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Tomás Luis DE VICTORIA (1548 - 1611): "La Fiesta de Pascua en Piazza Navona"

La Grande Chapelle
Dir: Albert Recasens

rec: Sept 20 - 23, 2011 & Jan 7 - 8, 2012, Antwerp, AMUZ
Lauda - LAU012 (2 CDs) (© 2012) (1.45'07")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/S; lyrics - translations: E/F/S
Cover & track-list

[in order of appearance]
[S. Giacomo degli Spagnoli - Matins and Lauds] Ruggiero GIOVANELLI (c1560-1625): Jubilate Deo, omnis terra a 8 [16]; Jacobus DE KERLE (1531/32-1591): Domine, quid multiplicati sunt a 5 [4]; Giovanni Pierluigi DA PALESTRINA (1525/26-1594): Haec dies quam fecit Dominus a 8; Tomás Luis DE VICTORIA: Tantum ergo a 5 [14]
[Piazza Navona - Procession] Cesare BENDINELLI (?-1617): Fantarria [18]; Tomäs Luis DE VICTORIA: Surrexit pastor bonus a 6 [5]; Giovanni (Serafino) RAZZI (1531-1611): Christo ver'huom'e Dio a 3 [1]; Tomás Luis DE VICTORIA / Giovanni Pierluigi DA PALESTRINA: Ad caenam agni providi a 4/5 [11/15]; Tomás Luis DE VICTORIA: Ardens est cor meum a 6 [8]; Fernando DE LAS INFANTAS (1534-c1610): Victimae paschali laudes a 6 [10]; Giovanni Matteo ASOLA (1532 or earlier-1609) / Tomás Luis DE VICTORIA: Jesu, nostra redemptio a 4 [12/11]; Rocco RODIO (c1535-after 1615): Ricercata La mi re fa mi re [7]; Giovanni Pierluigi DA PALESTRINA: Espurgate vetus fermentum a 8; Cesare BENDINELLI: Fanfarria [18]
[S. Giacomo degli Spagnoli - Mass, Vespers and Compline] Jacobus DE KERLE: Te Deum laudamus a 6 [6]; Bernardo CLAVIGO del Castillo (c1545-1626): Tiento de 2° tono por Gsolreut; Tomás Luis DE VICTORIA: O sacrum convivium a 4 [5]; Giovanni Pierluigi DA PALESTRINA (?): Victimae paschali laudes a 8; Francisco GUERRERO (1528-1599): Si tus penas no pruebo a 3 [13]; Giovanni ANIMUCCIA (c1520-1571): Christus resurgens a 5 [3]; Giovanni Luca CONFORTI (c1560-1608): In exitu [17]; Giovanni Pierluigi DA PALESTRINA: Crucem sanctam subiit a 5 [2]; anon: Anima mia, che pensi? a 3 [9]; Tomás Luis DE VICTORIA: Regina caeli a 8 [8]

Sources: [1] Serafino Razzi, ed., Libro primo delle laude spirituali ..., 1563; [2] Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Liber primus Ioannis Petraloisii Praenestini mottettorum ..., 1569; [3] Giovanni Animuccia, Il secondo libro delle laudi ..., 1570; [4] Jacobus de Kerle, Selectae quaedam cantiones sacrae modis musicis ..., 1571; [5] Tomás Luis de Victoria, Motectae, quae partim quaternis, partim quinis, alia senis, alia octonis vocibus ..., 1572; [6] Jacobus de Kerle, Liber motettorum, quatuor et quinque vocum ..., 1573; [7] Rocco Rodio, Libro di ricercate a quattro voci ..., 1575; [8] Tomás Luis de Victoria, Liber primus qui missas, psalmos, Magnificat, ad Virginem Dei matrem salutationes ..., 1576; [9] Francisco Soto de Langa, ed., Il terzo libro delle laudi spirituali ..., 1577; [10] Fernando de las Infantas, Sacrarum varii styli cantionum tituli Spiritus Sancti. Liber tertius ..., 1579; [11] Tomás Luis de Victoria, Hymni totius anni ..., 1581; [12] Giovanni Matteo Asola, Falsi bordoni per cantar salmi in quattro ordini ..., 1582; [13] Francisco Soto de Langa, ed., Il secondo libro delle laudi spirituali ..., 1583; [14] Tomás Luis de Victoria, Motectae, quae partim quaternis, partim quinis, alia senis, alia octonis, alia duodenis vocibus ..., 1583; [15] Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Hymni totius anni ..., 1589; [16] Ruggiero Giovanelli, Sacrarum modulationum, quas vulgo motecta appellant ..., 1593; [17] Giovanni Luca Conforti, Salmi passaggiati sopra tutti i toni ..., 1601-1603; [18] Cesare Bendinelli, Tutta l'arte della trombetta, 1614

