sábado, 8 de septiembre de 2012

The Choir Project al día [08-IX-2012]

Tiburtio Massaino (c.1550-1609): Musica super Threnos Ieremiae prophete in maiori hebdomada decantadas a 5 (Venezia, 1599). Feria V. In coena Domini. Lectio prima.
Huelgas-Ensemble - Paul Van Nevel.
Music to express.

In words of the
great Paul Van Nevel:
“The Lamentations (Thrênoi, Threni, Lamentationes) of the Prophet Jeremiah were written in connection with the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of Judah in 586 B.C. The text was written by eyewitnesses and definitively compiled during the Babylonian captivity. Jeremiah was therefore certainly not the sole author of the Lamentations, and some authorities even think that he had no hand at all in the writing of the text.

The Lamentations consist of five chapters, or rather songs or cantos. The structure of the first, second and fourth chapters is identical. Each of them comprises 22 verses, corresponding to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet. The Latin Vulgate wished to preserve the reminiscence of this alphabet and therefore begins each verse with the first Hebrew letter of the verse. So the first verses of Chapters I, I1 and IV begin with the letter ALEPH followed by the Latin text, the second verse begins with BETH, the third with GHIMEL, and so on. In addition, the first Lamentation starts with the heading Incipit Lamentatio Hieremiae Prophetae, which, however, is not always sung.

The structure of the third Lamentation differs from that of I, II and IV. The shorter verses (I and II consist of verses in three sections, IV of verses in two sections) are linked in groups of three in the third Lamentation. Each of these grouped verses begins with the same Hebrew letter, so that the chapter comprises not 22 but 66 verses. The Vuigate, too, always repeats this letter. The structnre of Song III is therefore: ALEPH   (. . .), ALEPH (. . .), ALEPH, (...) BETH (...), BETH (...), BETH (...), etc. The fifth and last chapter differs from the others in various ways. In the first place this chapter has the character of a prayer (the Vulgate begins with the title Oratio…). Moreover, there is no mention of the letter at the beginning of each verse. Finally, they are very simply structured in two distinct sections.

The text of Lamentations is highly emotional, rich in imagery and in a language replete with rhetorical turns of phrase. It is a text which, as has been mentioned, was written by eyewitnesses and therefore manifests - how could it not? - an intimate relationship with the sorrow, helplessness, bitterness and supplications of the population of Jerusalem.
It is precisely this aspect of the combination of dramatic elements and meditative fragments, together with the incantatory citation of the Hebrew letters that undoubtedly attracted the attention of medieval and particularly of Renaissance composers. Otherwise how can it be explained why a text that - unlike the Mass, for instance - was used only once a year (during Holy Week) inspired so many composers? (1).

From the Middle Ages on parts of the Lamentations were used in one specific instant of the Divine Office, i.e. during matins on Maundy, Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. Matins, a prayer and sung service that took place before dawn, consisted successively of three psalms and three lessons (lectio). It was for the first nocturne of matins on the last three days of Holy Week that the Lamentations were used for the three lessons. A total of nine lessons were therefore devoted to the Lamentations. The use of the Lamentations during matins had another peculiarity. At the end of the verses each lesson was concluded with the verse Jerusalem, Jerusalem, convertere ad dominum Deum tuum. This was not a Biblical text, but it served as a kind of refrain that was repeated after each lesson.

The selection of the Lamentations for the lessons varied greatly from region to region until the Council of Trent (1545-1563). The choice, number and order of the verses were determined by local preferences. After the Council of Trent, that had attempted to impose certain rules on ecclesiastical music, there seems still to have been room for local discretion, as may be observe in listening to the four Lamentations on this CD. The liturgical monophonic repertoire comprises at least several hundred melodies among which Spanish manuscripts are particularly prevalent. Many polyphonic compositions have as their cantus firmus the best know pslm tone on F (F-G-A…), with the formula A-G-F-G-F for the Hebrew letters. The use of a different cantus firmus was, however, common (as, for instance, in the compositions of Robert White).

