domingo, 27 de enero de 2013

The Choir Project al día [26-I-2012]

Francisco Hernández [1517-1587]: Sancta Maria, e! a 4.
Ex Cathedra - Jeffrey Skidmore.
Renaissance polyphony in Mexico.

   Jeffrey Skidmore wrotes about Renaissance and Baroque Music from Latin America:
"It is not surprising that Hanacpachap cussicuinin is so widely performed throughout Latin America and also seems to capture the imagination of all who hear it outside this seductive region. The music is noble, magical and haunting and is the earliest printed polyphony from the continent of South America. It is set for four voices in Sapphic verse in the Quechua language. The colourful imagery of the sequence of prayers skilfully mixes Inca and Christian imagery, with its references to stores of silver and gold, life without end, deceitful jaguars and sins of the devil. The singers may sing it ‘in processions entering the church’. It makes an extraordinarily powerful beginning to any service, concert, or recording. It is recorded here for the third time by Ex Cathedra with new orchestrations and new verses. It is surprising that it is so often performed using only the first two of the twenty verses given in the source.

    Moon, sun and all things is an anthology of Latin American music from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, chosen from the vast amount of extraordinary repertoire I discovered on research visits to the USA, Mexico and Bolivia. I worked in the Loeb Music Library at Harvard University, the Puebla Cathedral Archive and the Bolivian National Library in Sucre. I met many musicians in the National Arts Centre in Mexico City and in the Association for Art and Culture (APAC) in Santa Cruz.

  These were wonderful trips and I made many new friends who were companions and guides giving generously of their time: Salua Delalah (German Embassy), Ton de Wit (Prins Claus Foundation), Cecilia Kenning de Mansilla (APAC) and Josefina Gonsález (Saint Cecilia Choir, Puebla). Nick Robins, a remarkable researcher from the USA who specializes in Indian Rebellions, gave a very different angle on the lives of indigenous tribes and the influence of the church. Annie de Copponex, a native of Santa Cruz and lover of all things Bolivian, who for many years has lived in London, was also a great influence and inspiration. I met representatives from the World Bank, World Development Corporation, Christian Aid, and other researchers from around the world. Che Guevara’s Bolivian Diary opens ‘A new stage begins today’. It was certainly a life-changing experience for me.

   I visited twenty churches, attended ten Masses and heard twelve concerts. I shared several days travelling on pot-holed dirt tracks through the humid jungle of Eastern Bolivia with Freiburg Baroque and the English ensemble Florilegium, who were recording a CD as part of an imaginative education project with young Bolivian singers. I saw and heard hundreds of Chiquitos children playing and singing their Baroque heritage in their own towns and villages.

   I also made contact with several leading Latin American musicologists who were willing to share their knowledge and expertise and again showed remarkable generosity: Juan Manuel Lara Cárdenas (Capillas and Nahuatl texts), Aurelio Tello (Sumaya) and Piotr Nawrot (Zipoli). I also met Bernado Illari, an Argentinian musicologist. In a few brief chats he revealed great insight into many aspects of performance practice.

    I wholeheartedly thank all these people who in some way had a hand in shaping this recording.

   The structure of the programme follows that of the Vespers Service, with the opening Response, three polyphonic Psalm settings (this was often normal practice in Sucre), a Hymn and Magnificat. The plainchant antiphons are those set for the feast of St Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order. In between these liturgical works I have placed popular villancicos with Spanish texts and sacred motets with texts in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. It was common practice throughout Latin America for services to intersperse popular music with the more conservative liturgical repertoire. Contemporary commentators describe villancicos as ‘sacred entertainment for the masses’ (1774), to be ‘performed with great authority and solemnity’ (1630), the ‘most relevant aspect of the service’ (1630), where ‘worship and true faith are set aside to attend to the pleasures of the senses – to flatter the ear and the vain appetites of the congregation’ (1755). Three of the composers represented here – Padilla, Araujo and Sumaya – all wrote fluently in both liturgical and popular styles and are worthy of much greater attention.

   Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla was born in Spain in 1590 and moved to Mexico in 1622. In 1629 he became maestro de capilla at Puebla Cathedral where he served until his death in 1664. Puebla had lavish resources at its disposal including a large choir of fourteen boys and twenty-eight men. Robert Stevenson writes that ‘the musicians sat in double rows of seats facing each other. This arrangement encouraged antiphonal effects and the extensive use of instruments. During Padilla’s time the favoured instruments were the organ, harp and bass viol, forming a continuo; these were supplemented by recorders, chirimías, cornetts, sackbuts and bajóns, frequently used to double or replace voices.’ This is large-scale music. Padilla’s brilliant setting of the opening Response is scored for two choirs suitably orchestrated.

   Juan de Araujo belongs to a later generation. He was born in Spain in 1648 and emigrated as a child to Lima in Peru. At the age of twenty-two he was appointed choirmaster at the Cathedral there. In 1676 he moved to a similar post at the cathedral in La Plata, which is now Sucre in Bolivia. He worked with thirty-five musicians in this beautiful, white cathedral and stayed there until his death in 1712. He is thought by many to be the greatest composer working in the Americas at that time, and certainly comparable to leading European musicians. Araujo was one of the finest choir trainers of his time and was particularly successful at training young voices. His setting of Dixit Dominus is scored for three choirs, one a trio of solo voices doubled by viols, and two full choirs doubled by strings, woodwind and brass. Polyphony alternates with plainchant. The vast majority of Araujo’s surviving manuscripts are now to be found in the impressive Bolivian National Library in Sucre, which opened in January 2004. Seventeen manuscripts were presented to me by the library in digital form on CD. The notation of Araujo’s music is particularly interesting, making use of ‘void’ notation and ‘black’ notation. This is a very neat way of writing down the complex rhythms of the villancicos, and warning the performer of the problems at the same time.

