miércoles, 29 de octubre de 2014

The Choir Project al día | 25-X-2014

Thomas Tallis [c. 1505-1585]: Dum transsiset sabbatum à 5.
Alamire | David Skinner.
English polyphony in Madrid | Celebrating new album of the amazing ensemble Alamire.

  Paul Doe and David Allinson wrote:
«I. Life

  Although no record of his childhood has been found, Tallis must have been born in the first decade of the 16th century probably in Kent, the county with which he had lifelong professional and family connections. His earliest known documented appearance is in the accounts for 1530–31 of the modest Benedictine priory of Dover, which record that a ‘Thomas Tales’, the ‘joculator organorum’ (organist), had received an annual salary of £2 (see Haines). His name appears among the general household staff; no other musicians are listed and it is likely that the priory’s resources for the performance of polyphony were sparse. Perhaps Tallis was able to draw upon the singers employed by Dover’s nearby parent monastery, Christ Church, Canterbury, which boasted lavish musical provision. Dover Priory was dissolved in 1535 and there is no record of Tallis’s departure; we next encounter him in London, where his name appears on the 1537 and 1538 payrolls of the church of St Mary-at-Hill, noted for its music. Whether he was a singer or the organist is not stated. Tallis undoubtedly came into contact with some of England’s foremost musicians during his time at St Mary-at-Hill; he may also have come to the attention of the abbot of Holy Cross, Waltham, whose London residence stood nearby, for towards the end of 1538 he moved to Waltham Abbey in Essex, becoming one of the most senior members of the extensive musical foundation there. Unfortunately for Tallis the abbey was dissolved on 23 March 1540 (it was the last monastic foundation to fall); as a relative newcomer he was not granted a pension, instead being paid off with 20s. in outstanding wages and 20s. ‘reward’. He seems to have taken with him a volume of musical treatises copied by John Wylde, a former preceptor of the abbey; the book has the autograph ‘Thomas Tallys’ on its last page (GB-Lbl Lansdowne 763).

  Tallis returned to East Kent, finding employment at Canterbury Cathedral, which was being refounded as a secular establishment with a much expanded choir of ten boys and twelve men. An undated list of staff recruited to the new establishment (Canterbury, Dean and Chapter Library, MS D.E.164; probably from summer 1540) lists Tallis first among the singing men. He appears in the cathedral records of 1541 and 1542 but not in 1543, the year in which he probably began to serve full-time at the court as a member of the Chapel Royal (he may have been helped in securing the position by Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury). Although there is no record of his enrolment at court, Tallis’s name appears on a lay subsidy roll of 1544, and in a document of about 1545 (Lbl Stowe 571) his name is 16th in a list of 32. In a petition of 1577 Tallis claimed to have ‘served yo[u]r Ma[jes]tie and yo[u]r Royall ancestors these fortie yeres’, implying that his association with the court may have begun even during his employment at St Mary-at-Hill.

  Tallis remained in the royal household until his death, serving under Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, and finally for more than half of the reign of Elizabeth I. He undoubtedly acted as an organist throughout this period, but was not so designated until after 1570. As an organist his duties would have included the rehearsal of the singing-men. Harley has speculated that Tallis shared with the Master of the Children, Richard Bower, responsibility for training the boys, probably at this time including William Byrd, with Bower teaching singing and Tallis keyboard and composition. However, he had always been active as a composer as well, and in the middle decades of the century the provision of new vocal polyphony for the royal chapels must have occupied much of his time and earned him great prestige. In 1557 Queen Mary granted to Tallis and Bower jointly a 21-year lease of the Kentish manor of Minster in Thanet, with the considerable annual income of £91 12s. The royal household accounts for the first year of Elizabeth’s reign contain the entry ‘In bonis Thomas Talys … 40li’, which has been thought to record a gift of this amount, but which is more likely to represent an assessment for the purposes of a subsidy or forced loan to the queen, and confirms that Tallis was living in fairly comfortable circumstances at the time. Rapid inflation had evidently changed that situation by the time Byrd joined the Chapel Royal in 1572, for in 1573 the two men petitioned the queen for some source of additional income. On 22 January 1575, she responded by granting them an exclusive licence to print and publish music, the letters-patent issued for this purpose being among the first of their kind in the country (seeillustration; printed in full in E.H. Fellowes: William Byrd, 2/1948, p.7). Later that year there duly appeared the Cantiones sacrae, an anthology of Latin motets to which Tallis and Byrd each contributed 17 compositions, perhaps in reference to the 17th year of Elizabeth’s reign. Financially the undertaking was a failure, for a second petition followed in 1577 resulting in the grant of a joint lease to the two composers of crown lands with annual rents totalling £30.