Because of the somber character of the text and its position in the liturgy (at night, before dawn, during the most sorrowful days in the liturgical calendar), it goes without saying that these polyphonic compositions create a very particular mood. Shorn of all festive ornament, these Lamentations go back to the very essence of polyphony, while the tiniest detail, the slightest emotional turn can create a wondrous effect. And thought the exordium - like Hebrew letters (without substantive “meaning”) were composed in an entreating melismatic style, and though many composers used a sturdy harmonic idiom in particularly inviting passages (e.g. plorans ploravit and o vos omnes), Nicola Vicentino (1511-1576) writes in his treatise L’Antica Musica ridotta alla moderna prattica (Roma, 1555) that “… Every singer must take care that when singing lamentations he does not sing a single ornament (diminution), lest the sorrowful character turn into a joyful mood…” (Book IV, Ch. 42).

(1). As late as the 19th century the Holy Week matins (called the Tenebrae were still very popular because of their powerful musical attractiveness. When Franz List was asked was particularly worth hearing in Rome -opera, symphonic or chamber music - he emphatically replied, “No, certainly not that. That sort of thing can be heard anywhere else, and better. Musically there is one thing that is unique and incomparable: the Tenebrae in the great basilicas”.

Van Nevel continues:
“Tiburtio Massaino (c.1550-1609 was an Augustine monk and composer-singer in Cremona, Innsbruck (at the court of Archduke Ferdinand III) and Salzburg where he was arrested on suspicion of homosexuality. He subsequently fled to Praha where he became a singer in the court chapel of the Emperor Rudolph. From 1594 he was back in Italy as Maestro di Cappella in Lodi and Piacenza. His 5-part Lamentations were published in 1599 and were dedicated to the monastery of Monte Oliveti in Piacenza.
So Massaino wrote his Lamentations for the surroundings where they belong: the closed monastic community. The music is in a polyphonic idiom, but mostly syllabic. The structure is supported by a rich harmonic tone palette that does not shun the occasional surprise, as on the text … et lachrime of the BETH verse. The melismatic “acclamations” of the Hebrew letters are, compared to those of his comtemporaries, short (five to six breves). The “Hierusalem”, that uses a slow-moving falling motive in the voices on the word “convertere”, is particularly beautiful”.

I think the music for Lamentations is probably the most expressive in the Renaissance polyphony, as well as the music of Requiem. This album is absolutely fantastic. Pure “Huelgas sound”, with an expressive power that drags you to deeper insight of the life. Highly recommended; absolutely essential.

jueves, 6 de septiembre de 2012

Novedades discográficas: septiembre 2012

Agostino Steffani (1654-1728).
Cecilia Bartoli & I Barocchisti - Diego Fasolis.
Decca Classics 4784721.

   Estamos ante el que es, con total seguridad, uno de los lanzamientos más esperados del año, porque Cecilia Bartoli mueve auténticas legiones de seguidores -entre los que me incluyo-. Siguiendo con el repertorio barroco, se centra ahora en la figura del enigmático y polifacético Agostino Steffani. Se prometen grandes sorpresas y un éxito asegurado. Se anuncia, además, una gran gira mundial con este programa e intérpretes.
Existe más información disponibles en estas dos entradas de este mismo blog: La "Mission" de Bartoli y Bartoli ya no tiene "Mission" secreta.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750).
Pygmalion - Raphaël Pichon.
Alpha (Outhere-Music) ALPHA188.
   Uno de los lanzamiento que personalmente me suscita mayor interés es este, del joven conjunto francés Pygmalion, centrado, como la totalidad de su dicografía hasta el momento, el la figura del Kantor. Se trata de una versión más de la celebérrima H-Moll Messe BWV 232, en la llamada "versión de Dresden", que en 1733 fuera dedicada por BACH al Príncipe Elector de Sajonia, primero como una misa luterana, que posteriormente sería utilizada y completada como misa católica. La anuncian como la "versión original" de la pieza. Con un quintento vocal de lujo, el coro y orquesta barroca de Pygamlion parecen interpretar una versión fresca, que personalmente me parece sonar muy "herreweghiana" y realmente fantástica.
Alpha aún no aporta información sobre este disco en su página, pero sí podemos ver ese clip promocinal en el que se aportan datos sobre la grabación, aunque en francés.

Conductus, Vol. I. (Music & Poetry from Thirteenth Century France).
John Potter (tenor), Christopher O'Gorman (tenor), Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor).
Hyperion CDA6794.

