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"En mi amor tal ausencia - Amor y desamor en los tonos de José Marín (1618-1699)"

Música Ficta

rec: Sept 26 - Oct 1, 2018, Chíquiza (Boyacó, Co.), Iglesia doctrinera de San Isidro Labrador
Lindoro - NL-3046 (© 2020) (61'21")
Liner-notes: E/ES; lyrics - translations: E
Cover & track-list

anon: Folías de Espanya; José MARÍN (1618-1699): Ay, Dios, qué dulce mal; Canta jilguerillo; De amores y de ausencias; De la Sierra Morena; Del amor las mudanzas de Menga; Oh, cómo pasan los años; Qué importa la muerte ya; Si quieres vivir; Viuda tórtola del Tajo; Ya, desengaño mío; Santiago DE MURCIA (1673-1739): Jácaras francesas; Lucas RUIZ DE RIBAYAZ (1626-1677): Danza del hacha [2]; Gran duque [de Florencia] [2]; Xácaras por primer tono [2]; Gaspar SANZ (1640-1710): Españoletas por la D [1]; Pasacalles par la cruz [1]

Sources: [1] Gaspar Sanz, Instrucción de música sobre la guitarra española y método de sus primeros rudimentos hasta tañerla con destreza, 16743; [2] Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz, Luz y norte musical para caminar por las cifras de la guitarra española y arpa, tañer, y cantar a compás por canto de órgano; y breve explicación del arte, 1677

Jairo Serrano, tenor, guitar, percussion; Carlos Serrano, recorder; Regina Albanez, theorbo, jarana; Julián Navarro, guitar, jarana

One of the main genres of Spanish secular music of the 17th century was the tono humano, a song for solo voice and basso continuo. Whereas composers still continued to write in the stile antico in sacred music, the repertoire of tonos humanos documents the growing influence of the Italian style in secular music, in particular that of the monody. One of the main sources of tonos humanos is the so-called Manoscritto Guerra, whose title is derived from José Miguel de Guerra, scribe of the Royal Chapel from 1677 to shortly after 1680. The composers of these songs are not mentioned, but a number of them could be identified through comparison with other sources. Two of Spain's main composers of secular music of the time, Juan Hidalgo and José Marín, are represented in this collection with a number of songs. The present disc focuses on the latter of them.

Marín was closely associated with the court during the early stages of his life. From 1644 to 1649 he sang as a tenor in the royal chapel of Felipe IV. Apparently he was highly respected, as in 1648 his salary was substantially increased. He went to Rome to be ordinated a priest, and also visited the Indies. Those visits were not voluntary, as he was accused of criminal offenses. Whether there was any truth in that has remained unclear. Sebastián Léon, in his liner-notes, refers to "possible slander or jealousy". Marín returned to Spain in 1656, and then was accused of robbery and murder. "After several months of severe penitence and torture, he was exiled, confined and shackled in an abysmal and miniscule dungeon". Apparently it did not harm his reputation as a composer. The Gazeta de Madrid of 17 March 1699 reported his death "at the age of 80", stating that he was "known within and outside Spain for his rare ability in the composition and performance of music" (New Grove).

Marín's oeuvre comprises almost exclusively secular music, in particular tonos humanos. Two songs are settings of sacred texts. Most of his songs are included in the so-called Cancionero de Marín; they are for voice and five-course guitar. Some of the songs are original compositions, others are Marín's arrangements of pre-existing songs. Tonos humanos usually consisted of several stanzas and a refrain. That also goes for most of the songs included here. The lyrics are mostly about love, including its trials and tribulations, and sometimes make use of images from nature, such as the turtledove (Viuda tórtola del rajo) or the goldfinch (Canta jilguerillo). Now and then Marín uses harmonic means to express the text. There is some chromaticism in the refrain of De la Sierra Morena ("Woe to him who out of his senses is far from happiness and close to gloom") and in Si quieres vivir ("[that moaning and sighing] seem to hearten death"). Ay, Dios, que dúlce mal seems to be one of Marín's sacred tonos: "Oh God, what sweet evil to die for worship! But if I deserve this ailment, I seek no other delight". The lyrics show a mixture of sacred and secular elements.

Considering that the songs are intended for voice and five-course guitar, the performers have taken quite some liberties in their interpretation. Most songs are accompanied by more than one plucked instrument; often guitar and theorbo play together. According to the liner-notes, the latter emphasizes "the gravitas and nostalgia of amorous lamentations". In some of the songs a recorder is involved, which plays introductions and interludes, and in one case plays the last line of the closing refrain colla voce. Unfortunately, the reasons for its involvement are not discussed in the booklet.

The songs are alternated with instrumental pieces, most of which were written for guitar and are mostly performed in arrangements here. That is the case, for instance, with the Xácaras por primer tono by Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz, played here by recorder, guitar and jarana. The latter instrument belongs to the guitar family and has five double courses of strings. Santiago de Murcia's Jácaras francesas is even played at the soprano recorder, without accompaniment. The only original piece for recorder (or another treble instrument?) seems the anonymous Folías de Espanya.

A few years ago I reviewed two discs with songs by Juan de Navas. I assessed them positively, and my impressions of this ensemble from Colombia are confirmed here. Jairo Serrano has a nice, light and agile voice, which is perfectly suited to the songs by Marín. The slight tremolo I noticed, is still there, but it didn't really bother me. The fact that he is a native speaker, does help a lot to lend his performances a strong sense of 'authenticity'. The instrumentalists do a great job, supporting the singer and also emphasizing the rhythms in the songs and the instrumental pieces. As León states in his liner-notes, the dance is never far away in this repertoire. That comes off very well here.

In recent years a series of recordings devoted to the above-mentioned Manoscritto Guerra have been released by Naxos (see reviews of 'The Guerra Manuscript' on this site). This disc is a valuable addition to those recordings, focusing on one of the main and most brilliant composers of tonos humanos, a genre that rightly receives the attention it deserves.

Johan van Veen (© 2021)

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