  In or around 1552 Tallis married a woman named Joan, who survived him by nearly four years. There is no evidence that they had any children (Tallis’s will mentions a cousin, John Sayer, living in the Isle of Thanet, but neither his nor his wife’s will gives much evidence of other family connections). During later life, like many of the Gentlemen of the Chapel Royal, Tallis lived in Greenwich, probably in a rented house close to the royal palace (tradition holds that he lived in Stockwell Street). Whether Tallis ever owned his house in Greenwich is uncertain (Joan’s will of 1587 describes her home as ‘lately purchased’). The Bodleian Register and the Cheque Book of the Chapel Royal disagree as to the date of Tallis’s death, the former giving 20 November 1585 and the latter 23 November. He was buried in the chancel of the parish church of St Alfege; his epitaph, lost in the subsequent rebuilding of the church, was recorded by Strype in his Continuation of Stowe’s Survey of London. (The texts of the epitaph, and of both wills, are printed in TCM, vi, 1928, pp.xv ff; the wills are also printed in Harley, Appx C.)

  The potential significance of the first bequest in Joan Tallis’s will (‘to mr Anthony Roper esquier one guilte bowle with the cover therunto belonginge in respect of his good favors shewed to my late husband and mee’) has been persuasively argued by Bennett. He has shown that the beneficiary was almost certainly the grandson of the Catholic martyr Thomas More and member of one of Kent’s most influential – and most notoriously recusant – families, Anthony Roper (c1535–1597). As Bennett has commented, ‘The phrase “good favours” suggests that Roper and Tallis were linked in some sort of patron/client relationship’ (p.42), the possibilities including links at Canterbury and at the court. Bennett concluded that Tallis and the Ropers might have had a similar relationship to that which Byrd enjoyed with his patrons the Petres.

  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of such a relationship would be the potential religious connections; Roman Catholic Masses were certainly celebrated at the family chapel at Well Hall, Eltham, less than three miles from Greenwich. Musicologists have disagreed about Tallis’s religious convictions: he has been variously claimed as a Protestant, a Catholic and (most usually) a pragmatist who avoided religious controversy. However, Bennett’s speculations, taken with other evidence such as Tallis’s long and fruitful association with the ardently recusant Byrd (and indeed Byrd’s choice of Tallis as godfather to his son), and the heartfelt expressivity of late works such as In jejunio et fletu and the Lamentations, may shift the balance of plausibility towards a view of Tallis as a committed Catholic who never relinquished his faith, however equably he served his successive regal and ecclesiastical paymasters.

II. Music

  Tallis’s compositional career spanned decades of unprecedented political and religious turbulence whose effect on English music was profound. Musical genres and styles declined, mutated or were invented afresh in response to the liturgical and doctrinal demands of the moment. From extended votive antiphons such as Salve intemerata to succinct Anglican service music, Tallis’s diverse output covers almost every musical genre used in the English church during the 16th century. However, style was not determined only by religious circumstances: it is likely that the profound differences between ostensibly early and late works of Tallis (for example, the reduction in melismatic writing and the corresponding growth in chordal homophony, and the tendency for imitation to become less decorative and more structural) may be attributed equally to the influence of continental musical developments on the native style. In this way, political and artistic imperatives converged to change the style of Tallis and many of his contemporaries.

  The secret of Tallis’s success in surviving – not to say thriving – during such a period of turmoil lay in his combination of pragmatism and perfectionism. He was happy to turn good material to new purposes (as in his revision of Gaude gloriosa Dei mater from an English-texted anthem to a Latin-texted antiphon, on which see below; or the conversion of instrumental fantasias into motets such as O sacrum convivium and Salvator mundi (ii)); he moved flexibly between genres, invoking old-fashioned or progressive features as circumstances demanded, and during the middle years of the century he must have moved rapidly between these idioms (from simple anthems such as the homophonic Remember not to ambitious and lengthy votive antiphons such as Gaude gloriosa Dei mater). His perfectionism is revealed by his habit of revising his compositions, sometimes at a level of mere detail but often on a large scale; these ‘second thoughts’ are revealed by disparities between manuscript sources, or between manuscript versions and those published in the Cantiones sacrae of 1575 (see Milsom, 1983 and 1988). Tallis’s lack of complacency meant that even in his old age he continued to develop his musical language and to explore compositional problems, and not only in the obvious sense of meeting the logistical and technical challenges of writing for 40 voices in Spem in alium. Derelinquit impius and In jejunio et fletu – perhaps his last motets, written around his 70th year – are highly original essays in a harmonically conceived, chromatically inflected expressive style that reveal a startlingly fertile imagination.