   Dos de los clásicos miembros del Hilliard Ensemble -el que fuer su fundador, John Potter, y el tenor agudo, Rogers Covey-Crump, que aún hoy es miembro- se vuelven a juntar, junto a la participación de un tercer tenor, para realizar la grabación de la que parece será una serie de discos dedicados al repertorio vocal sacro de la Edad Media, no sé si centrados únicamente en Francia, o también en otros territorios europeos. Conociendo el desenvolvimiento de estos intérpretes en estos repertorios, creo que debemos celebrar mucho este reciente lanzamiento y la aparente intención de continuidad de la serie.

La Monarcha (17th-century music from the Spanish territories).
    Parece que un nuevo conjunto irrumpe de nuevo en escena, y traen un repertorio muy interesante y bastante novedoso, con varias piezas como primeras grabaciones mundiales. Con la particpación de flautas de pico, guitarra barroca y clave, nos traen músicas danzables de los territorios hispánicos en el siglo XVII, un muy sugerente programa, que al precio al que nos tiene acostumbrado Brilliant, hace de esta compra algo casi absolutamente ineludible.

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750).
Trio Sonatas.
Florilegium - Ashley Solomon.
Channel Classics CCSSA2701.

   El conjunto británico Florilegium nos presenta esta adapatción para diversos instrumentos de las sonatas en trío, originariamente compuestas para órgano. Encontramos en ellas, traverso barroco, viola da gamba, láud barroco, clave, violín barroco, viola barroca y cello barroco. Un universo tímbrico fascinante para unas obras que suponen un auténtico monumento para el instrumento rey. Veremos qué tal funcionan estos arreglos.

Nordic Sounds 2.
Swedish Radio Choir - Peter Dijkstra.
Channel Classics CCSSA32812.

   Segundo volumen de esa serie que Dijkstra y el excepcional coro de la radio sueca están llevando a cabo, interpretando piezas de compositores nórdicos contemporáneos. Una música que se caracteriza por la búsqueda de sonoridades etéreas y de ambientes sonoros fascinantes. La labor de este coro sueco es bien conocida por todos los amantes de la música coral, y Peter Dijkstra es uno de los grandes cantores y directores de la zona belga-holandesa. Un acierto asegurado.

Josquin Desprez (c.1440-1521).
Weser-Renaissance - Manfred Cordes. 

   Aunque salido a finales de agosto, traigo ahora este disco por su alto interés. Motetes del gran Josquin, interpretados por uno de los cojuntos con mayor tradición en la interpretación de polifonía renacentista en Europa, a pesar de que su fama todavía no se puede comparar con la de los grandes conjuntos que transitan también por estos repertorios y que nos vienen a todos a la cabeza. Aún así, la calidad de este conjunto es contrastada y con este repetorio suelen ser una garantia de disfrute.

Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1756).
L'Arte dell'Arco - Federico Guglielmo.
   Siempre es bueno cuando se resctan piezas poco transitadas y mejor aún si se trata de obras inéditas. Si además se trata de un compositor cuya fama es generada apenas por una serie de obras concretas, el regocijo debe ser aún mucho mayor. El caso de Scarlatti hijo es este, pues su fama se debe casi en exclusiva a sus 555 sonatas para clave, por lo que cuando se graban piezas vocales y orquestales siempre me alegro tremendamente. La Dirindina es un intermezzo vocal de carácter cómico, una farsetta que versa sobre la relación de una supuesta diva de la ópera y su maestro. Se cuenta con el concurso de tres cantantes, de los cuales al menos dos sonorán al melómanos más avezado. Se completa el disco con algunas sinfonías orquestales y sonatas camerísticas que hacen aún de mayor interés este registro.

Georg Phillip Telemann (1681-1767).
Camerata Köln & La Stagione Frankfurt - Michael Schnerider.
    Estos conjutos alemanes continúan con la integral de los conciertos para instrumentos de viento de Telemann, el compositor más prolífico de la historia, lo que hace que esta empresa, a pesar de tratarse solo de un repertorio muy específico dentro del inmenso corpus compositivo del mismo, suponga todo un hito. La calidad de los intérpretes está sobradamente demostrada, tanto en otros repertorios, como en los siete anteriores volúmenes de esta integral. A tiro fijo.

