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Tomás MILANS I GODAYOL (1672 - 1742): "Música religiosa"

La Xantria
Dir: Pere Lluís Biosca

rec: Jan 18 - 21, 2012, Vilafranca del Penedès, Auditori Municipal
musièpoca - MEPCD-005 (© 2012) (45'36")
Liner-notes: E/D/S/Cat; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

Charitas Dei a 4, motet per a tot temps; Hala, zagalas, tono per al Nadalacdgh; Litaniae lauretanae a 4; Magnificat a 8befi; Nunc dimittis a 6cj; Reges Tharsis a 3, antifona en canòn per al dia de Reis; Salve Regina a 6ce; Suspende, infelice, cantata a solo al Santissim Sagramenta;

Laia Frigolé (soloa), Gloria Fernández (solob), Marta Rodrigo (soloc), Buia Reixach (solod), soprano; Elisenda Arquimbau (soloe), Marta Cordomí (solof), contralto; Hugo Bolívar (solog), Marc Díaz, alto; Jordi Aymerich, Marc Guerris, David Montserrat, César Polo (soloh), tenor; Elías Benito (soloi), Joan Garcia (soloj), Xavier Sans, Víctor Vilca, bass; Carles Vallès, recorder, dulcian, bassoon; Manuel Vilas, harp; Eduard Martínez, organ

One of the joyful developments in the world of early music is the growing interest in Spanish music of the baroque era. This has resulted in a considerable number of discs with this kind of repertoire; some of them have been reviewed on this site. Several composers of this period are hardly known. That is not different with Tomás Milans i Godayol, a composer from Catalonia. I had never heard his name before this disc landed on my desk, and New Grove doesn't know him either as he has no entry in this encyclopedia.

He was born in Canet de Mar (Girona) and was sent, together with his brother Carles, to Barcelona, where he studied with the organist Jeroni Oller. The brothers sang as choirboys in the chapel of the Palau where Oller was organist. In 1701 he was appointed as the substitute of Felip Olivelles, the chapel's mestre de capella. A considerable part of Milans' career was influenced by the War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1714) which ended with the Peace of Utrecht. The resident of the Palau, the marquis of Los Vélez, was a supporter of the Bourbons and because of that the family's possessions were confiscated by the royal authorities. The chapel was transferred to a royal committee and after the war reprisals were taken against many of the musicians. Whether Milans was one of the victims is apparently not known, but in 1714 he worked as mestro de capella of Girona cathedral. Here he stayed for the rest of his life.

The time of the War was also a time of musical innovation. The court of Charles of Austria in Barcelona offered the opportunity to introduce the latest music from abroad, such as works by Antonio Caldara and Johann Joseph Fux, both working in Vienna, and compositions by Neapolitans as Angelo Ragazzi and Giuseppe Porsile. Whether this had any influence on Milans' style of composing is hard to say. At least in the music recorded here I haven't noticed it, probably with the exception of the cantata. This is music which is rooted in the stile antico of the 16th century, although some works include solo parts and the voices are supported by a basso continuo part. Several works are set for two choirs, but in various ways. The Magnificat a 8 is the most 'conventional': the vocal forces are split into two groups of four voices each. However, the first choir is for two sopranos, alto and tenor - here performed by solo voices - whereas the second choir has the usual SATB scoring. Two pieces are for six voices: in the Salve Regina the first choir comprises two parts for altos and in the Nunc dimittis for soprano and tenor. Obviously these parts are meant to be sung by solo voices. Litaniae lauretanae is for four voices, but as is almost always the case with settings of this text the piece has an antiphonal texture. Reges Tharsis is a unison canon for three voices - two sopranos and tenor - with basso continuo.

In the short documentary which is included on the CD, it is stated that some solo parts, in particular those for soprano and tenor, are rather low. This explains that some of them are performed by lower voices, for instance the tenor part in Nunc dimittis by a baritone.

The programme of liturgical music on Latin texts is complemented with two pieces in the vernacular. Suspende, infelice is a cantata for the Holy Sacrament which begins with an introducció, followed by a recitative and aria. This could possibly be the influence of Italian music. Especially delightful here is the participation of a bassoon in the basso continuo. Much more traditional is Hala, zagalas, a tono for Christmas, divided into a tornada and coplas. The latter are numbered as 1, 2, 3, 4, 14 and 15, which indicates that this work is performed incomplete. That is rather disappointing; a lack of space can't be the reason as this disc lasts a little more than 45 minutes.

That is the one negative aspect of this production, the other is the lack of translations of the lyrics. The latter makes it impossible to assess the treatment of the texts by the soloists. The music is nice, although for a fair judgement of Milans' oeuvre we need to hear more. Let us hope that this disc will be followed by others. Lovers of Spanish music should not miss it because it is an interesting addition to the discography of the baroque repertoire from Spain.

Johan van Veen (© 2014)

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