  Many of Tallis’s works, especially those Latin-texted compositions that are of an ostensibly early date, have survived in sources that are remote from their date of composition and the circumstances of performance, making the establishing of a chronology of the composer’s music extremely difficult. The work of John Milsom (1983) represents the most thoroughgoing and convincing attempt to order and date Tallis’s works on the basis of external (source) and internal (stylistic) evidence. Despite the problem of dating Tallis’s works and the bewildering variety of genres to which he contributed, his musical personality is consistent (the very earliest works aside): his compositions are supremely crafted, with a knowing sense of where to place a dissonance; in performance the effect is often one of muted richness. In his Latin-texted works Tallis transmuted the inherited musical language of pre-Reformation England and in adapting it contributed to its survival for another generation; in his Anglican music he established the formal and stylistic norms of an entirely new repertory that, under reforming pressures, might have fallen into drabness. Through all its changes the English court and Church were fortunate to have the music of Tallis as their ornament.»

  Live concert at Fundación Juan March, Madrid, past 10-X-2012. In this concert, the British ensemble and northamerican conductor performed music by Pycard, Walter Lambe, Robert Fayrfax, Johan Taverner, Christopher Tye, Thomas Tallis and William Byrd, on a wonderful journey through the history of the English Renaissance polyphony.

Enjoy this and the complete concert.

sábado, 25 de octubre de 2014

The Choir Project al día | 18-X-2014

William Byrd [c. 1540-1623]: O salutaris hostia á 4 | Gradualia ac cantiones sacrae, 3-5vv [London, 1605].
Stile Antico • Fretwork.
Rejoicing for voices and viols.

  David Skinner wrote about Byrd's Gradualia:
«As the reign of Elizabeth I symbolizes the Renaissance of English humanism and the stability of English culture, so William Byrd, in his assimilation of musical ideas past and present, represents the technical and emotional refinement of the music of the Latin church. However, we are presented here with a curious paradox, for Byrd lived at a time when music for the Latin rite was outmoded, its creation and promul­gation considered dangerous in the hothouse of Elizabethan church politics. England’s Golden Age of polyphony under the earlier Tudors could boast some of the finest composers in Europe, who had thrived within a musical tradition unbroken until the introduction of Protestant ordinances in the mid 1530s and 1540s. As a boy Byrd came to know intimately the liturgy of the pre-Reformation English church, knowledge which must have left a lasting impression on his later musical character as a recusant Catholic. (The general assumption that the composer was born in 1543 has been disproved thanks to ground-breaking scholarship of recent years. Byrd was significantly older when he died than had been previously thought, a finding which invites a complete reassessment of his life and the context of his works.) Apart from Mary I’s brief Catholic revival in the 1550s, elaborate music-making exemp­lified in the great surviving pre-Reformation choirbooks such as Eton, Lambeth and Caius was banned from all English churches, collegiate and monastic; by the end of the 1540s, and with the death of Henry VIII, Latin church music was replaced by a simplified vernacular version of the liturgy, and the English anthem and service were born.

  It has been a great concern of scholars to account for the prodigious number of Byrd’s surviving Latin works when, by Elizabeth’s own proclamations, it would have been illegal to perform them in his own time. However, Elizabeth herself was an accomplished musician who held deep Catholic sentiments and Byrd was indeed among her favourite musicians. Byrd studied under Tallis and would doubtless have been familiar with the works of a number of pre-Reformation composers such as Cornysh and Fayrfax; he probably also had regular access to his patron John Lord Lumley’s extensive collection of printed foreign editions at Nonesuch Palace from which to gain new ideas. As, then, the most promising composer England could boast it is perhaps fair to suggest that Elizabeth was quite happy to grant him unlimited freedom of musical expression. In 1575 Byrd, with Tallis, gained a monopoly on music printing in England. Elizabeth granted full privilege and licence for twenty-one years ‘to imprint any and so many as they will of set songe or songes in partes, either in English, Latine, … or other tongues that may serue for musicke either in Churche or chamber’. Byrd therefore had royal approval to compose and print what he desired without persecution. Upon Tallis’s death ten years later, Byrd retained this privilege and produced several editions of his own works.

  Byrd’s three settings of the Mass Ordinary (for three, four and five voices) are widely known and do not require substantial elaboration here. All were published in the mid 1590s, and it is generally agreed that the Mass for five voices (arguably the most beautiful of the three) was the last to be composed. It is not surprising that stylistically Byrd broke from the great tradition of pre-Reformation English Mass settings, following a fallow period of some forty years in this genre. In the Mass for five voices thematic connections between the movements rarely exist; although a head motif launches them in a similar fashion, thereafter the style is governed largely by the text, rather than developing musical ideas and cross-reference such as may be found in the Masses of Ludford and Fayrfax. Most notable are those portions of the text which prominently profess the Catholic faith, through which we might read Byrd’s own particular and profound identification. In the Credo, for example, we hear the words ‘Et unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam ecclesiam’ boldly iterated, whereas in earlier English Mass settings the words ‘Jesu Christe’ are normally emphasized.

