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Music in the Cathedrals of Málaga and Cádiz in the 18th Century

[I] "Serpiente venenosa"
María Espada, soprano; David Sagastume, alto
Coro Barroco de Andalucía; Orquestra Barroca de Sevilla
Dir: Diego Fasolis
rec: Nov 27 - 28, 2006, Sevilla, Iglesia del Convento de La Paz
Almaviva - DS-0150 (© 2007) (64'42")

[II] "Arde el furor intrépido"
María Espada, soprano; José Hernández-Pastor, alto
Orquestra Barroca de Sevilla
Dir: Diego Fasolis
rec: Jan 28 - 31, 2008, Sevilla, Convento de la Paz (Capilla de la Hernandad de la Segrada Mortaja)
OBS Promoteo - OBS-01 (© 2009) (67'19")

[I] Francisco DELGADO (1719-1792): Credidi, Salmo a 8 con violines y trompas; Juan Francés DE IRIBARREN (1699-1767): A la Mesa del Cielo, cantada de Contralto al Santísimo con Violines, Oboe, flauta dulce y trompas; Ay sagrado Cupido, villancico a 4 con violines al Santísimo Sacramento; Besubio soberano, cantada al Santísimo con Violines y Trompas; Delizioso Clavel, Dúo con violin y flautas a la Purísima Concepción; Es el poder del hombre, cantada al Santísimo con Violines; Ezta nocha lo neglillo, villancico a 6 de negros, al nacimiento; Luis DE MENDOZA Y LAGOS (1718-1897): Magnificat; Jayme TORRENS (1741-1803): Serpiente venenosa, aria de Concepción a Solo, con violines y trompas; Juan Domingo VIDAL (1735-1808): Laudate pueri Dominum, Salmo a 3 con violines; Misa a 5 con violines: Kyrie
[II] Juan Francés DE IRIBARREN: Alegrese la tierra, cantada a Duo con violines a la Purísima Concepción; Arde el furor intrepido, area al Santísimo con Violines y trompas; Nebado Albergue, cantada de Contraldo al Nacimiento con violines; Prosigue acorde lira, cantada con violines al Santísimo; Jayme TORRENS: Guiados de una estrella, villancico a Solo de Reyes con violines y trompas; O! Adalid invencible, villancico a Solo de los Santísimos Martyres Ciriaco y Paula con violines; Soberano Señor, villancico a Solo al Santísimo con violines

These two discs are part of a project to explore the music in Spain of the 17th and 18th centuries. In comparison to the sacred music of the Renaissance - which ended rather late in Spain - the sacred repertoire of the baroque and classical periods is far less known. The composers represented on these discs have been neglected, even by Spanish performers. One reason for that is that very little of their oeuvre has been available in modern editions.

The project so far circles around two composers who both have been maestro de capilla in Málaga. Juan Francés de Iribarren Echavarria was born in Sanguësa (Navarre) and went to Madrid at the age of 14 or 15 to continue his musical education at the court. In 1717 he became first organist of Santa Iglesia in Salamanca. In 1733 he was appointed maestro de capilla of Malaga Cathedral, a post he held until his death. The total number of his compositions is estimated at 975. After Iribarren's death his position remained vacant for three years. In 1770 Jayme Torrens was instated as maestro de capilla in 1770. He was born in Malaga; his father was the tuner of the cathedral's organ. In a letter in which he requested to be considered for the post of maestro de capilla from 1767 he stated that Iribarren had trusted him "with the composition of all villancicos that have been sung over the last three years in this Holy Church of Malaga after giving them his approval". Like Iribarren he held this post until his death. He also composed a considerable number of works: about 50 compositions in Latin and 331 villancicos.

On the first disc three other composers are represented who all worked in Cádiz Cathedral. Francisco Delgado was maestro de capilla from 1759 to 1788, when he retired; only 14 of his compositions have been left. It was during his time in Cádiz that the Sieben Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze by Haydn were first performed. After his retirement he was succeeded by Juan Domingo Vidal who before had worked as chapel master in Sevilla. He held this post until his death. Of his oeuvre 199 compositions have been preserved, all on Latin texts.
Luis de Mendoza y Lagos was working as organist at Cádiz Cathedral from 1738 to 1798; only three compositions have been preserved, among them the Magnificat a 5 con violines.

The title of the first disc, "Poisonous snake", doesn't only derive from the first item on the programme, but has also relevance in regard to the style of the music recorded here. Music was considered an important tool to strengthen the faith of the people. But, as José Manuel Villarreal writes in his programme notes, "[like] a poisonous snake, music occasionally possessed arrogance, sensuality or irreverence that created discomfort within the Church. It finally led the Church to the point of creating edicts which opposed the interpretation of excessively theatrical compositions, which banned music that was too modern in style (the Italian style), and which forbade songs that were 'written in Guinean or Galician, or in other languages that only try to provoke laughter and disturbance; and other melodies that imitate the [secular] songs and awake their memory, should never be sung at the church or at the choir ...' Music could silently transform into a snake".