Ingeborg Dalheim, Lisa Magrini, Helen Neeves, soprano; David Allsopp, Patrick Craig, Gabriel Díaz Cuesta, Christopher Field, alto; Jan Van Elsacker, Gerardo López Gámez, Nicholas Mulroy, Simon Wall, tenor; Greg Skidmore, baritone; Jesús García Aréjula, Javier Jiménez Cuevas, Richard Savage, bass; Bart Coen, recorder; Siegfried Koch, Heinrich Bruckner, Bernhard Mühringer, cornett, trumpet; Otmar Gaiswinkler, Hans Peter Gaiswinkler, Johannes Fuchshuber, sackbut; Keith McGowan, dulcian; Isabel Schau, violin; Margaret Urquhart, violone; Jacob Heringman, David Miller, lute; Herman Stinders, organ

In 1559 the peace treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis was signed between France and Spain, bringing their war about the control of the Italian peninsula to an end. As a result Habsburg Spain became the dominant power in the southern part of Europe. A large part of Italy came under Spanish control, including Milan and Naples. The pope was Spain's natural ally, which explains the strong Spanish presence in Rome. The Castilian immigrant community promoted the cult of the apostle St James the Greater who was the patron saint of Spain. They had their own church, the S. Giacomo degli Spagnoli, situated at the Piazza Navona. This square was used for processions the first of which is documented in 1492.

It was the Confraternita della Santissima Resurrezione degli Spagnoli which played a central role in religious celebrations of the Spanish population of Rome.This was a lay confraternity which received papal approval in 1579. Its aim was to unite the various Spanish nationalities. "Easter Sunday was its patronal feast and the confraternity erected a chapel of the Resurrection at S. Giacomo as well as taking over organisation of the pre-dawn procession which was already taking place. (...) By celebrating on Easter morning the Spaniards were associating themselves with the most solemn feastday in the church's calendar and using it for their own propaganda purposes. Pageants and tableaux in the Piazza showed the triumph of Christ over hell and heresy, highlighting Spain's role as the champion of Catholicism and guarantor of papal authority in Catholic Europe" (booklet).

This recording's purpose is to present a sequence of compositions which might have been heard in the church and around the square during the 1580s. The selection of music was inspired by the composers who are known to have participated in the celebrations, and the music prints which were held in S. Giacomo. The choices are extensively justified in the liner-notes, written by Noel O'Regan. The central figure is Tomás Luis de Victoria who was a member of the Confraternita at least from 1583 and whose activities as such are documented for the years 1583 and 1584. "While the Confraternity's archives do not record who was responsible for organising the music for the Easter procession in these two years, it is quite likely that it was Victoria".

In this recording a considerable number of singers and players are involved. This is justified by the pomp of the Easter celebrations as described in the liner-notes. A description from 1592 mentions five groups of musicians placed on five balconies around the square. The description is illustrated by an engraving which shows four trumpeters leading the procession. It is quite possible that even more musicians were involved than take part in the present recording.

