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Matheo ROMERO (c1575 - 1647): "Romerico florido"

Cappella Mediterranea; Clematis
Dir: Leonardo García-Alarcón

rec: July 2010, Beaufays, Église Saint-Jean l'évangeliste
Ricercar - RIC 308 (© 2010) (61'01")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/S; lyrics - translations: E/D/F
Cover & tracklist

A la dulce risa del alva, folía a 4; Aquella hermosa aldeana, romance a 4; ¡Ay, qué me muero de zelos, letrilla a 3; Caiase de un espino, romance a 4; Coraçon, ¿donde estuvistes?, cancíon a 3; En este inbierno frío, cancíon a 3; En una playa amena, cancíon a 3; Entre dos mansos arroyos, romance a 4; Fatigada navecilla, romance a 4; Hermosas y enjojadas; Las eridas de Medoro; Pescador, que das al mar a 4; Romerico florido, folía a 2; Volarás, pensamiento mío, cancíon a 3

Sources: [CM] Mariana Flores, Capucine Keller, soprano; Fabían Schofrin, alto; Fernando Guimarães, tenor
[Cl] Tatiana Babut du Marès, recorder; Rodrigo Calveyra, recorder, cornett; Stéphanie de Failly, violin; François Joubert-Caillet, treble & tenor viol; Lucile Boulanger, alto viol; Margaux Blanchard, bass viol; Marie Bournisien, chromatic harp; Thomas Dunford, Vincent Flückiger, vihuela; Thierry Gomar, percussion; Léonardo García-Alarcón, organ

Until the end of the 16th century the music scene in Europe was dominated by composers from the Franco-Flemish school. That came to an end with the emergence of the seconda prattica around 1600. That new style wasn't immediately embraced everywhere and by everyone. It is generally assumed that in Spain the stile antico of composers like Palestrina and Victoria remained in vogue considerably longer than elsewhere.

Matheo Romero was the last representative of the Franco-Flemish school in Spain. He was born as Mathieu Rosmarin in Liège in the Southern Netherlands. Nothing is known about his musical education and about the composers who taught him the principles of counterpoint. Around 1585 he left Liège for Madrid, where he joined the Capilla flamenca which at the time was under the direction of Philippe Rogier. In 1594 he was promoted to the ranks of the adult singers. In Spain he was known as Matheo Romero and soon he received the nickname Maestro Capitán which is used in several manuscripts. After the death of Philippe Rogier in 1596 the Capilla flamenca went into decline. When King Philip III ascended the throne he appointed Romero as the new maestro de capilla. Romero also became the music teacher of Prince Philip, the future King Philip IV, teaching him the vihuela and composition. When he ascended the throne in 1621 Romero was given the title of Clerk in the Order of the Golden Fleece.

In Romero's oeuvre the remains of the stile nuovo figured alongside elements of the new style which had come into existence in Italy. The latter is mainly present in Romero's secular works. A large part of these compositions have been included in the so-called Cancionero de la Sablonara, which is now preserved in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich. Considering Romero's reputation and the quality of his extant music it must be greatly regretted that many of his works have been lost in the earthquake which hit Lisbon in 1755 (King João IV acquired many of Romero's compositions) and the fire in the royal palace in Madrid in 1734.

This disc is devoted to Romero's secular works, referred to as romance, canción, folía and letrilla. Most of them are strophic, often with a refrain. In the first half of the programme we find many pieces with a more popular character, with the rhythms which are so characteristic of Spanish music, for instance the villancicos. The second half includes several pieces which show strong Italian influence, in particular the madrigal, with its word-painting and generally closer connection between text and music than the stile nuovo allowed. En este inbierno frío is a telling example, whereas En una playa amena is a piece for a solo voice and shows the influence of the Italian monody. This makes Romero an interesting figure on the verge of the stile antico and the stile nuovo. This could serve to modify the general view of Spanish resistance against the influence of the modern Italian fashion.

Léonardo García-Alarcón is of Argentinian birth and therefore has a good feel for the repertoire on this disc. This results in engaging and dazzling performances of the more exuberant pieces. But the more introverted, madrigalian compositions come off equally well. The four singers have very nice voices, and that goes in particular for Mariana Flores whose performances are spot-on. It is just a shame that she is a little too dominant in the ensemble pieces, overshadowing in particular Fabían Schofrin, who gives a beautiful performance of En una playa amena. The instrumentalists are their equals; the two instrumental items are brilliantly played.

To sum up, this disc is historically revealing and musically captivating. It would be desirable if Romero's oeuvre would be further explored.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

Relevant links:

Cappella Mediterranea

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