   Diego José de Salazar was a Spanish composer who is not known to have visited the New World. ¡Salga el torillo hosquillo! is found in the Sucre archive in several forms attributed to both Araujo and Salazar.

   Francisco López Capillas was the first Creole composer of significance and his music was so highly regarded that several volumes of his music were taken to Spain and widely disseminated. He worked in Mexico City and in Puebla from 1641 to 1648 under the directorship of Padilla. Whilst Capillas’ style is very polished and sophisticated, the Poblano influence is strongly in evidence with its lively double-choir interchanges of short phrases.

   Manuel de Sumaya was another Creole composer of a later generation born in Mexico City where he was a Priest Musician at the cathedral and eventually became maestro de capilla in 1714. He was highly rated in his day and is considered by many to be one of the great composers of New Spain. His move to Oaxaca in the last years of his life is still largely unexplained. It may have been precipitated by a conflict with the Cathedral Chapter. He seems to have been very happy with the set-up in the beautiful city of Oaxaca and wrote some of his finest music there. He had a choir of twenty singers and ten players. He also worked closely with Indian musicians. ¡Albricias, mortales! is a vibrant setting of an uplifting text. There is a joyful dialogue between a three- and four-part choir and ensemble of trumpet and strings.

   Domenico Zipoli was born in Tuscany in 1688 and studied with Alessandro Scarlatti in Naples. In 1716 he joined the Company of Jesus and the following year left for Paraguay with a Jesuit mission. He was an organist and composer in Córdoba until his death in 1726. Much of his music was rediscovered only a few years ago and it reveals why it was so popular with the Chiquitos Indians in Bolivia who regularly performed and copied his music. The Jesuit Mission Stations in the jungle of Eastern Bolivia are a string of beautifully restored churches including San Javier, Concepción, San Ignacio, San Miguel and Santa Ana. They are now a World Heritage site. I attended concerts and Masses at all of these and all were packed to the rooftops with children watching and listening attentively in the doorways and at the windows. An inventory of musical resources from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries shows that some churches had one, two, even three organs, up to seven harps, twelve violins, between three and five violones, four trumpets, at least one tromba marina, a bassoon, two harpsichords and bells. This is happy, optimistic music which reflects the Utopian dream of the ‘reductions’. It is our aim to recreate these sounds, although Zipoli’s music is notated, typically, for only three high voices (SAT), two violins and continuo.

   The mesmerically simple Dulce Jesús mío is also found in the mission archives set in Spanish and in the language of the Chiquitos Indians as Yyaî Jesuchristo. It is performed as a recessional piece with all the musicians leaving the stage, one by one, as in our concerts.

   The non-liturgical pieces perhaps need further explanation. Dios itlazonantziné is a beautiful Nahuatl text set by Hernando Franco, who was probably the first notable composer to move to New Spain. He was born in 1532 in Extremadura, the home of the ‘conquistadores’, and became maestro de capilla at Mexico City in 1575. Sancta Maria, e! is an exquisite miniature also set in Nahuatl by the Indian composer Francisco Hernández, who as a tribute took his name from Franco, his teacher. The three popular-style Spanish villancicos all have remarkable texts rich in conceptual imagery, sometimes comical and sometimes profoundly serious. The double-choir setting of ¡Salga el torillo hosquillo! dramatically describes a bullfight which becomes an allegory of the Birth and Passion of Christ. The coplas are particularly striking for their use of powerful and emotive language combined with a ravishingly beautiful melody. The original manuscript describes ¡Aquí, Valentónes! as a xácara, a form used to reflect street-life – el mundo de la hampa. It is dedicated to St Francis of Assisi who is referred to both as the most street-wise saint and as ‘el valentón más divino’ – ‘the most divine ruffian’. The alternation of solo passages and triple-choir interjections vividly captures the dramatic urgency of ‘gang slang’ put here to effective proselytizing purpose. ¡Ay, andar! celebrates the birth of Jesus in an ecstatic ‘dance till you drop’ knees-up which builds to an orgiastic, frenzied climax. This is going more than half-way to meet the congregation!"

   In my opinion, this piece is an exemplary piece of Renaissance in the Spanish colonies in America. The homophonic and vertical style is obvious, but there is also a small space for counterpoint, with crossed lines and in the cadences.
This piece is really Renaissance, archaic in some respects. I really enjoy with it, especially at the cadences, with the delicate movement of the lines to the final chord.