These discs show how little impact these edicts had on actual music making. All music was meant for ecclesiastical use, even the most exuberant villancicos, like Ezta noche lo neglillo by Iribarren which closes the first disc. This disc contains villancicos and cantatas on Spanish texts and liturgical music on Latin texts. There is a strong difference between these two catagories.

At the time the stile nuovo from Italy was spreading over the continent, Spanish composers were still writing in the stile antico. The last great representative of this style was Tomas Luis de Victoria. And when gradually influences from Italy found their way into Spain, it was particularly the polychoral style of the Gabrieli's in Venice which in Italy itself had largely gone out of fashion. The Latin pieces on the first disc all were written in the 18th century, and are rather close to the style of sacred music in Italy in the late 17th century: a combination of stile antico and baroque text expression. The Kyrie from the Misa a 5 con violines by Juan Domingo Vidal and the Magnificat a 5 con Violines by Luis de Mendoza y Lagos are both for 5 voices, but they are split into two 'choirs' as it were: one consists of the usual four voices (SATB), whereas the other is just one soprano. In particular in the Magnificat the solo soprano sings in dialogue with the four voices.
Laudate pueri Dominum is one of the Vesper psalms; the setting by Vidal is remarkable as he has only composed the even verses. This points into the direction of the alternatim practice, but here the addition of the odd verses in plainchant is made impossible by the composer as their are no breaks between the verses. The setting is for three voices: soprano, alto and tenor.
Francisco Delgado's setting of verses from Psalm 115 (116), Credidi, is for eight voices in which the tutti episodes are interspersed by short solos.

These works are perfectly in line with the edicts which were referred to before. But the pieces on Spanish texts are very different. Some of them are called cantadas, others villancicos, but there is little difference between these two: they all consist of recitatives and arias reflecting the Italian style which had begun to gain influence in Spain at the end of the 17th century. The cantatas by Iribarren are largely baroque in style, whereas Torrens' compositions reflect the classical style.

En es el poder del hombre by Iribarren consists of two pairs of recitatives and arias. The second recitative is a accompagnato which is followed by an aria in the style of a Vivaldian concerto depicting a storm at sea: "the gondola rushes, it's a full storm".
In Besubio soberano the aria refers to volcanos, flame and burning, which is reflected by the orchestral introduction in which the horns play a prominent role.
The second disc opens with Arde el furor intrepido, an area (aria) for soprano and orchestra, which is written in the style of an operatic 'rage aria'. The text begins with the phrase "Intrepid fury blazes of the audacious enemy, furious and obstinate, at seeing that the beneficient God gives his body to man".
The closing aria 'Llevando el poder' from the cantata Prosigue acorde lira is a kind of battle scene, with fanfare motifs in the strings (no trumpets are involved): "Taking the power conferred by that altar, when it is time to battle it will achieve defeat". There are some remakable harmonic progressions in this aria.
But is is not only extraverted stuff which is recorded here. Delizioso Clavel is written for the Immaculate Conception and has a much more intimate character, which explains the inclusion of a transverse flute in the scoring. It is a piece for soprano and alto, and so is the cantata which closes the second disc, Alegrese la tierra (Delighted be the earth).
The cantata for alto solo, A la messa del cielo and the duet Alegrese la tierra also show the more intimate side of Iribarren's oeuvre.

The music of Jayme Torrens clearly belongs to a different era, but is no less operatic. The piece which opens the first disc and has given it its title, Serpiente venenosa, is a real opera aria, including cadenzas, and elements in the text, referring to "the infernal dragon" are reflected in the music.
Guiados de una estrella, like all works by Torrens on the second disc, is called a villancico. It begins with recitativo accompagnato which is pretty much like a scene from a classical opera. It is followed by an aria of a lyrical character.
The aria from Soberano Señor is hardly different, containing virtuosic coloraturas. The recitative which opens O! adalid invencible begins as a secco recitative, but in the middle all of a sudden it turns into a recitativo accompagnato, which is followed by a lyrical aria which again is quite virtuosic. All arias by Torrens on the second disc have the character indication 'andante'.

The first disc ends with a a villancico de negros, a kind of piece one expects to find in Latin America. It is a very exuberant piece, with inflaming rhythms and performed here at high speed, with additional percussion instruments.

This villancico is given a brilliant performance, and that is indicative of the level of playing and singing on both dics. The star of the show is the soprano María Espada, who has a beautiful, clear and expressive voice, and who doesn't have any problems with the technical requirements of the arias, expecially those by Torrens. But she equally shines in the liturgical pieces in which she adapts admirably to the choir.
The Coro Barroco de Andalucía is very good as well, producing a very clear and transparent sound, despite its size of 25 singers. The two male altos, David Sagastume and José Hernández-Pastor, have a rather limited role, but their performances are technically immaculate and musically expressive. The orchestra plays an important role in the compositions of Iribarren and Torrent, and gives energetic and colourful performance, with great care of the rhythmic pulse which is so crucial in this repertoire.

The composers represented on these two discs have been unjustly neglected. These recordings show that they fully deserve to be rediscovered, performed and recorded. I can't imagine better interpretations than are given here.

Both discs contain informative programme notes in English translation, but only the second disc also provides translations of the lyrics.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

Relevant links:

Orquestra Barroca de Sevilla


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