  Byrd’s greatest achievement in music publishing was his ambitious two-volume collection of the Gradualia, which contain settings of Mass Propers for the church year. It is not known whether these works were intended to be performed in a liturgical framework, or indeed along with any of Byrd’s own Mass settings as presented on this recording. In the political climate of the time it is unlikely that they would have been performed by the Queen’s Chapel Royal, of which Byrd was a member from 1570; this leads to the supposition that they were designed for use in the chapel of a recusant household. Such households may well have been able to maintain a choir capable of meeting the extreme technical demands of the Gradualia, but it is likely that Latin music of the time was performed by small forces—even as few as one to a part—with a female voice singing the top line. However, this does not preclude the possibility that the sound Byrd himself imagined was that of his own choir of the men and boys of the Chapel Royal, had political circumstances permitted.

  Byrd’s Propers for the Mass of Corpus Christi are published in the first book of the «Gradualia» (London, 1605), where the Magnificat antiphons O sacrum convivium and O quam suavis est are also found together with the Hymns to the Blessed Sacrament Ave verum corpus and O salutaris hostia.

  The Feast of Corpus Christi commemorates the institution and gift of the Holy Eucharist, traditionally celebrated in the Western Church on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. (In the early church this commemoration was held on its natural day in the Christian calendar, Maundy Thursday, on which the Eucharist was instituted at the Last Supper; however, in reserving this day as part of the Passion ceremonies, a new feast day was recognized in 1264 and set on the first free Thursday after Eastertide.) The texts reflect a sacrificial tone as befits the Corpus Christi celebrations, embodying the imagery of the ingestion of blood and body. As the medieval symbol of the Body of Christ illustrates, the mother Pelican’s beak penetrates her own breast, giving life-blood to benefit the hunger of her young. Ironically, Byrd chose the bright and cheerful mixolydian mode for his setting. The Introit Cibavit eos is delightfully radiant, and celebrates the biblical miracle of wheat and honey from the rock. Here the antiphon is followed by a Psalm verse (80:1) for reduced voices, and an energetic and semi-homophonic setting of the doxology (‘Gloria Patri’) with a deliberate break before the ‘Sicut erat’, quite typical in Byrd’s Introit settings. As the liturgy would dictate, the antiphon is repeated at the end of the work (although this is not directed in the printed sources).

  The Gradual Oculi omnium is a reposed petition for the blood and flesh of Christ, which is anticipated in the beautiful three-part verse ‘Aperis tu manum tuam’ with the appended Alleluia ‘Caro mea’, and finally resolved when the four-part texture resumes with vigour at the words ‘qui manducat meam carnem’. In English music of this period it is unusual to find such direct expression of the dramatic implications of the text. Throughout the Gradualia Byrd’s response is typically eloquent and powerful, from the short and simple Offertory Sacerdotes Domini (considered by many to be the gem of the Corpus Christi Mass), to the more robust and almost madrigalian setting of the Communion Quotiescunque manducabitis.

  Additional Propers for the related Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament are printed in the second book of the Gradualia (London, 1607), which additionally contains the Processional Hymn Pange lingua gloriosi (Byrd’s setting is not included on this recording but is sung to plainchant, as is the Corpus Christi Sequence Lauda Sion salvatorem) and the Benedictus antiphon for Lauds Ego sum panis vivus. (Owing to repeated reference to the Eucharist, the Corpus Christi Mass texts are appropriate for inclusion in the Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament.) The Tract Ab ortu solis would have been sung if the Votive Mass fell during the penitential season, and the Alleluia ‘Cognoverunt discipuli’ only in Paschal Time. However, these items are nevertheless related thematically to Byrd’s Corpus Christi Mass. The second half of the Alleluia actually restates the music of ‘Caro mea’ from the Gradual Oculi omnium, while the second part of the Tract (‘Venite, comedite’) is structurally very similar to the Introit Cibavit eos. (Several items in the «Gradualia» are repeated within the same feast or even from one feast to another, no doubt for economical considerations.)

  The lesser-known companion Hymn O salutaris hostia is also thought to be an early work. Here Byrd fully exploits his technical mastery of interlocking imitative phrases; the polyphony gradually intensifies and with the words ‘bella premunt’ climaxes with trumpet-like entries.»

  Wonderful English performance for English music.
The quality of the performers is really amazing. For me, Stile Antico is simply one of the best five vocal ensembles in the world.

  Enjoy they, enjoy William Byrd, the best English composer in history.

The Choir Project al día | 04-X-2014

Johann Hermann Schein [1586-1630]: Fontana d’Israel, Israelis Brünlein, auserlesener Krafft-Sprüchlin altes und newen Testaments … auf einer … Italian madrigalische Manier, 5vv, [one for 6vv], bc [Leipzig, 1623].
Gli Angeli Genéve | Stephan MacLeod.
The splendor of German Baroque.

