lunes, 5 de agosto de 2013

The Choir Project al día [05-VIII-2013]

Cristóbal de Morales [c. 1500-1553]: Magnificat primi toni à 4.
The Brabant Ensemble - Stephen Rice.
Spaniard Magnificat.

  Stephen Rice wrote about Morales' Magnificat:
"Writing in 1555, the Spanish theorist Juan Bermudo thus picked out the three leading musicians of his generation, born at or just before the turn of the sixteenth century. All three were known throughout Europe: the two Flemings, Adrian Willaert and Nicolas Gombert, were active at the basilica of St Mark in Venice and the court of Emperor Charles V respectively; Morales had spent a decade as a tenor singer in the Sistine Chapel choir before returning to his native Spain in 1545. In the remaining eight years of his life he had been chapel master at the primatial cathedral of Toledo, attached to the court of the Duke of Arcos, and finally maestro at the cathedral of Málaga. He was the first Spanish composer to achieve true international fame, and was described by Bermudo as the ‘light of Spain in music’.

  Partly as a result of the celebrity derived during his Roman sojourn, Morales has in modern times been the most widely acknowledged and performed composer of the mid-sixteenth century. His style would appear to have been influential on the youthful Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina; although Palestrina’s tenure as a singer in the Sistine Chapel began only after Morales’s death, the latter’s music was certainly in the repertoire of the Cappella Giulia (the choir of St Peter’s Basilica, which unlike the Sistine Chapel choir was largely staffed by native Italians and of which Palestrina was magister cantorum between 1551 and 1555). The dissemination of Morales’s music was extremely wide by the standards of his generation, his motets appearing in over thirty prints from 1535 to around 1570, as well as many manuscript collections.

  Morales’s output runs to over 220 works, of which all but a handful are sacred. Like most of his contemporaries, the motet is the dominant genre; twenty-three Masses are securely attributed to him, as compared with approximately 150 motets. Although Morales is relatively well represented in recordings, a few pieces have attracted the attention of performers at the expense of the majority of his output. This recording aims to begin filling that gap by presenting works which are so far underexposed, yet which are of high quality.

  The longest piece on the disc is the Magnificat primi toni, one of a set of eight covering the eight tones which Morales published in 1542. The Sistine Chapel choir, for whom they were presumably written, sang all twelve verses (including the Gloria Patri) of the canticle polyphonically, unlike the vast majority of cathedral and court establishments whose practice was to alternate plainsong and polyphonic verses. Indeed, Morales’s set of eight settings was later published in the more common format, with the odd and even verses separated. This, too, is the form in which the pieces are transmitted in the modern complete edition. Whilst it is by no means incorrect to perform these settings in alternatim form, as no doubt they would have been sung at many institutions, the overall musical sense is more coherent when they are heard complete: this is the first such recording of any of the settings. Despite the lack of plainsong verses, the chant melody is never absent from Morales’s Magnificats, being used in various ways in different verses. Most frequently it is heard as a lightly embellished cantus firmus, often in the tenor but elsewhere as well; at other times the melodic material is employed in imitation. The texture is for the most part four-voice, reducing to three upper voices for Et misericordia (‘And his mercy is upon them that fear him’) and three lower for Deposuit potentes (‘He has put down the mighty’). After a vigorous triple-time Gloria Patri the texture is expanded to six voices for the final verse, with one soprano and one alto taking the chant melody in canon at the lower fourth."

  In my opinion this Magnificat is simply superb; an fantastic example in the treatment of this type of work in Hispanic polyphony.
This isn't the best album recorded by this ensemble, anyway this is a good recording, dedicated to this wonderful Spaniard master. Highly recommended.


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