Domenico Sarri (1679-1744).
   Domenico Sarri (o Sarro) es uno de esos compositores napolitanos muy poco conocidos, de los que ayudó a desarrollar y catapultar la ópera barroca en Napoli a las cotas más altas. Aquí se nos trae una muestra de su producción sacra, en la que se denota su estilo marcadamente napolitano. La interpretación, sin parecer excesivamente maravillosa, hace buena justicia a esta música, que solo por su carácter ignoto, ya hace que merezca la pena todo el disco.


sábado, 1 de septiembre de 2012

The Choir Project al día [01-IX-2012]

Jacob Regnart (c.1540-1599): Quare tristis es, anima mea? a 4
Cinquecento (Reniassance Vokal).
Franco-flemish master around Europe.

   Stephen Rice, musicologist and conductor of The Brabant Ensemble, says about Regnart and his music:
"In contrast to the dearth of information we have about many of even the best-known Renaissance composers, the life and activities of Jacob Regnart are comparatively well documented. The reason for this is his long and almost continuous employment in the service of the Imperial Habsburg family, the running of whose chapel establishments was meticulously noted. Regnart was also the composer of several popular collections of German songs in three parts, and the wide dissemination of his music also contributes to our knowledge of his life and works.
It is not uncommon in early modern Europe for more than one family member to join the same trade or profession: among composers one thinks of the brothers Arnold and Hugo de Lantins in the early fifteenth century, and Antoine and Robert Févin around 1500. Jacob Regnart is unusual, however, in being one of no fewer than five brothers who were all ecclesiastical musicians. Two, Charles and Pascasius, were employed by the Spanish Habsburg king, Philip II; Augustin was a canon at Lille; and the best-known other than Jacob was François, who worked at Tournai and later for the Austrian Habsburgs, and by whom numerous motets and chansons survive. Augustin published a motet collection by his brothers, to which François contributed twenty-four pieces, and Jacob ten.
   The relative ages of the brothers are not known; Jacob seems likely to have been born in the early 1540s. He entered Habsburg service as early as 1557, presumably as a boy chorister, though by 1564 he was being paid the standard salary for an adult singer. Apart from a spell studying in Italy in the late 1560s, Regnart remained in Habsburg service until his death on 16 October 1599; during that time he worked under the emperors Maximilian II and Rudolf II and the Archduke Ferdinand, in Vienna, Prague and Innsbruck. His publications of secular music appeared at regular intervals from the 1570s onwards, often achieving several reprints. His sacred music also was published in quantity, though some publications are lost and other works survive only in manuscript. Perhaps the most important of Regnart’s publications (in his own eyes, at least) was the series of three books of Mass settings published in 1602/3. Although these emerged posthumously, Regnart himself left an extended dedicatory preface to the emperor Rudolf II in the first volume, so it would appear that he was working on this ‘complete edition’ before his death. In it he describes himself as having served ‘for many years as Vice-Master of the [Imperial] choir’.

   Regnart’s style is not dissimilar to that of his slightly older compatriot, Orlandus Lassus. Regnart and Lassus, indeed, shared numerous biographical details, both having worked as expatriate singers from a young age (Lassus in Naples), both remaining for long periods in the service of one family (Lassus at the Dukes of Bavaria in Munich), and both achieving wide recognition through their publications. The two composers were known to one another, moreover: Lassus recommended Regnart to the Saxon royal court in 1580, though Regnart did not move to Dresden. No contemporary composer matched Lassus’s output of works in different genres, though with his German songs, Italian-style villanelle, and sacred music, Regnart came closer than most. Regnart’s music can be differentiated from that of Lassus, however, by his slightly more conservative approach, showing a greater interest in working out contrapuntal ideas, whereas Lassus was increasingly pithy and concerned with the rhetorical projection of the text.

   Perhaps the most unusual piece on this recording is the setting of Quare tristis es, anima mea? (‘Why are you cast down, O my soul?’—words from Psalm 42). The Psalm text is intended to be reassuring, but Regnart’s setting begins in a highly destabilized tonality, avoiding a full cadence for the first fifteen bars. When the piece does settle down, it nevertheless remains in an anxious Phrygian tonal area, associated with lamenting. Regnart evidently wished to emphasize the heaviness of the soul rather than the comfort of God in this case".

   In my opinion, this piece is really wonderful, especially by the use of chromaticisms and its character tremendously painful, all in a clearly Franco-Flemish style.

   This performance is awesome, precisely because it highlights the plaintive character and the use of "Musica ficta". The voices are fantastic, with fantastic tunning and sonority.
Essential disc for provide insight into the music of this, unfortunately, little known author.