  Kerala J. Snyder & Gregory S. Johnston wrote about:
«German composer and poet. He was an important predecessor of Bach, both as Leipzig Thomaskantor and as a gifted composer. He was one of the first composers to graft the style of the Italian madrigal, monody and concerto on to the traditional elements of Lutheran church music.
After the death of his father, a pastor and former schoolmaster, in 1593, Schein’s family moved to Dresden, whence they had originally come. There, at the age of 13, he was taken into the Hofkapelle of the Elector of Saxony as a soprano. Already grounded in the principles of music, he received further instruction in both theoretical and practical music from the Kapellmeister, Rogier Michael, and became acquainted with an extensive repertory of both secular and sacred choral music in Latin, German and Italian. He distinguished himself not only in music but in his other studies as well, and following a brief matriculation at the University of Leipzig he was admitted on 18 May 1603 to Schulpforta, an electoral school near Naumburg that specialized in music and the humanities. He arrived there just after Erhard Bodenschatz had ceased to be its Kantor. Bodenschatz had compiled his famous motet collection Florilegium Portense (16181–16212; the first part appeared in a different form and with a different title, 16031) for the edification of the students, who sang the motets before and after meals. Schein must have been thoroughly familiar with this repertory, though he was actually taught music by Bodenschatz’s successors, first Bartholomäus Scheer and then, from 1606, Martin Roth. He left Schulpforta on 26 April 1607, returned to Dresden and in 1608 enrolled at the University of Leipzig, with an electoral scholarship, to study law and the liberal arts; he remained there for four years. The Thomaskantor at this time was Sethus Calvisius, who had preceded Bodenschatz as Kantor at Schulpforta. Schein’s first publication, Venus Kräntzlein, appeared in 1609.

  In 1613 Schein went to Weissenfels to become house music director and tutor to the children of Gottfried von Wolffersdorff, a friend from his Schulpforta days who soon recommended him for his first purely musical position, as Kapellmeister to Duke Johann Ernst the Younger at Weimar. He took up this post on 21 May 1615. On 12 February 1616 he married his first wife Sidonia, a native of Dresden and daughter of the district Rentsekretär Eusebius Hösel; they must have known each other from childhood for the two families had long been acquainted, and three of Schein’s poems for the Venus Kräntzlein have acrostics spelling her name. Of the five children of this marriage only the elder son survived into adulthood. Schein’s tenure at Weimar was happy but short. On 19 August 1616 he was called to Leipzig to audition for the position of Thomaskantor, which had been vacant since the death of Calvisius the previous November. He was accepted, began work in late September or early October and was immediately plunged into a dispute with the Konrektor, who was jealous of the Kantor’s prestige and salary and especially of the extra income he received for wedding and funeral music. In addition to his responsibilities of directing the choral music in the Thomaskirche and the Nicolaikirche, Schein was required to teach 14 hours a week in the Thomasschule – ten hours of Latin grammar and syntax and four of singing. His most illustrious pupils were the poet Paul Fleming and possibly the composer Heinrich Albert, whose continuo arias show the influence of his Musica boscareccia.

  Schein’s wife died as a result of complications of childbirth on 30 June 1624; his song Sei fröhlich, meine Seele was performed at the funeral on 2 July. He remarried on 22 February 1625; his new bride was Elizabeth von der Perre, daughter of a painter who had worked on the decoration of the organ in the Nicolaikirche. At least four of the five children of this marriage also died in infancy. In addition to the sorrows in his family life Schein suffered from poor health: he was afflicted with tuberculosis, gout, scurvy and kidney stones. Illness forced him to cancel the performance of a large work composed for the Reformation Jubilee of 1617 and postponed the publication of the first part of Opella nova; it also appears to have sapped his creative energy from about 1626. Two visits to the springs at Carlsbad were of no avail, and he died at the age of 44. Johann Höpner, pastor of the Nicolaikirche, preached at his funeral, and the sermon (reprinted in Spitta) includes an account of his life that provides valuable biographical information. His successor as Thomaskantor was Tobias Michael, son of Rogier Michael.

  As late as 1691, W.C. Printz still identified Schütz, Schein and Scheidt as the leading German composers of their time. They were all born between 1585 and 1587, worked in close geographical proximity and knew one another. The closest friendship was between Schein and Schütz; Schütz visited Schein on his deathbed and at his request composed a motet on the text Das ist je gewisslich wahr (published separately (swv277) in 1631 and revised (swv388) in Schütz’s Geistliche Chor-Music, 1648). There are many parallels in the early careers of these two composers, born within four months and 80 km of each other. They both began as choirboys with a talent that attracted the attention of a nobleman who supported their education, both studied law and, as composers, both distinguished themselves through the expressive setting of Luther’s biblical language for a few voices with instrumental accompaniment. Several obvious differences help to account for the greater importance that history has accorded Schütz: extensive international travel, including his periods of study in Italy; more prestigious appointments; better health and much longer life.