   This performance is really amazing, fantastic, very expressive... really British, in fact.
This album is very interesting, a good example for this repertoire.

viernes, 25 de enero de 2013

Mis "10" de 2012

   Aprovechando que por fin estoy liberado de ciertas obligaciones que me han mantenido ocupado al 100% desde comienzos del año, quiero dejar constancia aquí de esos discos que me han marcado en este 2012, esos discos que, novedades discográficas de este año, hayan supuesto lo mejor en este 2012 en el ámbito en que me muevo musicalmente. No es que sea yo muy dado a este tipo de listas, sobre todo porque a veces son muy injustas y resultan totalmente insuficientes, pero creo que es de justicia destacar aquellos discos que a uno le han emocionado, cambiando la cara, o sencillamente, mejorado como persona. Conste que es una lista totalmente subjetiva, fruto de mis gustos más personales y cuyas diez plazas resultan más que insuficientes para todos los discos estupendos que se han grabado este año y que seguramente mercieran estar en dicha lista.

   Dicho lo cual, he aquí mis "10" para este 2012:

Agostino Steffani [1654-1728].
Cecilia Bartoli & I Barocchisti - Diego Fasolis.
Decca Classics [4784732] [CD] / [743605] [DVD].

   Este era, sin duda, uno de los dicos más esperados del año, por muchos músicos, melómanos... pero sobre todo por las horadas de fanáticos seguidores de la mezzo romana. ¡Y a fe que la espera mereció la pena! Un disco absolutamente memorable -como ya nos tiene acostumbrados la Bartoli en sus registros discográficos-. Una de obra de arte total, desenterrando del olvido -no absoluto, pero sí innecesario- al que la fantástica obra de Steffani estaba sometida. Aquí hay todo lo mejor de Bartoli en lo vocal, pero también en lo expresivo. La aparición de Philippe Jaroussky es todo un valor añadido al producto, y la fantástica aportación en el aparato instrumental de I Barocchisti resulta todo un acierto, destacando mucho el aspecto teatral de la música de Steffani. Una conjunción sublime.
El DVD, por su parte, nos aporta todo lo mejor del disco, pero añade algunos fragmentos sublimes más para el disfrute, además de presentar unos espacios, paisajes y teatralidad fabulosos en lo visual. Maravilloso trabajo, que complementa al CD, convirtiéndose en una dupla absolutamente imprescindible para cualquiera.

Antonio Vivaldi [1678-1741].
Aitor Hevia & Forma Antiqva - Aarón Zapico.
Winter & Winter [910 185-2].

   "Sí, bueno, otras 'estaciones' más". Esto es lo que diría alguien que no ha escuchado el disco que ahora reseñamos. Sobre todo, porque de ser así, lo que saldría de la boca de dicha persona sería lo siguiente: "no, definitavmenete no son otras 'estaciones' más". Y creo que ese, en parte, es el mejor elogio que se le puede dar a este disco. Sí, porque si tenemos en cuenta la ingente cantidad de versiones de la celebérrima obra vivaldiana, y que la versión de los asturianos más universales pueden colocarse, si ningun tipo de compleos, entre las primeros opciones deseadas para su escucha, ya lo estamos diciendo todo. ¿Y qué tiene este disco para llegar tan alto? Pues -y dejando a un lado los "interludios" modernizados de Caine y compañía- encontramos aquí energía a raudales, frescura, dinamismo, una lectura profunda, colmada e contrastes, vital, que incita casi a la danza. El papel del solista es casi estroférico y el "acompañamiento" -si es que puede llamarse así- por parte del conjunto barroco es asombroso, destacando, una vez más, su profuso, colorista, omnipresente y deslumbrante continuo. No, no son unas 'estaciones' más, así que ya saben...

Tomás Luis de Victoria [1548-1611].
Collegium Vocale Gent - Philippe Herreweghe.
Phi [LPH005].

   El 2012 ha sido un año muy ajetreado y creativo para el gran Philippe Herreweghe, que ha creado para su sello Phi la friolera de cuatro discos -nada menos que BACH [dos veces], Victoria y Beethoven han desfilado por ellos-. Podría haber destacado aquí su maravillosa versión de la H-Moll Messe, pero creo que aún este disco supera la cima creadora del bueno de Herreweghe. Y es que el belga transita aquí por la que es, casi con total seguridad, la obra cumbre en la producción del "abulense universal". Una lectura contenida, que nos acerca mucho a la retórica de finales del Renacimiento -sí, porque el maestro es sabedor de que el texto no puede pasarse por encima, que es valor indiscutible para el desarrollo ulterior de la pieza-. La sonoridad elegida es de tipo "belga-holandés-, la que acostumbra a utilizar, destacando las sonoridades graves y la carnosidad de las líneas. Creo que hay realmente mucha expresividad, gran intensidad en este registro. Se detiene en cada afecto -sí, en Victoria también los hay-, en cada figura, en cada pasión. Una visión carnal del sufrimiento. Completa el disco con algunas obras de esas que dejan sin respiración, en versiones igualmente fascinantes y referenciales. Pocas veces podrán escuchar una visión tan melancólica y expresiva del Versa est in luctum a 6 u otra tan imponente del Taedet anima meam a 4.

Jean Richafort [c.1480-c.1547].
Hyperion [CDA67959].

