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"La viola d'arc a la Corona d'Aragó" (The 'vihuela de arco' in the reign of Aragon)

Cantar alla Viola

rec: April 6 - 9, 2010, Altafulla (Tarragona), Ermita de St. Antoni
La ma de guido - LMG 2097 (© 2010) (59'51")
Liner-notes: E/Cat/Cast; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

anon: Benedicamus IX (Benedicamus Domino)a [1]; Benedicamus XIV (Haec est mater)a [1]; Como puedo yo bivera [3]; Dime Robadoraa [3]; No soy yo quien veis bivira [3]; Para verme con venturaa [3]; Que es de tí, desconsoladoa [3]; Que todos se passan en floresa [3]; Si la noche haze escuraa [3]; Un dolor tengo en el almaa [3]; Antonio de CABEZÓN (1510-1566): Fabordón del ler tono llano y Glosado en las voces intermedias; Fabordón del 5° tono llano; Fabordón del 1er tono llano y Glosado en el tiple; Juan DEL ENCINA (1468-1529/30): Es la causa bien amara; Más vale trocara; No se puede llamar fea; Luis MILÁN (c1500-after 1560): Romance de Morianaa; Diego ORTIZ (c1510-c1570): La España [2]; Luis VENEGAS DE HENESTROSA (c1510-1570): Ave maris stellaa [4]; O gloriosa dominaa [4]; Pange linguaa [4]

[1] Codex Las Huelgas, 13th C; [2] Diego Ortiz, Trattado de glosas, 1553; [3] Cançoner d'Upsala, 1556; [4] Luis Venegas de Henestrosa, Libro de cifra nueva, 1557

Nadine Balbeisi, sopranoa; Fernando Marín, vihuela de arco

In 2004 Harmonia mundi released a disc with motets and mass sections by Tomás Luis de Victoria, adapted for lute and voice, performed by Carlos Mena (alto) and Juan Carlos Rivera (lute and vihuela). Such adaptations were common practice at the time, but go back much further in time as this disc by Cantar alla Viola shows. The repertoire includes music from the 13th (Huelgas Codex) to the 16th century. It is not a plucked instrument, but rather the vihuela de arco, in English known as fiddle and as vielle in French. Although it can be plucked, it is usually bowed as in most pieces on this disc.

Most repertoire of the renaissance is polyphonic. That doesn't mean that all parts were always sung; performances with one or two singers and the other parts being played on one chordal instrument or some melody instruments were quite common. The pieces performed here are different in that the number of parts has been mostly reduced. Moreover, the upper part is sung with ornaments, according to the practice of the time. The programme is extended with pieces for the vihuela de arco alone, based on vocal models or dances.

Considering that the vihuela is first mentioned in 15th-century sources the choice of some pieces from the Huelgas Codex seems questionable. The largest part of the programme includes pieces which are usually performed with an ensemble of voices and instruments, for instance the repertoire which is preserved in the various cançoneras. These contain on texts in the vernacular; the composers are mostly anonymous. On this disc pieces are taken from the Cançonera d'Upsala which was printed in Venice in 1556 and which, according to its title, contains villancicos by various authors.

There are some pieces which are written as instrumental arrangements of vocal items, such as the motets which were arranged by Cabezón and then adapted by Luis Venegas de Henestrosa in his book with tablatures of 1557. In this recording the cantus firmus is sung; whether it is ornamented in the original or by Nadine Balbeisi isn't made clear in the liner-notes.

It requires a great agility from the singer which Ms Balbeisi has in abundance. She also has a wide tessitura, as is shown by two pieces which follow each other. In Que todos se passan en flores she uses the lower range of her voice, whereas in Si la noche haze escura she explores the upper part of her range. Through the whole compass her voice is remarkably strong and flexible, and the text is always clearly audible. Fernando Marín delivers colourful realisations of the instrumental part, both in the accompaniments and in the solo pieces.

This is a very fine disc of a remarkable ensemble which regularly comes up with uncommon repertoire and whose interpretational approach is always interesting and challenging. Anyone who loves Spanish music should look for this disc, and for those who have a general interest in renaissance music it gives an interesting view on the performance practice of the time.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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