  Schein had already risen to expressive heights in sacred music with the 1623 publication of Fontana d’Israel or Israelis Brünlein, a collection of pieces composed ‘in a special, graceful Italian madrigal manner’. The texts are mostly from the Old Testament, and all but one are set for five voices (two sopranos, alto, tenor and bass) and continuo. The title-page states that they can be performed ‘either alone with singers and instruments or with organ or harpsichord’. The continuo is not really necessary: it is a basso seguente doubling the lowest sounding part, and there are seldom fewer than three voices singing. The ‘madrigal manner’ refers to the particular care with which each phrase of text is set, though this is done more with the musical-rhetorical figures of the musica poetica of German humanism than with the extreme word-painting of the Italian madrigal. Schein’s madrigals are also less contrapuntal than classical Italian madrigals, and on numerous occasions he split the voices into two groups, with the alto participating in both. His use of unusual intervals and dissonant harmonic figures, especially the diminished 4th, is more frequent in this collection than any other. It ranks with Schütz’s Geistliche Chor-Music as one of the masterpieces of early Baroque choral music in Germany.»

Wonderful performance of one of the best sacred music collections in early Seventeenth Century german music.
The voices are really amazing and rethoric expression is absolutely great.

jueves, 23 de octubre de 2014

«La teatralidad...» | Crítica para Doce Notas del último disco de Ímpetus Madrid Baroque Ensemble

La teatralidad del clave
El conjunto madrileño celebra el «Año Rameau» grabando las únicas piezas camerísticas puramente instrumentales del genio de Dijon, en una versión digna de elogio.

Pièces de clavecín en concerts. Música de Jean-Philippe Rameau. Ímpetus Madrid Baroque Ensemble | Yago Mahúgo. CMY, 1 CD [CD-0003013], 2014. T.T.: 74:44.

  Curiosamente, las Pièces de clavecin en concerts, publicadas en 1741 por Jean-Philippe Rameau [1683-1764] llegan en el gran período de silencio del compositor, sufrido entre 1739 y 1744. Si bien compuestas probablemente al final de la década de 1730, la misma en la que Rameau comienza a legar a la historia de la música occidental algunas de sus grandes óperas: Hippolyte et Aricie [1733], Les Indes galantes [1735], Castor et Pollux [1737], Les Fêtes d’Hébé y  Dardanus [1739], se aprecia en ellas mucho de sus experimentaciones armónicas e incluso del manejo de lo dramático en la música fuera de lo vocal. Rameau compone, pues, cinco concerts que se dividen en diversos movimientos, tanto piezas de carácter, como herencia de la suite francesa. En ellos, al añadir instrumentos acompañantes a un clave que va más allá de ser un instrumento que realiza el bajo continuo –sino que es aquí concertante–, se le considera casi como el creador de un estilo y género nuevos. Sería así de no ser por que unos años antes, otro francés, Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville, compone sus Sonates pour le clavecin avec accompagnament de violon [1734], dando la vuelta así al modelo italiano de sonata para instrumento/s solista/s acompañado/s de un bajo. De este modo, el clave se convierte en un instrumento protagonista, igual o más importante que el instrumento melódico de marras. Aun así, el mismo Rameau comenta la posibilidad, en su breve prefacio, de que las piezas puedan interpretarse con clave solo, llegando incluso a aportar en el texto algunas indicaciones sobre cómo adaptar las piezas para ser interpretadas a solo por el clave, e incluso dejando escritas cuatro de las piezas en versiones para el instrumento solista. 

  De cualquier manera, lo que hace diferentes a estas piezas es la inclusión de otras dos líneas instrumentales, en este caso la primera línea para violín o traverso, y la segunda para viola da gamba o un segundo violín –que requiere una parte por separado para ser interpretada. De este modo, si bien las partes del violín y la flauta sí podrían ser interpretadas al unísono, la de la viola y el segundo violín no podría llevarse a efecto así, al menos no con la edición comercial de 1741.

  El carácter de las piezas no puede ser más teatral, ni en cierto modo más descriptivo de lo que llevan por título en algunos casos, lo que supone una auténtica marca de la casa en la manera de escribir del genio de Dijon. Así nos encontramos con títulos de lugares –Le Vézinet–, personas –Le Livri, La Laborde, La Boucon, La Lapoplinière, La Rameau o La Marais– y caracteres –L’Agaçante, La Timide, La Pantomime o L’Indiscrète. La capacidad de Rameau para plasmar en música lo que las palabras parecen sugerir es realmente exquisita. Pocos compositores tienen esa capacidad tan absolutamente evocadora. 