   Cualquier nueva versión del Reqviem [in memoriam Josquin] a 6 de Jean Richafort, pasa ya casi directamente a engrosar cualquier lista de imprescindibles, porque la belleza y factura de la pieza así lo obligan. Estamos, en mi opinión, ante una de las mejores obras, no solo del Renacimiento europeo, sino de la historia de la música occidental. Si uno no se remueve y desestructura con el Introitus o el Kyrie es que algo falla. Música de tal belleza que consigue casi elevarte a la más absoluta de las alturas. Las seis voces que componen Cinquecento se detienen en una interpretación calmada, contenida, en la que destacan las sonoridades graves. Siguen en cierta manera la línea de Paul Van Nevel y su Huelgas Ensemble -cuya versión, inevitablemente viene a la cabeza de uno, pues sigue siendo para mí la mejor-, sobre todo en el carácter, la manera de destacar todo lo que entraña la pieza y la sonoridad, aunque respetan las tesituras y no persiguen tanto la tensión en las disonancias. Consiguen una versión que se sitúa justamemte detrás de la grabada por los belgas. El disco se completa con una colección maravillosa de preciosos motetes, algunos de los cuales nos descubren a maestros muy poco transitados hoy día y con una calidad compositiva más que importante. Como versión que complementa a la de Van Nevel tiene un lugar indiscutible en cualquier musicoteca de los apasionados por la polifonía franco-flamenca.

Raquel Andueza, soprano & Jesús Fernández Baena, tiorba
Anima e Corpo [AeC002].
   Este maravilloso disco fue, en su día, objeto de una amplia crítica en este mismo blog, por lo que me remito a dejar aquí mis entregadas palabras, que no pueden menos de inclinarse ante la belleza y cercanía a la perfección de este registro. Eso sí, no sin antes dejar claro lo que este disco puede provocar, resumido sin más en la siguiente frase: "un disco que hace mejor al que lo escucha".

William Byrd [1540-1623].
The Great Service & other English music.
The Cardinall's Musick - Andrew Carwood.
Hyperion [CDA67937].

   14. Este es el número con que viene representado este disco en la The Byrd Edition que el conjunto británico lleva a cabo desde hace años. Se dice pronto, catorce discos ya dedicados al genio británico más elevado en lo musical que ha dado la historia. Solo por este hecho, ya debemos regocijarnos, pues el saber que TCM continuaran con su empresa supone toda una alegría para los apasionados por la música de Byrd -entre los que me encuentro; lo confieso: es una debilidad-. En este disco se alejan ya del repertorio sacro latino que copara sus trece anteriores grabaciones. Para ello, se centra en la que posiblemente es la gran obra sacra en inglés de Byrd: su The Great Service. Desde mi punto de vista, Byrd no alcanza en sus obras en lengua vernácula la excelencia y las cotas geniales a las que llega en su corpus latino -por numerosas razones que nos llevaría mucho relatar; quizá en una entrada pueda reflexionar sobre ello-, pero sigue tratándose de piezas de una factura fascinante. El grado simbiosis entre TCM y Byrd es tal, que comprenden la obra del británico casi a la perfección. Contando en su plantilla con los cantantes habituales en otras grabaciones de la serie, consiguen una lectura brillante, enérgica pero contenida, elegante y devota. Pura esencia british.

Harmonia Mundi [HMU807555].

   Pocos conjuntos vocales en el panorama de la música clásica están al nivel actual del que goza Stile Antico. A pesar de su tremenda juventud, el conjunto va ya por su séptimo álbum. Un disco inspirado en temática sacra, concretamente en la Semana Santa, en el que encontramos piezas de compositores británicos, franco-flamencos, españoles e italianos, todo un tour de force de recopilación estilística en pleno Renacimiento. Además, el registro contiene una pieza contemporánea compuesta ex profeso para el conjunto por John McCabe, grabado en primicia mundial aquí. La manera en que estas magníficas voces transitan por el repertorio del XVI europeo es simplemente fascinante y evocadora en grado sumo. Su brillantez, sonoridad, expresividad, empaste, equilibrio, afinación... son realmente admirable y denotan un talento abrumador, pero sobre todo muchas horas de duro trabajo. La calidad artística de este conjunto y sus continuos éxitos y aciertos les están catapultando a la cima de los conjunto vocales británicos, o lo que es lo mismo -con permiso de algún que otro belga-, a la del mundo. Todos sus discos son un ejemplo -sí, desde aquel ya "lejano" Music for Compline-, pero la calidad de este le hace colocarse probablemente con el mejor, junto a Heavenly Harmonies.

David Kellner [1670-1748].
Phantasia [Music for Baroque lute].
José Miguel Moreno.
Glossa Music [GCD 920112].

   Cuando uno artista de un talento abrumador tarda tanto en grabar un disco, a uno le da por reflexionar sobre ciertos aspectos. Es quizá interesante plantearse como a mayor talento también es mayor la reticencia al "éxito", al estar en las casas de los demás, es decir, el sentido de la honestidad y humildad asciende poderosamente. Si tenemos en cuenta el caso de Jose Miguel Moreno, nos damos cuenta de lo ínfimo de su discografía -aunque absolutamente eximia-, sobre todo si la comparamos con la cantidad de años de carrera que lleva a sus espaldas. Por otra parte, a uno le lleva a plantearse que quizá cuida, mima y espera cada grabación como si fuese la última, no registrando un álbum hasta no estar plenamente convencido de sus posibilidades. No sé cuales son las circunstancias reales de tan larga espera -diría que de ocho años, nada menos-, pero su regreso ha sido glorioso. Y es que Moreno es, a mi parecer, una de las figuras rutilantes en la interpretación de cuerdas pulsadas a nivel mundial, pudiendo compararlo con algunos de los nombres más inmensos, como el Paul O'Dette o el msmo Hopkinson Smith. No les tiene nada que envidiar. Sus registros anteriores avalan sus interpretaciones tanto en vihuela, guitarra española, tiorba o, como en este caso, el laúd barroco. Ya en aquel maravilloso Ars Melancholiae dio buena cuenta de lo que es capaz de hacer con un laúd en su  manos. Vuelve ahora con la figura de David Kellner, un maestro apenas tranistado entre los "pulsistas", por lo concreto y breve de su obra. Graba aquí la colección Auserlesene Lauten-Stücke [1747] en primicia mundial, con 17 piezas de una belleza fascinante. Aquí hay de todo, sobre todo phantasias, pero también piezas de danza de todo tipo, y una chaconne -con la que se abre el disco- que esté entre lo más bello de la producción laudística de todo el Barroco europeo. La interpretación de Moreno es elegante, delicada, cuidada, con una pulsación brillante, tersa, límida. La emoción que contiene estas interpretaciones es absolutamente deslumbrante. Pura esencia del láud.

