Musica del Delphin and Starflowers

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Program: #07-39   Air Date: Sep 17, 2007

Two new releases from ECM explore very different cultures;:Luys de Narvaez published six books of compositions in 1538 for viheula, interpreted here by Pablo Marquez; and Sinikka Langeland, born of Norwegian and Finnish heritage, uses the forest imagery of poet Hans Borli to explore music ancient and new.

NOTE: All of the music on this program is from two new releases on the ECM label. For more information on this label, including past recordings and history, you may visit their web site at:

I. Musica del Delphin (ECM CD 1958)

From the introductory material:

Recording the “Seis libros del Delphín” has been a long-held wish of the Argentine guitarist Pablo Márquez, who came to Europe almost twenty years ago to study renaissance repertoire and to delve into contemporary treatises on performance practice. “Troughout my artistic development, Luys de Narváez has remained a passion of mine, never failing to move me with the mystical nature of his music and the crystal clarity of his discourse”, he writes in his performer’s note to the present album which marks his debut on ECM New Series.

Today Márquez is one of the most accomplished and versatile virtuosi of his instrument, an outstanding interpreter of contemporary music who collaborates regularly with groups such as the Ensemble Intercontemporain, and is equally at home in the Argentine traditional music he has studied in depth with his mentor and fellow countryman Dino Saluzzi. It was through Dino that ECM producer Manfred Eicher met Márquez and offered him the opportunity to present his selection of 17 out of the more than forty pieces included in the “Seys libros”.

Like many historically informed performers today, Márquez has long learned that “authentic” instruments don’t provide a guarantee for insightful and adequate interpretations. Just the contrary: “My main goal with this album is to show that you can play this renaissance music convincingly even if you don’t use the original vihuela. There is a considerable performance history, especially with some of the more popular pieces out of this compendium such as the ‘Mille Regretz’, but most often the tempi have been much too slow, so that the ornamentation tended to become too heavy and demonstrative and couldn’t be discerned from the pure vocal line any more. That’s why it is so important to understand the grammar of these compositions, a grammar which reveals many parallels with contemporary vocal polyphony.”

Luys de Narváez lived in the age of Josquin and Nicolas Gombert, whose music he arranged for the vihuela. Born in Granada in about 1500, he served the Commander de León (the dedicatee of the “Seys Libros”) as a musician before transferring to the service of the future king Philip II with whom he travelled extensively between Flanders and Italy. As an outstanding improviser on the vihuela – a predecessor of the modern guitar – he was famed for his extemporization of complicated polyphonic structures in a style often reminiscent of Josquin Desprez. In his “Seys Libros”, his most important work which was first published in Valladolid in 1538 and subsequently widely reprinted in Europe, Narváez assembles fantasias, pieces based on vocal settings by contemporary composers, music for voice and vihuela and, historically most important, two groups of “Diferencias” which are the first printed sets of variations in European music.

Although Pablo Márquez’ carefully composed programme covers less than half of the pieces contained in the “Seys Libros”, his selection offers a representative overview of the compendium as a whole. “It was most important to me to include all the highly-accomplished fantasias in the eight different modes from the first book. They have never been a central component of the guitarist’s repertoire, that’s why I wanted to show how rewarding they can be if you find the right style even on the modern instrument. The main challenge for the modern interpreter with this music is creating the natural flow and a clear design of the polyphony, allowing the listener to follow all the parts. Obviously, another important aspect is the ornamentation. You have to add things, as any graphic symbol meant extra work and extra expenses when these extremely costly tablatures were prepared. There is an aspect of freedom and improvisation even in this carefully notated music.”

All works by LUYS de NARVAEZ (c.1500-after 1550):

--Primer tono por ge sol re ut (Libro I, 1)
--Cancion del Emperador (Mille Regretz de Josquin) (Libro III, 6)
--Fantasia del quinto tono (Libro II, 3)
--Segundo tono (Libro I, 2)
--Diferencias sobre Conde Claros (Libro VI, 1)
--Tercero tono (Libro I, 3)
--Fantasia del primer tono (Libro II, 6)
--Baxa de contrapunto (Libro VI, 4)
--Quarto tono (Libro I, 4)
--Diferencias sobre el himno O Gloriosa Domina (Libro IV, 1)
--Quinto tono de consonancia (Libro I, 5)
--Je veulx laysser melancolie de Richafort (Libro III, 9)
--Sesto tono sobre fa ut mi re (Libro I, 6)
--Sanctus y Hosanna (Missa Faisant Regretz de Josquin) (Libro III, 3/4)
--Septimo tono sobre ut re mi fa mi (Libro I, 7)
--Fantasia del quarto tono (Libro II, 2)
--Octavo tono (Libro I, 8)

II. Starflowers (ECM CD 1996):

Sinikka Langeland vocal, kantele
Arve Henriksen trumpet
Trygve Seim tenor and soprano saxophones
Anders Jormin double-bass
Markku Ounaskari percussion

From the introductory material:

“Starflowers” is the striking ECM debut of folk singer and kantele player Sinikka Langeland from Finnskogen, Norway’s ‘Finnish forest’. It features her settings of the poems of Hans Børli (1918-89) and is performed with an outstanding ensemble that opens up the songs to improvisation. In its inspired intertwining of folksong, literature, and Nordic ‘jazz’ it may be considered a characteristic ECM production, but it is also a logical extension of the work Sinikka has been developing over the last two decades.

Born in 1961 to a Norwegian father and a Finnish mother from Karelia, Langeland was given a Finnish name – Sinikka - and felt the pull of two nationalities and cultures from the outset.

After an early education in classical music she began to look at contemporary folk music and the singer/songwriter genre, but this was soon supplanted by an interest in older forms, intensifying as her research continued and underlined by a wish to “create an original music rooted in my own area, taking account of local possibilities and looking back into history to find out more.” She emphasizes that her particular musical journey has “always been about searching. I love folksong but I’m not exclusively a traditional folk singer. There were always influences coming from other places, too.” These included the local jazz club where, around 1980, she heard singer Radka Toneff, saxophonist Jan Garbarek and many other home grown improvisers. Although not yet putting definitions on her own music she identified with the “sense of space and nature and timelessness” reverberating in Garbarek’s sound in particular.

At 20 she switched from guitar to kantele, the Finnish table harp. She plays the 39-string concert kantele, with its five-octave range. “At first it was just an experiment - I thought it would be fun to have a Finnish instrument for one or two songs. But I became completely fascinated by it.” Meanwhile she was expanding her repertoire to include rune songs, incantations, old melodies from Finland and Karelia, as well as little known medieval ballads and religious folk songs.
--Høstnatt på Fjellskogen
--Den lille fløyten
--Treet som vekser opp-ned
--Sus i myrull
--Langt innpå skoga
--Det er ei slik natt
--Har du lyttet til elvene om natta?

Composer Info

LUYS de NARVAEZ (c.1500-after 1550),

CD Info

ECM CD 1958, ECM CD 1996,

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