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Antonio DE CABEZÓN (1510 - 1566): Obras de Musica

Doulce Mémoire
Dir: Denis Raisin Dadre

rec: Oct 2011, Fontevraud, Abbaye (réfectoire)
Ricercar - RIC 335 (© 2013) (64'16")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - no translations
Cover, track-list & booklet
Cabezón, Tablature

Antonio DE CABEZÓN: Anchor che vol partire (Rore) [4]; Ardente miei sospiri (Verdelot) [4]; Diferencias sobre el canto de La Dama la demanda [4]; Diferencias sobre el canto del cavallero [4]; Diferencias sobre la Gallarda Milanesa [4]; Dormendo un giorno (Verdelot) [4]; Duuiensela (Sermisy) [4]; Je prens en gre la douce mort II (Crecquillon) [4]; Je prens en gre la dure mort I (Crecquillon) [4]; Pour un plaisir (Crecquillon) [4]; Prenez pitié (Crecquillon) [4]; Qui la dira la peine de mon coeur (Willaert) [4]; Susanne ung jour (Lassus) [4]; Ultimi miei sospiri (Verdelot) [4]; Un gay bergier (Crecquillon) [4]; Hernando DE CABEZÓN (1541-1602): Doulce mémoire (Sandrin) [4]; Thomas CRECQUILLON (c1505-1557): Je prens en gre la dure mort; Prenez pitié [3]; Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594): Susanne ung jour; Claudin DE SERMISY (c1490-1562): Dont vient cela; Philippe VERDELOT (c1480/85-1530/32?): Ultimi miei sospiri [2]; Adrian WILLAERT (1490?-1562): Qui la dira la peine de mon coeur [1]

Sources: [1] Adrian Willaert, La courone et fleur des chansons a troys, 1536; [2] Philippe Verdelot, La più divina et più bella musica che se udisse giamai delli presenti madrigali, 1541; [3] Thomas Crecquillon, Le tiers livre de chansons, 1544; [4] Antonio de Cabezón, Obras de musica para tecla, arpa y vihuela, 1578

Clara Coutouly, soprano; Denis Raisin Dadre, Johanne Maître, Jérémie Papasergio, recorder, bassoon; Elsa Frank, recorder, shawm, bassoon; Judith Pacquier, cornett; Franck Poitrineau, sackbut; Angélique Mauillon, harp; Pascale Boquet, lute, guitar; Elisabeth Geiger, spinet

In ancient times there was a close connection between economic prosperity and political power on the one hand and the flowering of the arts on the other. That certainly goes for Spain in the 16th century or, rather, the Spanish branch of the Habsburg empire. This not only comprised Spain, but also the Spanish colonies in the Americas. It is the time that some of the most renowned masters in Spanish music history were active, such as Antonio de Cabezón and Diego Ortiz, confining ourselves to instrumental music.

Cabezón is considered one of the greatest keyboard players of his time, and certainly the greatest in Spain. He entered the service of the royal court and was the favourite musician of Philip II who took him on his travels across Europe, including England. This way he influenced composers outside of Spain, for instance William Byrd and Thomas Tallis, as has been suggested. We know his works only from one collection which was published by his son Hernando in 1578, twelve years after Antonio's death. Hernando points out that this was only part of his father's output, and these works were given to his pupils to study. From this we can conclude that the Obras de Musica is a pedagogical work which is also reflected by the fact that "Cabezón's pieces are arranged in order of difficulty", as Jérôme Lejeune states in his liner-notes.

Cabezón was a keyboard player which means that these pieces are first and foremost intended for keyboard instruments: the organ, the harpsichord and the spinet. However, in the 16th century the repertoire for keyboard instruments was largely interchangeable with music for either harp or plucked instruments, in Spain mainly the vihuela. That is expressed in the title of Cabezón's collection: para tecla, arpa e vihuela. In this recording a selection of pieces is played on wind instruments.

Many towns across Europe had their own ensembles of wind players. In England these were called the town waits, in Germany the Stadtpfeifer and in Spain the ministriles. The latter participated in the liturgy and also performed at ceremonial occasions and in public places as well as the homes of the rich and powerful. Their repertoire was varied, from (arrangements of) sacred works, variations on popular tunes to dance music. This disc focuses on the second category.

Variations - called diferencias or glosas - were a specially popular category in the repertoire of the ministriles. They took well-known tunes - motets, chansons or madrigals, often sung and played across Europe - and added ornaments to the various voices. There were several forms. A piece could be performed by one singer, performing the upper voice with improvised ornaments, whereas the remaining parts were played by instruments. Vocal items could also be performed purely instrumentally, and in that case every single player could add his own ornaments. Obviously such ornaments could not be added extempore; this explains collections with instrumental versions of vocal works. Some of these were recorded by the Ensemble La Danserye.

Cabezón's Obras de Musica includes a large number of such arrangements. But these were intended for single chordal instruments. Playing them with an ensemble of instruments causes a specific problem. In Cabezón's arrangements "it was (...) sometimes necessary to interrupt certain voices of the polyphony in order to free enough fingers to play the ornamental figurations. The realisations on melody instruments performed here by Doulce Mémoire therefore necessitated a reconstruction of the pieces; to preserve the melodic continuity of all the voices, the ensemble returned to the original works and inserted Cabezón's ornamental figurations at the relevant moments". If we want to be petty we could say that the ensemble plays its own arrangements of the chansons and madrigals and makes use, if possible, of Cabezón's ornamentation. That doesn't reduce the value of this disc.

At that time there was no clear boundary between various instruments or combinations of instruments. The music of Cabezón is pretty well known but it is usually played on the keyboard and sometimes on the harp. This disc approaches his music from a different angle and the performance practice as such seems in line with what was common at the time. That also goes for the line-up of the ensemble which basically follows the same principles as the Ensemble La Danserye. The recorders are played in consort and don't mix with the loud wind instruments, such as cornet, shawm and sackbut. Especially interesting is that we also hear the bassoon as a consort instrument, from soprano to bass.

It was also a nice idea to insert some of the chansons and madrigals which Cabezón arranged. These are also performed in another way than we mostly hear them. These are all polyphonic pieces in which all the parts are equally important. Here we hear them with a soprano singing the upper voice and the other parts taken by various chordal instruments: harp, lute and spinet.

This is a nice supplement to the disc of the Ensemble La Danserye I referred to. The performance practice is largely the same, but Doulce Mémoire explores a different source. This helps to create a more complete picture of what was an important part of music life in the 16th century. The performances are of the highest order, and Clara Coutouly deserves praise for the way she sings the vocal items.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

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