different from the Anglican tradition. Keble, of course, is the bastion of Anglicanism, albeit of an Anglo-Catholic bells-and-smells variety and with undergrad accommodation which used, as I recall, to offer almost monastic simplicity.

There’s no trace of Anglican ‘hoot’ or understatement from the Keble choir on this recording. In recent years they have been working with Edward Higginbottom, after his retirement at the helm of New College choir. One such offers very different music from that of Valls: Ceremonial Oxford contains music for the Georgian university by the neglected William Hayes. Like the new Valls, Keble choirmaster Matthew Martin directs, but Higginbottom also contributes to the success of this recording as one of the organists (CRD CRD3534 – review – review).

In Spring 2018/1 I thought that recording revelatory and I’m equally enthusiastic about the new Valls. Keble has a mixed-voice choir, so those who insist on boys’ voices will be disappointed. I certainly was not put off in the least, especially when I recall what the boys of Montserrat sound like on those Deutsche Harmonia Mundi recordings – even worse than the men. Good as the CRD recording of Hayes is, I’m pleased to see that this is to be the first release in a new partnership with AAM. The Academy themselves are on as fine form as in their earlier recordings under Chrstopher Hogwood and Richard Egarr.

Listening with an innocent ear, you might be hard pressed to date this Mass. At times it sounds like something from the late baroque era, at others it might almost be by Valls’ contemporary Haydn. Less unconventional than the earlier Missa Scala Aretina, it’s still very well worth getting to know. It’s unlikely to receive another recording any time soon – presumably the edition, by Oxford scholar Simon Heighes, from a manuscript of a work apparently in progress, is copyright and, in any case, this performance is good enough to serve as a benchmark.

The three organ pieces which punctuate the sections of the Mass date from a slightly earlier time, but are perfectly in keeping with the older aspects of Valls’ style. They were recorded separately in St John’s College, where the organ, a full spec of which is included in the booklet, is ideal for the music. It doesn’t sound out of tune, as some of the Spanish examples still do, though matters have been improving in that regard. Matthew Martin resists any temptation to choose heavier registration or greater use of the pedals than would have been possible with the simple set-up of the Iberian organs of the time.  By a miracle of engineering, the organ is convincingly placed within the acoustics of Keble chapel.

The booklet is enormously informative. Think of the kind of notes that Hyperion and, even more, Toccata offer and this is as good as either. It has all that you are ever likely to want to know about the kind of keyboard work known as a tiento and the design and disposition of the early Iberian organ. It’s also generous illustrated, not with the vacuous ‘celeb’ shots that DG have often give us recently, but with a picture of a typical organ of the period, showing how limited the pedals are, manuscripts of the music and, of course, the Keble choir and the Academy of Ancient Music.

With very good recording to match the high quality of performance and documentation, reservations about short playing time can be set aside. A very worthwhile discovery. 

Brian Wilson

Francisco (Francesc) VALLS (c.1671-1747)
Missa Regalis (1740, ed. Simon Heighes)
I. Kyrie [5:13]
II. Gloria [7:55]
Francisco Corrêa de AROUXO (ARAUXO) (c.1583-c.1654)
Tiento y discurso de segundo tono (FO2, from Facultad orgánica, 1626) [5:55]
Francisco VALLS
Missa Regalis, III. Credo [9:38]
Juan Bautista José CABINILLES (CABANILLES) (1644-1714)
Tiento de falsas primer tono (WSC 161, in M729 Música per a orgue, late 1600s) [2:50]
Francisco VALLS
Missa Regalis, IV. Sanctus [1:57]
Francisco Corrêa de AROUXO
Tiento de medio registro de tiple de séptimo tono (FO29, from Facultad orgánica, 1626) [4:52]
Francisco VALLS
Missa Regalis, V. Agnus Dei [2:24]
The Choir of Keble College, Oxford
Joseph Crouch (bass violin), Inga Klaucke (dulcian) Edward Higginbottom (organ continuo)
Academy of Ancient Music/Matthew Martin (organ solo) 

III. Ignacio Jerusalem: Mass in G “De los Niños” (Chicago Arts Orchestra & Chorale/Javier José Mendoza). Navona CD NV6274.

 Considered the most influential composer of galant music in the Americas, Jerusalem might not be as well-known as his European counterparts: but the reason for his limited renown has more to do with a geographical disadvantage, rather than lack of musical ability. The works presented on this album were largely composed towards the end of the emigré’s life, in the 1760s, and they bear all of the hallmarks one would expect from a European-born composer of the era. There is plenty of zest, liveliness, spirit, drive; but also a distinctly Italian take on Catholic piety, spiritual reflection and faith. Chicago Arts Chorale, Chicago Arts Orchestra; Javier José Mendoza
From WJTU: The Chicago Arts Orchestra and Chorus specialize in exploring the music of New Spain. Their first release was “Al Combate: Rediscovered Galant Music from Eighteen-Century Mexico.”

It featured works by  Ignacio Jerusalem and Santiago Billoni. This release delves deeper into Jerusalem’s repertoire, presenting a mass, a symphony, and some shorter choral works.

Ignacio Jerusalem emigrated to Mexico in 1742. In short order, he became the Lully of Mexico City (that’s how I’d put it). He was chapel master at the Catedral de México.

He composed prolifically, and in the process changed Mexican sacred music from a Palestrina-inspired style to a lighter, tuneful Galant style.

He also modernized notation for the Latin church’s music copyists. The cathedral orchestra expanded under Jerusalem’s direction.

This album gives us a good idea of what all that meant. The works are mostly late, from around 1760. Jerusalem’s choral writing is far removed from Mexico’s then-current proto-Palestrina style. The choruses are mainly homophonic, with only a modicum of counterpoint.

This Galant style is especially evident in the Symphony in G with Hunting Horns. It strongly reminds me of the Mannheim School composers, such as Carl Stamitz. The music has a wide dynamic range. The ensemble swells in volume at key points, emulating (after a fashion) the Mannheim Rocket.

Jerusalem’s work is quite interesting and historically important. His music spread across New Spain and served to inspire others. The Chicago Arts Orchestra under the direction of Javier Mendoza delivers some good performances. Mendoza has made a study of Jerusalem’s music and he brings out the cosmopolitan nature of this Italian transplant’s work.

Mass in G “de los Niños”

Nythia Martínez, Bruno Rivera, Mallory Harding, and Billy Sefton soloists

01 KYRIE  2:34

02 Gloria  8:39

Nythia Martínez soprano   Mallory Harding alto   Billy Sefton tenor

03 Credo  7:43

Nythia MartínezBruno Rivera sopranos

Mallory Harding alto  Billy Sefton tenor

05 Sanctus  1:24

05 Agnus Dei 1:44

06 Incipit lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae  12:09

Alexa Græ alto


07 ¡Ah! De la dulce métrica armonía  6:06

Eleanor Ranney-Mendoza, Nythia Martínez sopranos


08 Pedro amado 5:50

Eleanor Ranney-Mendoza, Nythia Martínez sopranos


Symphony in G with Hunting Horns

09 I. Allegro  2:11

10 II. Andante  3:00

11 III. Allegro  2:19

Composer Info

Duarte Lôbo, Francisco (Francesc) VALLS (c.1671-1747), Francisco Corrêa de AROUXO (ARAUXO) (c.1583-c.1654), Juan Bautista José CABINILLES (CABANILLES) (1644-1714), Ignacio Jerusalem

CD Info

Hyperion CD CDA68306, AAM CD 008, Navona CD NV6274