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Hyperion Records

CDA67075 - Guerrero: Missa De la batalla escoutez & other works
Philip II of Spain by Anthonis (Antonio Moro) Mor (c1517/21-c1576-7)
Prado, Madrid / Bridgeman Art Library, London

Recording details: June 1998
All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell & Julian Millard
Release date: April 1999
Total duration: 70 minutes 59 seconds


'Anniversary CD of the year—and my personal favourite' (Gramophone)

'James O'Donnell and the Westminster Choir have surely come up with another stunning winner. Hyperion and all involved in this record deserve a very special accolade' (Choir & Organ)

'These performances show that Guerrero deserves his anniversary celebration' (BBC Music Magazine)

'A very important disc' (Early Music Review)

'A marvellously varied disc. More please' (Early Music)

'This is massive music, a broad rich landscape of astonishing power and beauty' (Classical Express)

'Una estupenda interpretación. Es un gran homenaje para un gran centenario' (Scherzo, Spain)

Missa De la batalla escoutez & other works
Kyrie  [3'18] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [5'38] LatinEnglish
Credo  [8'25] LatinEnglish

Following the success of their previous recording of Guerrero (Missa Sancta et immaculata, CDA66910), here The Choir of Westminster Cathedral is joined by an ensemble of instruments. These were chosen to accord with our extensive knowledge of the band of ministriles employed at Seville Cathedral during Guerrero's long career there.

1999 is the year which celebrates the fourth centenary of Guerrero's death. A substantial number of the works are from the Vespers book of 1584 which was dedicated to Guerrero's senior colleagues, the Dean and Chapter, the canons of Seville Cathedral. Addressing them in his preface, the composer asserts that the Almighty always had found it acceptable that the ceremonies of divine worship in the Temple of Jerusalem were offered with a full ensemble of singers and with various types of instrumental music, 'not forgetting that His worship is presently offered with equal ceremony' [at Seville Cathedral].

In this recording we hope that we may try to experience something close to what Guerrero knew.

This is the second recording by Westminster Cathedral Choir to be devoted to the music of Francisco Guerrero (see also Helios CDH55313). In it, the choir is joined by an ensemble of instruments. These were chosen to accord with our extensive knowledge of the band of ministriles (the English word ‘minstrels’ conveys the wrong meaning) employed at Seville Cathedral during Guerrero’s long career there.

The variety and splendour of music and ceremony in the major cathedrals of Spain during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a golden age of power, wealth and culture, are best revealed in the conduct of liturgy at Seville and Toledo: they seemed to vie one with the other. Toledo was rapidly followed by Seville in hiring groups of wind players on a contract and residential basis instead of calling in players ad hoc. By the middle of the sixteenth century it was well established that Seville employed a group of five players: three shawmers and two sackbut players. The shawm players were expected to double on cornetts and on flutes (of the recorder type). We see five such players depicted in one of the bronze plaques which are still fixed to the sides of the great lectern in the centre of the choir enclosure in Seville Cathedral. The plaques date from 1564 and shows two sackbut players standing behind two shawmers with a cornett player between them. The shawms were called chirimías in Spanish, the other instruments being cornetas and sacabuches; the recorders, of which sets of all sizes were bought for the players, are always described as flautas. The men are shown in their uniforms, those of employed ministriles, not in the clerical garb of the choirmen, who were priests or in minor orders.

The Seville Cathedral Chapter Acts are mostly preserved for the period of Guerrero’s career and they have provided scholars with much information about instrumental participation in liturgical music. The Seville records are a revelation of Guerrero’s sound-world.

The players are instructed to play motets and other polyphonic music on their own without the singers; indeed, on various occasions the authorities would pay for books of motets and Masses to be bought or copied out specifically for the ministriles. They contribute to alternatim performances, replacing sung verses of Psalms and Canticles (for instance, the Magnificat) with purely instrumental renditions which would alternate with verses chanted to the recitation tones or sung in polyphony. The organist would play his own repertoire of such alternative sections. The instrumentalists would play in processions, in and out of the church; often they would take over complete verses of the liturgical Hymns. They support the singers sometimes, doubling or replacing voices—or so it seems. We have to be a little cautious: the evidence implies this, and some iconographical survivals actually confirm it. Usually, however, the wind players are portrayed standing separate from the choirmen and boys. Occasionally we find engravings showing an ensemble of shawms, cornetts and sackbuts standing behind a small choir, all reading from one enormous choirbook.