  Si bien esta es una de las piezas más transitadas por los intérpretes historicistas –y los que no lo son– a lo largo de las últimas cuatro décadas, es realmente complejo encontrar a intérpretes españoles enrolados en su interpretación. Quizá porque la música de Rameau es tremendamente idiomática, muy francesa, pero a la vez muy personal –hasta con una cierta influencia italiana por momentos–, convirtiéndola en una obra que requiere de un profundo conocimiento del lenguaje francés y del suyo propio para poder acometerla con garantías. Todos los grandes las han grabado –desde que a principios de la década de 1970 el trío Leonhardt-Fryden-Harnoncourt «abriera la veda»–, pero no había hasta ahora –creemos– un registro integral de estas piezas por intérpretes íntegramente españoles.

 Debemos regocijarnos, pues, porque esto supone un salto cualitativo de importancia para el panorama de la música antigua española, entre otras cosas, porque las lecturas que nos ofrecen los miembros de Ímpetus Madrid Baroque Ensemble son de primer nivel. Y es que si alguien conoce bien el lenguaje del clave francés en España actualmente, ese no es otro que Yago Mahúgo, quien debe gran parte de este profundo conocimiento a su período formativo junto a uno de los grandes especialistas del mismo, el francés Christophe Rousset –lo que ya demostró sobradamente con su lectura de la música para clave de Pacrace Royer. Desde mi punto, lo mejor que puede decirse de una grabación de música francesa, así como de Rameau, es que suena precisamente francés y particularmente a Rameau. Parece una «perogrullada», pero no lo es en absoluto. Y no solo es que Mahúgo conozca muy bien los entresijos del repertorio, sino que sabe plasmarlos a la perfección en su interpretación. El carácter que Rameau imprime a sus composiciones es leído con naturalidad y eficacia por el clavecinista madrileño. Se acompaña para la ocasión de Pablo Gutiérrez al violín, que ofrece una visión límpida y preciosista de su línea, apoyado en el elegante y terso sonido de su anónimo italiano c. 1700; además de Jordi Comellas a la viola da gamba, que aporta el toque de color y el carácter, así como el sustento armónico conveniente, que estas piezas requieren, con fantástico resultado. El trío se aúna con feliz resultado para crear una versión exquisita, sutil, pero imponente, que poco tiene que envidiar a algunas de las grandes lecturas que la historia de la fonografía nos ha ido legando. Se completa el disco, además, con las piezas que el propio Rameau adaptó para clave solo, permitiendo así comprobar lo increíble de su visión tanto para el instrumento solista, como el conjunto de cámara, en un ejercicio maravilloso que no muchas de las grabaciones existentes suele proponer al oyente –por increíble que parezca. 

  Un tanto más para Mahúgo en su transitar por el barroco francés, y para su propio sello, CMY Baroque, que presenta aquí un diseño elegante y de calidad para redondear un disco de esencia francesa, pero a la española.

Publicado en Doce Notas el 11-IX-2014.

miércoles, 22 de octubre de 2014

«La viola da gamba...» | Crítica para Doce Notas del primer disco de Lixsania Fernández y Recondita Armonia

La viola da gamba holandesa
La violagambista cubana nos trae una de las colecciones más exquisitas de cuantas se escribieran en la Europa del XVII para el instrumento, en unas lecturas repletas de energía y lirismo.

Tyd en Konst-Oeffeningen, Op 2. Música de Johannes Schenck. Lixsania Fernández | Recondita Armonia Ensemble. Brilliant Classics, 1 CD [94635], 2014. T.T.: 63:09.

  Es bien cierto que la viola da gamba, al menos como instrumento solista, suele asociarse de manera automática con la Francia del XVII y XVIII. Sin embargo, en la Europa del XVII se produjo un importante desarrollo del instrumento con papel protagonista, gracias especialmente a algunas figuras que a lo largo y ancho del continente ayudaron a que este instrumento se desarrollara en forma y fondo.  Uno de los casos más destacados es el del holandés Johannes Schenck [1660-d. 1710], de quien se guarda uno de los retratos con el instrumento que tañía y para el que componía más célebres de la historia, junto al de Marin Marais. Aunque de familia alemana, Schenck nació en Amsterdam, ciudad en la que desarrolló gran parte su carrera. De hecho, fue gracias a algunos ciudadanos adinerados residentes en la capital holandesa que Schenck pudo editar sus colecciones de piezas en ediciones de una gran calidad. Su manera de tocar era ensalzada por todos, hasta el punto de que incluso se le llegó a mencionar en algunos poemas de la época como la persona que tañía con mayor destreza y delicadeza el instrumento. Parece que permaneció en su ciudad natal al menos circa 1696, cuando obtiene un puesto en la corte de Johann Wilhelm II –que gustaba de tocar la viola da gamba– en Düsseldorf. Se mantuvo aquí hasta que en 1710 que obtuvo el nombramiento de consejero de cámara. Se cree que estuvo presente en la coronación del Emperador Karl VI en Frankfurt al año siguiente, pero a partir de este momento se le pierde totalmente la pista, hasta el punto de que no sabemos ni la fecha exacta ni el lugar de su fallecimiento. 

