musica Dei donum

CD reviews

"Yo Te Quiere Matare - Ministriles en Granada en el siglo XVI"

Ensemble La Danserye

rec: Dec 16 - 20, 2012, Granada, Iglesia de la Abadia del Sacromonte
Lindoro - NL-3019 (© 2013) (66'14")
Liner-notes: E/S
Cover & track-list

[La Esfera Sacra] Rodrigo DE CEBALLOS (c1525/30-1581): Benedictus a 4; Francisco GUERRERO (1528-1599): Ave Maria a 4; Benedictus a 4; Dixit Dominus Petro a 5; O Maria a 4; Cristóbal DE MORALES (c1500-1553): Inter vestibulum a 4; Veni Domine a 4; Juan DE URREDE (fl 1451-c1482): Pange lingua a 5, Quinta Boz, Morales;
[La Universidad] Thomas CRECQUILLON (c1505/15-1557): Prenez pitié a 4; Francisco GUERRERO: Christe potens rerum a 5; O quam super terram a 5; Pedro GUERRERO (c1520-?): O beata Maria a 4; Quinque prudentes virgines a 4; JOSQUIN DESPREZ (c1450/55-c1521): Lauda Sion [Je ne me puis tenir d'aimer] a 5; Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594): O invidia, nemica di virtute a 5; Pierre SANDRIN (c1490-after 1560): Doulce mémoire a 4
[El Ámbito Doméstico] anon: S'io fusse certo di levar per morte a 4; Jacques ARCADELT (c1507-1565): Il ciel che rado a 4; Thomas CRECQUILLON: Pane me ami duche a 4; Nicolas GOMBERT (c1495-c1560): J'ay congé prins a 4; Francisco GUERRERO: Mi ofensa es grande a 5; Orlandus LASSUS: Susanne ung jour a 5; Philippe VERDELOT (c1480/85-1530/32?): Madonna no so dir tante parole a 5
[Por las Calles y Plazas de la Ciudad] Jacobus CLEMENS non Papa (c1510/15-c1555/56): Ne sçauroit on trouver bom messaigier de France a 4; Thomas CRECQUILLON: Pour ung plaisir a 4; Francisco GUERRERO: Adíos mi amor a 5; No me podré quexar a 5; Se el mirar a 5; Subiendo amor a 5; Todos aman a 5; Lupus HELLINCK (c1494-1541): Ung jeune moine a 4; Pierre DE MANCHICOURT (c1510-1564): Yo te quiere matare a 4

Fernando Pérez Valera, recorder, (mute) cornett, sackbut, shawm, crumhorn; Juan Alberto Pérez Valera, recorder, (mute) cornett, shawm, bajoncillo; Luis Alfonso Pérez Valera, recorder, crumhorn, sackbut; Eduardo Pérez Valera, recorder, bajon, bajoncillo, shawm, crumhorn; Manuel Quesada Benítez, sackbut; José Menéndez Galván, recorder

In the 16th and 17th centuries many towns in Europe had their own instrumental ensemble. They are known as city waits in England, Ratsmusik and Stadtpfeifer in Germany. The ministriles which played a major role in the music scene in Spanish towns are comparable to them. Like their counterparts in other countries they played at official events of the town, but also in the homes of members of the upper echelons of society. In Spain they also participated in the liturgy. The present disc presents pieces from a number of sources, especially a manuscript known as Manuscrito 975 from the Biblioteco Manuel de Falla in Granada. This explains the subtitle of this disc. However, one may assume that the repertoire and performance practice in other towns was not fundamentally different.

This disc is important for a number of reasons. First, the repertoire. The programme is divided into four sections: the church, the University, the domestic sphere and the streets and squares. The repertoire in the first section is exclusively sacred: motets and sections from masses. Interestingly the performers have found instrumental versions of pieces whose original vocal versions are unknown, such as O Maria by Guerrero. There is little certainty as to exactly when and how wind bands were involved in the liturgy. If they played a role they could either support the voices - playing colla voce - or substitute them.

The second section includes music which could have been played during festivities of the university - founded in 1526 by Charles V - and at the occasion of graduation ceremonies. The university's statutes of 1542 make mention of the participation of ministriles. "The wind bands performed from the windows of the University cloister, as well as at Vespers, at Masses as in processions for which they generally rode horseback" (booklet). The various roles explain the mixture of sacred and secular pieces in this section.

