musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Juan DE ANCHIETA (c1462 - 1523): Missa de Nostra Dona

Capilla Peñafloridaa; Ministriles de Marsiasb
Dir: Josep Cabré

rec: Sept 30 - Oct 2, 2007, Azkoitia, Convent de la Santa Cruz
nbmusika - NB012 (© 2007) (62'45")

Con amores la mi madreb; Donsella madre de Diosb; Dos ánades madreb; En memoria d'Alixandrec; Missa de Nostra Donaab; Salve Reginaab

[CP] José Hernández Pastor, David Azurza, alto; Josep Benet, Jon Etxabe, tenor; Josep Cabré, Elier Muñoz, baritone; Pau Bordas, Jagoba Fadrique, bass; Carlos García Benalt, organc
[MdM] Francisco Rubio, cornett; Beatrice Delpierre, Fernando Sánchez, shawm; David García, sackbut

Juan de Anchieta is one of the lesser-known masters of the Spanish renaissance. But his career indicates that he was not a 'minor master'. In 1489 he entered the court chapel of Queen Isabella, and in 1495 he became maestro de capilla to the Queen's son Don Juan. In 1504 he entered the service of Isabella's daughter Joanna, married to Philip the Fair. In this capacity he visited Flanders and England. In 1519 his service ended because of ill health, but he kept his annual income. He died in 1522.

It is not known for sure how much De Anchieta has composed. At least one of his mass settings is lost. His extant music consists of three masses, a Kyrie, two Magnificats, four Passions, 14 motets - some of which are of doubtful authenticity - and four secular pieces. The Missa de Nostra Dona recorded here is remarkable in two ways. Firstly, De Anchieta hasn't only set the Ordinary, but also the Proper: Introit, Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory and Communion. Secondly, a number of sections contain tropes, extensions of the standard texts. Plainchant sections have been taken from a choirbook in Barcelona Cathedral.

In addition to the mass the four secular pieces have been recorded, three of them in instrumental performances. The reason for this may be that their secular character makes them not very suitable to be performed during a mass. But even so their inclusion in what is essentially a kind of 'liturgical reconstruction' is a little odd. Not all of them are secular, though: Donsella, Madre de Dios begins with the phrase: "Virgin, Mother of God, heavenly star, guide us". It is an example of a non-liturgical sacred piece written in the idiom of secular music. But even in this case I can't see how it could find a place in the liturgy. It is the only of the three which is sung. It is placed after the Alleluia, and followed by En memoria d'Alixandre, which is performed at the organ. Con amores lo mi madre opens the disc, Dos ánades madre is performed after the Communio, before the Salve Regina which concludes the disc.

Strictly speaking the Salve Regina is not part of the mass, but in the manuscript which contains the Missa de Nostra Dona this setting is placed immediately after the mass. In his programme notes Emilio Ros-Fábregas writes that "Masses dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and notably those performed between Whitsun and Advent, traditionally end with a Salve". Like many settings of this text De Anchieta's Salve Regina has an alternatim structure.

In the mass setting De Anchieta creates contrasts through the alternation of tutti passages with episodes for reduced forces, and polyphony with homophony. The performance adds contrasts by using wind instruments playing colla parte with the voices, mostly in the tutti passages, whereas most passages with smaller forces are sung a capella.

The Capilla Peñaflorida is an excellent ensemble, singing here with eight voices from alto to bass. The blending of the voices is very good, and so is the balance within the ensemble. In quite a number of recordings of renaissance polyphony the upper voices tend to dominate, but that is not the case here. That is due to the recording, but also to the sonority of the lower voices. In the passages for reduced forces the various members of the ensemble prove to be accomplished and stylish 'soloists'. The addition of the wind instruments is in accordance with common practice in Spain, and they add much colour to the sound of the ensemble.

I unequivocally recommend this disc which is highly interesting in regard to repertoire and completely satisfying and convincing in regard to interpretation. The booklet contains programme notes and lyrics in the original as well as English translations.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

CD Reviews