Jacob Clement [1510-1555].
Jacob Clement.
Huelgas Ensemble - Paul Van Nevel.
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi [88697780692].

   Jacob Clement, más conocido como Clemens non Papa -me ahorraré la célebre anécdoa de su nombre-, es sin duda uno de los maestros franco-flamencos más fascinantes, con una obra más importante y sobre el que se ha transitado bastante menos de lo deseado. Ante esto, una grabación monográfica de su obra, y ante que la interpretación estuviera en manos del conjunto que quizá mejor interprete este repertorio franco-flamenco de los siglos XV y XVI, uno solo puede regocijarse. Era para muchos un disco esperadísimo, precisamente por las dos razones que acabo de esgrimir. La música derrocha belleza, emoción, complejidad, retórica, y se encuentran aquí algunas piezas que están entre lo mejor de su producción. Van Nevel y los suyos -extraordinaria plantilla vocal- se acercan a casi todos los géneros que hay en su repertorio, de la mano de chansons, motetes y misas, en las que las voces transitan entre tres, cuatro, cinco y seis partes. Desde luego, me parece un absoluto ejemplo de cómo acercarse a este repertorio, así como todo un muestrario del "sonido Huelgas" tan característico y qué tanto nos gusta. Van Nevel no se detiene ante la lucha de modos, disonancias y el uso de semitonía subintellecta. Un disco depara momentos fascinantes, en los que uno casi se eleva, y otros en los que vuelve a la tierra para quedarse abolutamente asombrado por la facilidad de hacer tan sencillo y hermoso lo que es tan extremadamente complejo. Han vuelto a hacerlo.

Jean Mouton [c.1459-1522].
The Tallis Scholars - Peter Phillips.
Gimell Records [CDGIM 047].

   Cualquier novedad discográfica que proceda de las mente de Peter Phillips y las voces de su magnífico The Tallis Scholars es siempre un evento artístico de magnitudes muy considerables. Este año el bueno de Jean Mouton, que pasa por ser uno de los mayores talentos de las cinco generaciones de franco-flamencos, está empezando a ser considerado como merece, a tenor de las novedades discográficas alrededor de su figura -este y otro registro, realmente bueno, de The Brabant Ensemble y Stephen Rice-. Estamos aquí ante un disco absolutamente asombroso, y lo es por mucho motivos: la calidad del repertorio, la novedad en buena parte del mismo, la deslumbrante calidad interpretativa... que hacen del mismo un álbum absolutamente indispensable. De tres a ocho partes, así, con una facilidad pasmosa, de dobles coros a contrapuntos intrincados extremos, del intimismo más delicado a la grandilocuencia más contenida. Este es un disco multidireccional, pero que nos llega como un continuum, sin aristas. La visión con la que Phillips se acerca a estas obras es la habitual en su grupo, marca de la casa, con dos voces por parte -aunque aquí utiliza en varias piezas solo una por parte, sobre todo en las que son a 8-, con limpidez de líneas, equilibrio, afinación inmejorable, brillantez en sopranos y tenores, altos poderosos/as, bajos omnipresentes... puro British sound y sobre todo puro Tallis sound, pues ellos en buena parte han sido los encargados de crear ese sonido "panbritánico". Un disco que para muchos dice ser ya el mejor de toda su discografía. No sé si puedo llegar a aventurarme tanto, pero sí diré que estamos ante uno de los de arriba, que quizá se situemos entre los cinco mejores, lo cual, teniendo en cuenta la ingente discografía y la calidad de la misma, es una garantía de éxito y disfrute.

sábado, 12 de enero de 2013

The Choir Project al día [12-I-2013]

Claudio Monteverdi [1567-1643]: Messa a quattro voci da cappella.
Ensemble Elyma - Gabriel Garrido.
Monteverdi's mass: between sumptuousity and minimalism.

    In words by John Whenham:
"For most music lovers Monteverdi’s church music begins and ends with the sumptuous Vespers settings that he published, together with a Mass, in 1610. However, the Vespers of 1610, astonishing though they are, form only part of Monteverdi’s total output of church music and belong, paradoxically, to a period in which we have little evidence of his work as a church musician.