The third chapter is devoted to music played in domestic surroundings. It doesn't come as a surprise when Juan Ruiz Jiménez writes in his liner-notes that "[music] in private homes is the least well-known". Obviously this was not well documented and there are only hints of what might have been played and at what kind of occasions. Jiménez refers to documents which attest to musical activities in the house of the Count and Countess of Tendilla, the Marquis and Marquise of Mondéjar, including the presence of ministriles. It is also mentioned that the wind band of the Cathedral was given permission to attend the "banquet of His Lord, Don Juan of Austria". It seems likely that wind bands also played in theatres but hardly anything is known about their role. In this section we hear only secular music.

That is also the case in the last section: music for the streets and squares. This is not so much about playing to entertain the people in the streets but rather about music played at specific public occasions. "[Institutions] and nobility presented themselves to their fellow citizens in the company of wind bands who acted as heraldic representatives or helped to convey a greater sense of ceremonial solemnity with their processional parading". This is in line with what we know about the role of music across Europe: it was a way to show power and status. Again it is not known exactly what kind of music was played at such occasions. Here only secular music is performed, but I could imagine that sacred music was also part of the repertoire. Let us not forget that in Spain religion was very much a part of everyday life, and not just something boxed up within the walls of the church.

The second reason why this disc is important is the way the repertoire is adapted for an ensemble of wind instruments. We are in the renaissance, and at that time very little music was specifically written for an instrumental ensemble, except dances. Instrumentalists mostly played vocal music and arranged them for their instrument, often extempore. The latter was impossible for an instrumental ensemble which explains collections with arrangements for a group of instruments. The programme includes many pieces which were well known across Europe, such as Doulce mémoire by Pierre Sandrin and Susanne ung jour by Lassus. The way a piece was adapted could strongly differ from one piece to the other. In the liner-notes Jiménez mentions that some of the pieces are shortened, omitting a repetition called for by the original text. Sometimes the original cadence is replaced by a new and shorter one. Moreover, an instrumental performance is different from a vocal interpretation as the text doesn't play any role. It is an interesting question as to what extent the players knew what the original piece was about and whether the content or even the text still played some role and influenced the performance.

There is a third reason why I label this disc as important: the considerations in regard to performance practice. The interpreters have thoroughly studied the available material about this issue, and I am impressed by their meticulous research. I mention one aspect: the use of iconographic evidence. Too often paintings or drawings are used as evidence for decisions in regard to performance practice. The notes on performance practice in the booklet - more than three densely printed pages! - rightly warn for too hasty conclusions: "[One] must be cautious (...) and make sure the images represent real scenes from real life and are not simply symbolic allegories". I refer here to what was written before about the role of music as a form of representation. The ensemble's research is especially important in regard to the line-up of the various consorts. The recorders and crumhorns are used here only as a whole consort: both instruments were built in various sizes and tessituras. They are never played in ensembles with cornetts, sackbuts and dulcians. These instruments are played here in the form of a broken consort, for instance with three shawms and two sackbuts (Juan de Urede, Pange lingua), one cornett, two shawms and two sackbuts (Francesco Guerrero, O quam super terram) or one cornett, one sackbut and two dulcians (Gombert, J'ay congé prins).

Another issue is the difference of instrumental combinations between the sections of a single piece. I am inclined to be sceptical about this as I feel that it breaks up its unity. But it seems to have been practised, as can be concluded from an edict by Francisco Guerrero for Seville Cathedral of 1586 which is quoted in the booklet. Other issues are the application of ornamentation, musica ficta and the choice of tempo. As far as the latter is concerned, it is concluded from the sources that a strict tempo was observed, without slowing down in the final cadence.

This is all fascinating stuff and I urge anyone to read these pages in the booklet carefully. It could well be that what has been found in Spanish sources can also be applied to instrumental music as it might have been performed elsewhere in Europe.

I almost forgot to tell how the music sounds and how the ensemble plays. Well, the repertoire is very interesting and of excellent quality. All the composers represented here belong to the best of their time, and the arrangements are excellently made. The Ensemble La Danserye is an outstanding group of highly-skilled musicians. They deliver more than an hour of brilliant and engaging music-making.

I can only strongly recommend this disc and express the hope that we will hear much more from this ensemble in the near future.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

Relevant links:

Ensemble La Danserye

CD Reviews