The Sixteen | Harry Christophers.
Portuguese polyphony: Renaissance music in a Baroque century.
Robert Stevenson wrote about this composer:
«Portuguese composer and teacher. On 10 May 1647 he was admitted as a choirboy at Évora Cathedral, where his teacher was Bento Nunes Pegado. He was elected master of the boys on 14 March 1662, mestre da crasta in 1663 and mestre de capela in about 1678. In 1697 his former pupil Pedro Vaz Rêgo began to substitute for him because he had become blind. However, the cathedral chapter continued to pay his three stipends until July 1699, indicating the esteem in which he was held.
Melgaz's extant compositions in cathedral archives at Évora and Lisbon, some of them duplicates, are all Latin liturgical works. Of the four incomplete vilhancicos in Évora Public Library, two have Spanish texts, one a Galician text and one a Portuguese text. Melgaz also edited a plainchant hymnal containing 152 melodies, all barred in either binary or ternary metre. He was the first Évora composer to use bar-lines in his polyphonic works, to write functional harmony and to provide independent instrumental parts for harp, organ and unfigured bass (Évora Cathedral employed a harpist from as early as 1643). Usually sober in his motets, he expands into elaborate fioriture in his double-choir accompanied Pentecost sequence.»
Ivan Moddy thought about his music:
«Melgás, though even more eccentric (in the true sense of the word, working ashe did in provincial Evora) also fits into the Portuguese tradition of contrapuntal working, even when his music is at its most ‘vertical’. Melgás must have received his musical education at the cathedral school in Evora, and he himself taught there until three years before his death. It is not entirely clear what his immediate musical influences were, but his own voice is quite distinctive, joining in his motets a simple transparency and brevity of utterance to an expressively ‘baroque’ treatment of the text. Popule meus, though it employs two choruses,is a good example, and it is something that may be found in earlier Portuguese music for Holy Week such as the Responsories by Cardoso and Martins.The text comes from the Adoration of the Cross on Good Friday, and remains one of the few texts in the western rite to retain words in Greek (the ancient Trisagion ‘Holy God, Holy Mighty, HolyImmortal, have mercy upon us’).»
For me, the Portuguese composers of the last 16th-century and firts half of 17th-century suppose an exceptional case in the Western Music History, because their really archaic compositional language is absolutely unique. I think that this archaism is not accidental, but is really deliberate. Portuguese composers chose to keep writing in this style, feeling it better suited their aesthetic goals, with a thought of school –this is not very common in other countries. They know the music composed by other composer in Europe, and, of course, the new Baroque style, however, they chose incorporate only few baroque elements, but the main elements of his language are absolutely wrote in stile antico.
This piece in a wonderful example of this.
Fantastic music and amazing performance.
The Portuguese school of composers in this period is one of the most fascinating in History.