musica Dei donum

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Juan García DE SALAZAR (1639 - 1710): Liturgical music

[I] "Complete Vespers of Our Lady"
Capilla Peñaflorida; Ministriles de Marsias; Javier Sarasúa, organa
Dir: Josep Cabré

rec: Dec 18 - 21, 2000
Naxos - 8.555907 (© 2004) (69'16")
Liner-notes: E/D/S; lyrics - translation: E
Cover & track-list

(in order of appearance)
Juan García DE SALAZAR: Regina coeli; plainchant: Deus in adiutorium - Domine ad adiuvandum me; Dum esset; Juan García DE SALAZAR: Dixit Dominus; Quae es ista; García DE OLAGÜE (c1700): Verso de clarín Ia; plainchant: Laeva ejus; García DE OLAGÜE: Laudate pueri Dominum; Juan García DE SALAZAR: O gloriosa virginum; plainchant: Nigra sum; Juan García DE SALAZAR: Laetatus sum; Sub tuum praesidium; Da pacem, Domine; plainchant: Jam hiems transiit; García DE OLAGÜE: Nisi Dominus; Tomás Luis DE VICTORIA (1548-1611)/arr Juan García DE SALAZAR?: Vidi speciosam; García DE OLAGÜE: Verso de clarín IIa; plainchant: Speciosa facta es; Juan García DE SALAZAR: Lauda, Jerusalem, Dominum; Veni, sponsa Christi; Ave, maris stella; José XIMÉNEZ (1601 - 1672): Batalla de 6° tonoa; Juan García DE SALAZAR: Sancta Maria, succurre miseris; Magnificat; plainchant: Benedicamus Domino; Juan García DE SALAZAR: Salve Reina de los cielos

[II] "Officium et Missa pro Defunctis"
Capilla Peñaflorida; Loreto Fdez. Imaz, organb
Dir: Josep Cabré

rec: Jan 15 - 17, 2004, Office of the Symphony Orchestra of Euskadi, Donostia, San Sebastian (E)
K617 - K617162 (© 2004) (72'52")
Liner-notes: E/F/S; lyrics - translation: F

(in order of appearance)
plainchant: Exsultabunt Domino; Miserere mei Deus; Juan García DE SALAZAR: Subvenite, Sancti Dei; plainchant: In paradisum; Regem cui omnia vivunt; Juan García DE SALAZAR: Venite exsultemus Domino; plainchant: Dirige, Domine Deus meus; Juan García DE SALAZAR: Verba mea auribus; plainchant: Convertere Domine; Juan García DE SALAZAR: Domine, ne in furore tuo; plainchant: Nequando rapiat; Juan García DE SALAZAR: Domine Deus meus; Pablo BRUNA (1611-1679): Tiento de falsas de 2° tonob; plainchant: Requiem aeternam; Juan García DE SALAZAR: Te decet hymnus Deus; Kyrie eleison; Requiem aeternam; Domine Jesu Christe; Sanctus - Benedictus; Francisco Corréa DE ARAUXO (1576-1654): Tiento de 4° tonob; Juan García DE SALAZAR: Agnus Dei; Lux aeterna; plainchant: Requiescat in pace; Juan García DE SALAZAR: O mors, quam amara est; Libera me, Domine

It doesn't happen that often that two recordings are devoted to a rather unknown composer and are released at about the same time. This honour has been conferred upon the Spanish composer Juan García de Salazar, who is even not mentioned in New Grove.
He was born near Burgos and in 1660 he became vice-principal of the choir school in Burgos. The largest part of his life he spent in Zamora in Castile, first as maestro de capilla in the collegiate church, then - after a couple of years at the cathedral of Burgo de Osma - in the same function at Zamora Cathedral. The fact that he stayed there from 1668 until his death is rather unusual, as musicians often went from one position to another in order to increase their income. But it seems that he wasn't that much interested in the material part of life. And he was also well respected and treated by the bishop and the chapter, and the musical environment in which he worked were stimulating enough to keep him in Zamora.

These recordings present two characteristic examples of liturgical music as it was composed in large quantities during the 16th and 17th centuries. Only relatively seldom composers wrote the music for complete services. As the tracklist shows performers who want to present liturgical music in its context, need to look elsewhere to fill in the missing parts.
Most obvious is to choose plainchant, as is the case here. And since it was common practice to play instrumental music during service, and nothing of that kind is known from De Salazar, pieces by contemporaries have been chosen to give an idea of its use in liturgy. It is important to emphasize that most recordings of liturgical music are largely speculative, and so are these two.

Generally I am all in favour of performing and recording music by forgotten masters of the past. As De Salazar obviously held an important position in his time, and was well respected by his contemporaries, it is certainly justified to present recordings with his music, if only for historical reasons. But not all music is of the highest order. And I feel that De Salazar's music is rather average in quality. I am not saying that his music is boring, but there is little which catches the attention, in particular since he repeats himself a little too often. In the vesper music, for instance, the technique of a phrase first sung by a solo voice and then repeated by the choir is applied too frequently.
De Salazar composed his music for the Office of the Dead in order to gradually replace the previously used Missa pro defunctis by Guerrero. But like in his Vesper music there is a lack of variety here. It is too much of the same. And although Requiem music is mostly rather sombre, parts of the liturgy strike a much more positive note, like the Sanctus of the Mass and Psalm 94 (Venite exultemus - O come, let us sing unto the Lord), but here it is all too gloomy.

It has to be said, though, that the performances don't really help to convince the listener that De Salazar is a forgotten master. In the liner-notes of the recording of the Officium and Mass for the Dead Manuel Sagastume writes that De Salazar's music reflects the aesthetic characteristics of the baroque and that he can be placed close to Giacomo Carissimi. But the performances don't reveal that convincingly. There is a general lack of contrast in the performances, which are rather subdued and sometimes even bland. The performance of the plainchant is too slow and stately.
The overall quality of the singers and instrumentalists is satisfying, although some singers in the Vesper recording produce a slight vibrato. More impressive here are the wind players of the ensemble Ministriles de Marsias.

To sum up: these recordings are recommendable from a historical point of view, but I don't think there is real need to record a lot more of De Salazar's oeuvre, unless the likes of Savall, Lopez Banzo or McCreesh are getting involved.

Johan van Veen (© 2005)

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