    Monteverdi’s career as a professional musician falls into two periods of almost equal length. From 1590 or 1591 to 1612 he was employed as a household musician at the court of Vincenzo Gonzaga, ruler of the north Italian duchy of Mantua, and rose to become court choirmaster there in 1601. The extent of Monteverdi’s involvement in church music at Mantua is not clear. He was not regularly involved with the musical establishment of Santa Barbara, the ducal chapel, which was headed by Giacomo Gastoldi from 1582 to 1609, and the majority of his publications from the Mantuan period are of madrigals and opera. Nevertheless, it is quite likely that he wrote sacred music to be performed in the smaller chapels within the ducal palace or as spiritual chamber music. It has been suggested, too, that both court and chapel musicians may have joined forces at least once a year in Santa Barbara to celebrate the feast day of its patron saint, and that some at least of the music that appears in the 1610 volume may have been written for these occasions.

   Equally, though, the music of the 1610 volume, published by Monteverdi at a time of growing dissatisfaction with conditions at Mantua, may have been intended simply to demonstrate that he was employable as a church musician. The volume contains settings for the two services for which elaborate music was most often used in the late Renaissance. The Mass, the ritual reenactment of the Last Supper, was the central celebration of the church day, and Monteverdi made great play, in the 1610 volume, of writing a setting which emulated the conservative style of Palestrina and his contemporaries. His settings of five psalms, hymn, Magnificat and motets for Vespers, the main evening service of the Catholic Church, are quite different, and use all the resources of the new music of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries—rich harmonies, expressive operatic solos and elaborately ornamented music to be performed by virtuoso singers and instrumentalists. The 1610 volume can, then, be seen as a portfolio for prospective employers. Certainly, when Monteverdi took copies of the newly published volume to Rome to present them to Pope Paul V, he spent nearly three months in the city, cultivating the acquaintance of an influential group of cardinals. And in 1611 some of his psalm settings were performed in Modena Cathedral, though, according to a Modenese chronicler, they caused ‘disgust’ among everyone who heard them.

    Following the death of Vincenzo Gonzaga, Monteverdi was summarily dismissed from Mantua in July 1612 by the new duke, Francesco Gonzaga. It seems that he had unwisely hinted that he might be able to obtain a better position elsewhere. For a year he was without regular employment, though performances of some of his music in Milan led to rumours that he was seeking the position of choirmaster at the cathedral there. He was fortunate, therefore, that the post of choirmaster of St Mark’s, Venice, fell vacant in the summer of 1613, and doubly fortunate that the procurators of St Mark’s, faced with falling musical standards in the church, decided to look outside Venice for a new appointee. For his audition on 1 August 1613 Monteverdi directed a Mass of his own—probably the one included in the 1610 volume—and his appointment was approved unanimously by the procurators. He remained at Venice, deriving a good deal of satisfaction from the honour and respect that he enjoyed there, until his death in 1643.

    In Monteverdi’s day St Mark’s was not the cathedral of Venice, but the doge’s chapel. As such it was at the centre of interaction between church and state, for in Venice, major religious feast days were inextricably intertwined with the celebration of the city’s history and sense of identity. Moreover, important guests of the doge attended services at St Mark’s, where music of appropriate splendour was used to impress them; and the choir, with their choirmaster, was also responsible for entertaining the doge and his guests at state banquets; indeed, there were occasions when half the St Mark’s choir would be engaged in singing at a banquet while the other half was left to sing Vespers in the church.

    The musical establishment that Monteverdi inherited included a main choir of about twenty men, including soprano castratos, who were responsible for singing the most elaborate of the music heard at St Mark’s; in addition, the church boasted a group of boy singers who performed plainsong and the occasional short polyphonic mass on weekdays, a group of some sixteen instrumentalists, and two organists (the church had two fixed and another two portable organs). The music that the choir sang (and, thus, that the choirmaster wrote for them) was governed by an elaborate set of rules specifying the types of music to be used for particular occasions. And, to complicate matters still further, St Mark’s had its own liturgy, independent of the Roman rite formalised by the Council of Trent (the Tridentine rite), which meant that some of its texts were used only at St Mark’s and at a limited number of similar institutions. A case in point is the so-called Vespero delle Cinque Laudate (Vespers of the Five Laudate) in which all five psalms began with a variant of the verb laudare (to praise). This service does not appear in the Tridentine rite at all, but was used at St Mark’s for Vespers on many of the most important feast days of the year; and though we customarily associate St Mark’s with music of great splendour and virtuosity, surviving collections of the Cinque Laudate psalms (none of them by Monteverdi) are rather restrained in character and conservative in style.

    The style of music most often associated with St Mark’s is that involving spatial effects between two or more groups of singers and/or instrumentalists. This style, exemplified particularly in the music of Giovanni Gabrieli, was used at St Mark’s for Mass settings and ceremonial motets, and might involve the main choir singing at ground level, with instrumentalists and solo singers placed either in the organ lofts at each side of the chancel, or in the alcoves (nicchie), stacked like opera boxes, just behind the choir screen. At first sight, the many eight-part Vespers psalms involving two groups of four voices that were written for St Mark’s seem to belong to the same tradition, especially since custom dictated that the choir should sing Vespers in eight parts on days of particular solemnity, when the great golden altarpiece—the Pala d’Oro—was uncovered and, more often than not, the doge himself was present for the service. In fact, though, the two choirs who sang Vespers—one a group of soloists, the other a larger, ripieno, group—customarily stood together in a large pulpit at the front right of the choir screen, just as Canaletto depicted them in the mid eighteenth century. Since only about twelve or thirteen singers could fit into the pulpit we have a clear indication of the size of choir normally used for Vespers at St Mark’s. It is clear, too, that all the musicians, whether situated in the pulpit, in the organ lofts or in the nicchie, directed their performances not into the nave of the church, but into the chancel, where the priests, the doge, senators and important visitors were seated.