This is no complete reconstruction: it only presents some specimens of the music which could have been performed. For instance, the last section includes music for Mass, Vespers and Completes, but no mass or even mass sections are performed. The track-list shows some well-known texts which have been set many times through the ages, such as Victimae paschali laudes, Tantum ergo and Regina caeli. Not every piece is specifically related to Christ's resurrection, such as the Te Deum. Such pieces could be sung at various occasions. The same goes for Eucharistic motets, like O sacrum convivium and Ego sum panis vivus. These were appropriate as "the main focus of the Easter morning procession was the Blessed Sacrament, paraded round the Piazza (...)". A particular noteworthy part of this recording is the inclusion of two laude spirituali. This was the kind of music which was sung at the meetings of the laudesi, fraternities founded in the 13th century. These were pieces with a text in the vernacular and with the texture of stanzas and a refrain. They are performed here with one voice per part. Several pieces are reflecting the alternatim practice. In some cases the verses are performed in turn in settings by two composers (Ad caenam agni providi) or in alternation of polyphony and either plainchant or simple fauxbourdon settings. Various motets or verses from motets are performed instrumentally.

A recording like this may be speculative as far as the selection of music is concerned - the liner-notes don't suggest otherwise -, but it gives us a very good insight in the liturgical and extra-liturgical religious practices at a particular place in a particular time. These practices explain the size and the variety of the repertoire which was written at the time and of which only a small portion has come down to us. It also puts motets and other compositions in an appropriate context. For practical reasons the performance of masses and sequences of motets in a concert is anything but 'authentic', albeit largely unavoidable. However, it is exactly because such 'reconstructions' are too complicated for a conventional concert setting that recordings such as this one are so valuable.

The value of this production is even enhanced by the inclusion of pieces by composers who are largely forgotten today. The programme begins with the motet Jubilate Deo, omnis terra by Ruggiero Giovanelli. He was a contemporary of Victoria from Rome and probably a pupil of Palestrina. In 1594 he succeeded him as maestro di cappella of the Cappella Giulia at S. Pietro and became a singer in the Cappella Sistina in 1599. Jacobus de Kerle isn't a household name either; he was one of the last representatives of the Franco-Flemish school. He stayed some years in Rome, but considerable time before the time this 'reconstruction' is situated. The liner-notes don't tell whether his music performed here was part of the archive of S. Giacomo. Fernando de las Infantas was a Spanish composer and theologian who lived in Rome from 1572 until around 1597. Giovanni Matteo Asola also never worked in Rome; here the faux-bourdon settings in Victoria's Jesu, nostra redemptio are taken from his collection of 1582.

Probably the most noticeable item in the programme is the psalm In exitu Israel by Giovanni Luca Conforti. He was a falsettist, presumably the best in Rome. He was reputed for adding elaborate passaggi while singing, and from 1601-1603 three volumes with Salmi passaggiati was printed, from which this piece has been taken. His name appears regularly in the lists of performers which were hired for major feastday celebrations. Conforti's In exitu Israel is not sung but played at the violin; "its inclusion here is intended as a homage to the virtuoso violinist Giovanni Battista Jommelli who was in charge of Easter music in 1579." Fair enough, but I would like to see some evidence that this kind of performances were practised as early as the 1580s.

This description should give a fairly good idea of what to expect from this production. In recent years I have reviewed several recordings by La Grande Chapelle. These were all very interesting in regard to repertoire, and often included unfamiliar or even completely unknown repertoire. It cannot be appreciated enough when performers are willing to avoid well-trodden paths and explore the unknown. The music on this disc shows that there is still much to be discovered. The little-known composers on this disc deserve to be paid attention. The performances are up to the high standard Albert Recasens has set over the years. The ensemble of singers is once again outstanding: they all have nice voices which produce a beautiful sound and blend perfectly. They sing with great sensitivity and find the right approach to this repertoire. The solo singers in the laude and the villanesca by Guerrero are fine as well. The instrumental pieces are brilliantly played, especially the Fanfarrie by Cesare Bendinelli.

The discography includes many more recordings with music for Christmas or for Passiontide than for Easter. That makes this production even more worthwhile. This is an exciting release which should be on the wish list of every lover of renaissance music.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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