  La obra de Schenck se estructura en torno a diez opus, los Op. I, IV y V dedicados a la música vocal, en los que la viola da gamba también adquiere una presencia notable, mientras que el resto, Op. II, III, VI, VII, VIII, IX y X lo están únicamente a la instrumental. Su corpus instrumental, dedicado en su mayor para la viola da gamba como instrumento solista –incluso a dúo, como encontramos en su Op. VIII, intitulado Le nymphe di Rheno– es uno de los más importantes de cuantos se compusieran en la Europa de los siglos XVII y XVIII. Es interesante comprobar como en él se reflejan fielmente los cambios estilísticos de importancia que se produjeron en el norte de Europa en aquel momento, aunque esto quizá no haya resultado muy positivo para el Schenck compositor en la posteridad. Su Op. II, Tyd en Konst-Oeffeningen, publicado en Amsterdam en 1688, contiene un total de 15 sonatas en varios movimientos de danza, a la manera de suites. A pesar de ser su primera colección instrumental, así como para la viola da gamba solista, se encuentra en ella un virtuosismo realmente considerable y una exigencia técnica elevada. Para unos –Ubail Zamora, autor de las notas críticas del disco– sigue aquí el estilo italiano que conducirá a una nueva y más virtuosa dimensión de la escritura para la viola da gamba, especialmente gracias a su expansión en el registro del instrumento. Para otros –Pieter Dirksen–, el virtuosismo de estas piezas parece reflejar la influencia del lenguaje desarrollado por los ingleses William Young y Henry Butler, además del de la escuela violinística alemana de Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber y Johann Jakob Walther, e incluso el de la escritura polifónica para cuerda del belga Carolus Hacquart y el alemán David Petersen. En mi opinión, aunque no desarrolla aquí una influencia francesa tan marcada como en su colección Scherzi Musicali, Op. VI [Amsterdam, 1698], sí podemos observar algunos ejemplos cercanos a los del lenguaje galo para el instrumento, especialmente en los movimientos lentos. Con este total de influencias, la música de Schenck se convierte en una de las más idiomáticamente personales de cuantas se hayan escrito para el instrumento. 

  La versión parcial aquí ofrecida –únicamente se han registrado seis de las quince sonatas, las números 1, 5, 9, 11, 12 y 15–, que nos ofrece la gambista cubana –aunque formada posteriormente en España– Lixsania Fernández resulta absolutamente convincente a la hora de plasmar todas estas influencias en el lenguaje del autor. Las maneras de Lixsania son dulces y delicadas, más dotada en mi opinión para plasmar el lirismo de los movimientos lentos que para el exigente virtuosismo técnico de los pasajes más rápidos e intrincados. Pasa, no obstante, con una excelente nota por los escollos y las idas y venidas que por el diapasón platea el compositor holandés. La complejidad de la escritura en cuanto a los registros es realmente elevada, necesitando del intérprete una destreza y un dominio del registro agudo más que notables. Es cierto que con algunos problemas más en el registro agudo, las agilidades no suponen en ningún momento un obstáculo insalvable en la presente grabación. 

 Se acompaña de los instrumentistas que componen Recondita Armonia Ensemble –fundado y liderado por ella misma–, quienes saben aportar el color y carácter adecuados para cada una de las piezas. Así, tanto Maria Alejandra Saturno al cello barroco, como Estaban Mazer al clave y el gran Eduardo Egüez a la tiorba, aportan cada uno el mejor de sus saberes para componer un todo armonioso y elegante. Destaca especialmente la labor de Egüez, siempre tan adusto y delicado, sabiendo poner el punto justo a cada pasaje, aportando en muchos momentos tanto como el instrumento solista en cuanto a la expresión de las emociones.

  Sin duda, estamos ante una grabación muy notable, que se merece una segunda parte en la que registrar las nueve sonatas restantes, pues supondría –que sepamos– la primera grabación completa de la que es, sin duda, una de las colecciones más interesantes para la viola da gamba fuera de Francia. Bravo por Brilliant, que sigue sorprendiendo y acertando con cada novedad, realizando aquí una feliz conjunción entre compositor e intérpretes, en un camino que está, en este caso, dirigido a descubrir un poco más a ambos, lo cual siempre es de celebrar. Lo esperamos, pues. 

Publicado en Doce Notas el 10-IX-2014.