    It should be emphasized that we only have clear evidence of the way in which Vespers was normally sung at St Mark’s; however, those of Monteverdi’s psalm settings that call for instrumental accompaniment could not have been performed from the pulpit alone; the instrumentalists were probably located in one of the organ galleries along with the player who was accompanying on the organ. We know, too, that the service of Vespers was occasionally celebrated on a grand scale at St Mark’s: the revised version of Sansovino’s Venetia città nobilissima, published in the early years of the seventeenth century, includes this description of First Vespers for Christmas: ‘[On Christmas Eve Vespers] is celebrated with the sweetest sounds of voices and instruments by the salaried musicians of the church and by others hired specially to make a greater number, since on that evening they sing in eight, ten, twelve and sixteen choirs [sic] to the wonder and amazement of everyone, and especially of foreign visitors, who declare that they have never heard music as rare, or as remarkable in other parts of the world.’

    St Mark’s was not the only scene of Monteverdi’s activity in Venice. As the city’s leading musician he was also regularly invited to direct music for important services in other churches where different performance practices obtained and the Tridentine rite was followed. To take just one example: in 1620 the Flemish diplomat Constantin Huygens witnessed him directing his own music for Vespers for the Feast of St John the Baptist (24 June) in a church that has been identified as S Giovanni Elemosinario, near the Rialto; the music was sung by twelve singers and accompanied by theorbos, cornetts, bassoons, a basso di viola, organs and other instruments.

    A good deal of the sacred music that Monteverdi wrote for Venice, including some important works mentioned in his letters and other documents, is now lost. Apart from a few works included in anthologies, most of what survives was published in two collections, the Selva morale e spirituale, issued by Monteverdi himself in 1640/41 and dedicated to Eleonora Gonzaga, daughter of Duke Vincenzo Gonzaga and widow of the Emperor Ferdinand II (1587–1637), and the Messa a quattro voci et salmi, issued posthumously in 1650 by the publisher Alessandro Vincenti. Both are monumental publications summing up the thirty years of Monteverdi’s work in Venice and both contain multiple settings of Vespers texts. The two books include a wealth of music and a wide range of styles, from conservative Mass settings to psalms and motets that use the most up-to-date song styles of the 1620s and ’30s; for even in his old age Monteverdi continued to explore new ideas.

    The Selva morale of 1640/41 contains both settings of Latin texts for use in the liturgy and spiritual and moral madrigals. The volume was intended by Monteverdi not only as a summing up of his work at Venice, but also as a resource book for choirmasters, who could draw from it as few or as many settings as they needed for a particular service. Like most Venetian musicians he had regard to the fact that most choirmasters worked within the Tridentine rite and not the special liturgy of St Mark’s. This recording presents the main items that would have been performed in polyphony—five psalms, the Office Hymn and Magnificat—for First Vespers of Christmas in the Tridentine liturgy, a service that would have been celebrated on Christmas Eve. It includes eight-part settings of the kind called for in St Mark’s on the important occasions on which the Pala d’Oro would have been opened and the doge present in the church.

    Messa à 4 da Cappella.
    This setting of the Ordinary of the Mass is one of only three by Monteverdi that survive complete, though many more must have been lost if we are to believe Monteverdi’s comment in a letter of 2 February 1634 that he had to write a new Mass every year for Christmas Eve. Although sections of Masses by Monteverdi in an up-to-date concerted style survive, the three complete works are written in a style which had, by the 1630s, become known as the stile antico (the old style): that is, they are written deliberately in the restrained a cappella style of the late sixteenth century.

    It has been suggested that the motive with which all the main movements of the Selva morale Mass begin is drawn from the beginning of the madrigal La vaga pastorella, published by Monteverdi in his first book of madrigals (1587) and that the Mass dates from around this period. The thematic material is indeed similar to the opening of the madrigal, but the apparently effortless flow of the polyphony suggests that the Mass itself belongs to a period of mastery rather than apprenticeship.

    The concerted Mass sections printed in the Selva morale include settings of three texts—Crucifixus, Et resurrexit and Et iterum venturus est—the second of which includes violins as well as continuo accompaniment. Together, these three sections form a complete paragraph of the Creed. The original context for which they were written is uncertain, but Monteverdi indicates that they can be used, for variety, in place of the corresponding sections of the a cappella Mass."

    For me, Selva Morale e Spirituale is one of the most wonderful sacred music collection in the history of music. This music is simply incredible, perfect exemplification of the genius of the Cremonese master.
When I listened this Mass for the first time, I was surprised to its relative simplicity, lack of ornaments and bombastic instrumentation; only voices and solo instruments to bend the bassvs.

    The first performance I listened was Cantus Cölln [Konrad Jugnhänel]. I like so much, in fact, but I find in this performance a wonderful expressiveness and passion. The voices in this recording are a curious mix, with singers with different vocal characters -"a priori", but the union is really exquisite. I thik this a really mediterranean version, for me the most adequate to the "monteverdian" character. 

sábado, 5 de enero de 2013

The Choir Project al día [5-I-2013]

Giovanni Gabrieli [c.1554/1557-1612]: Quem vidistis pastores? a 16.
The King's Consort - Robert King.
Venetian polycohoral Epiphany.

    Robert King wrote about Gabrieli's Christmas Motets:
"Thomas Coryate, writing in his Crudities hastily gobbled up in five Moneth’s Travels was transported almost beyond all words by his discovery at the Venetian Church of San Rocco in 1608 of
‘… the best musicke that ever I did in all my life both in the morning and the afternoone, so good that I would willingly goe an hundred miles a foote at any time to hear the like … this feast consisted principally of Musicke, which was both vocall and instrumentall, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so superexcellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like. But how others were affected with it I knew not: for mine own part I can say this, that I was for the time even rapt up with Saint Paul into the third heaven …’

    Of the singers too he was equally enthused, for ‘there were three or foure so excellent that I think few or none in Christendome do excell them, especially one, who had such a peerelesse and (as I might in a manner say) such a supernaturall voice for sweetnesses, that I think there was never a better singer in all the world …’

    We do not know for sure whose music it was that received such praise, but it could easily have been that of Giovanni Gabrieli. He was the most influential Venetian musical figure of his time, famed both as a composer and as a teacher of a number of distinguished pupils, including Heinrich Schütz, and his music was circulated widely through the publication of major collections of works in 1597 and posthumously in 1615. From 1585 to his death Gabrieli was organist at both the religious confraternity of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco and at St Mark’s, Venice (where he was responsible not only for the music but also for procuring extra instrumentalists and singers for the more important festivals and feast days). In addition, after his uncle Andrea’s death in 1586 he took over the role as principal composer at St Mark’s.
   Music in Venice was inextricably bound up with civic life, for state processions, civic ceremonies and some forty main religious festivals each year demanded music to match the splendour of the occasion. The Feast of Christmas demanded some of the grandest and most spectacular music of all. In 1607 Jean-Baptiste Duval of the French Embassy reported that at St Mark’s there were more than one thousand candles, sixty huge torches and silver lamps, together with eight choirs of voices and instruments ‘filling the church with a grand harmony’. Even allowing for enthusiastic exaggeration, it must have been a spectacular occasion. Little wonder that some of Gabrieli’s most magnificent music was composed for Christmas in St Mark’s.

  Most of Gabrieli’s motets were printed in two large collections, one published posthumously. Many are settings of texts sung on the major Venetian state festivals and are for two or more choirs in the tradition of cori spezzati. Although it is hard to date works exactly, there is a clear change of style in his later works, confirmed by the type of music that his pupils were writing. In all his works, but especially in those for more than two choirs, Gabrieli’s flair for sonorities is particularly evident, showing the ultimate development of the old motet style.

    Audite principes, too, dates from the later collection, and is scored for two five-part choirs, one six-part choir and continuo. From the opening declamatory statement, heard three times as an introduction to each choir, to the colossal block of sound as all seventeen parts unite at the midpoint before launching into the dancing triple-time gaudeamus, here is music of considerable complexity and great splendour. The final Alleluia, back in duple metre after another dance-like section, ends the work with due solemnity.

    O magnum mysterium comes from an earlier source, the 1587 collection Concerti per voci e stromenti musicali, and has a mood of subdued reverence, fitting for its subject matter, until syncopation breaks out for the closing Alleluia. In keeping with the relatively simple setting, the first choir is scored here for four voices and organ, and the second choir for solo alto and three sackbuts. Perhaps it was this latter combination (and particularly the falsettist or castrato’s ‘supernaturall voice … never a better singer in all the world’) that so transported Coryate, for it is a magical combination of sounds.

    With Salvator noster we return to the 1615 collection, and a magnificent setting for three five-part choirs and an independent continuo line. The wide variety of textures and moods contained within the motet shows Gabrieli’s responsiveness to the text, and the high instrumental lines at the top of choirs one and two, furnished with lively flourishes, and the dancing rhythms give the motet a celebratory mood. The closing Alleluia travels through a series of sections before the motet ends in a blaze of sound. Little wonder that Coryate was so transported by these rich mediterranean sounds: here indeed is music that is ‘superexcellent’!

    Quem vidistis pastores? is one of Gabrieli’s finest works. Scored in sixteen parts it comes from the posthumous volume Sacrae symphoniae … liber secundus of 1615. After the opening orchestral sinfonia, scored for two choirs of instruments and showing Gabrieli’s love of lower sonorities, the work shows elements of the later chamber style as the six singers introduce themselves one by one, accompanied by the newly introduced basso continuo. This small-scale texture continues until the full ensemble unites with awestruck majesty at O magnum mysterium. Here there are marvellous sonorities and a whole variety of textures, with grand flourishes for the word iacentem, a cutting down of the texture for in praesepio, magnificent block chords at et admirabile and a sumptuous ending."

    In my opinion it is very difficult to find an example of a more celebratory Christmas music that we can hear in the Venetian Polychoralism. Giovanni Gabrieli is a wonderful example of this.
This piece is a perfect example of this style, with the Symphonia and use of rethoric elements more characteristics and the fantastic idiomatic treatment of all parts.

    This performance is very interesting, especially with the whole ensemble -for me is in this parts, in which the interpretation is really good-. The four Christmas Motets in this album are really amazing. Really, really Venetian!