We know that the Sevillian canons required the players to make for variety in their contributions by having a verse with shawms, another with cornetts, still another with flutes. Such instructions are supplemented by specific orders to the maestro, Guerrero, to see to it that ornamentation of the melodic lines, principally of the upper parts, was to be strictly disciplined. Two players must not gloss their parts at the same time because that produced unpleasant dissonances.

It is the frequent involvement of instruments in Guerrero’s performance of liturgical music that has led us to emulate this variety of sound in the present recording. In the ‘Battle Mass’ and the long Psalm In exitu Israel, the instruments colour and enhance the variety of the different movements, but without going to the speculative lengths of modern orchestrations. In the Trinity motet for three choirs, Duo Seraphim clamabant, the varied distribution of instruments, doubling or completely replacing voices, heightens the dramatic effects of the spacially separated groups and lends weight to the mighty tutti at ‘Plena est omnis terra …’ (‘All the earth is full …’). The players are then given their own spot with a purely instrumental rendition of Regina caeli laetare, the Marian Antiphon for Eastertide.

Mention must be made of one other instrument and its player. The bajonista was usually considered, along with the organists, to be part of the choral establishment, not one of the wind band. The bajón (sometimes spelled baxon, elsewhere called ‘curtal’ or ‘bass dulcian’) was a forerunner of the bassoon. In Spain it was played at most choral services, not only supporting the bass line of polyphony but also doubling certain kinds of monophonic liturgical chant (not only plainchant, but also the mensural varieties of it).

Born in 1528, trained by his brother Pedro and later, briefly, by Cristóbal de Morales, Guerrero spent all his career serving the Cathedral of Seville. He had been a boy chorister, becoming so brilliant a youth, proficient on a variety of instruments, a singer and composer, that at eighteen he was appointed maestro at Jaén Cathedral. The Seville Chapter persuaded him back three years later and there he stayed from 1549 until his death. Twice he was almost tempted away by the cathedral post at Málaga, but the Sevillian canons persuaded him to stay with the official position of assistant to the ageing Pedro Fernández and with an assurance of the right of succession to the full chapelmastership. In practice, Guerrero was effectively master of the music anyway but Fernández did not die until 1574, probably in his nineties, by which time Guerrero had been officially assistant for some twenty-three years. Much later, in 1591, it was Guerrero who needed an assistant, being increasingly incapable of efficiently looking after the choirboys. Various assistants included Alonso Lobo, who went on to be maestro at Toledo and finally back in Seville in 1604.

Guerrero visited Rome, then Venice and the Holy Land (in 1588); he wrote a best-seller about his Journey to Jerusalem (first printed in 1590). He travelled in Spain occasionally—to Toledo to present his music, to Córdoba as an auditioning judge—but otherwise his life was completely centred on Seville, his home city. His music was printed in Seville, Paris, Louvain, Venice and Rome. Reprinted as far away as Nuremberg and copied in manuscripts in Spain and the New World for two centuries after his death, his compositions were revered and emulated. Many of his motets served as models for Masses by Alonso Lobo, Duarte Lôbo, Pedro Ruimonte, Juan Esquivel, Géry de Ghersem and others well into the seventeenth century. At the Madrid Royal Chapel, Juan del Vado wrote, in about 1650, a Mass upon Guerrero’s ‘hit’ motet Ave virgo sanctissima; an even later curiosity is an interminable set of ‘mini’ canons upon the first phrase of that motet composed by one Aniceto Baylon of Valencia.

Guerrero was a devout priest-musician but, unlike Morales and Victoria, he was also able to compose delightful secular music and delicate vernacular (Castilian) religious songs. His great legacy of liturgical music is now coming to full recognition for its variety, its endless flow of beautiful melody and its sheer singability.

Guerrero published twenty-three sets of hymn verses intended for alternation with the simple chant melodies. Some of these match plainchant, some go with mensural versions of traditional tunes, and yet others are upon new tunes (originating in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries) that were exclusively Iberian and found almost always in mensural notation, rarely in plain form. The Spanish Pange lingua is one of these; it appears in hundreds of printed and manuscript books for some four hundred years or more. It was set in polyphonic guise from the late 1400s and became a favourite for organ versets. Apart from its function as an Office Hymn on the Feast of Corpus Christi, it was widely used in processions of the Blessed Sacrament.

Guerrero’s setting slows the melody so that it becomes a structural girder, still clearly heard, its steady pace being set off by the rapid counterpoint of the accompanying voices. The tune is passed from treble to tenor, from the top of the music eventually to the bottom in verse 4. By setting the fifth verse, breaking the alternation, Guerrero sticks to an old Spanish custom of making a specially solemn version of ‘Tantum ergo sacramentum’. Here the music changes pace in duple rather than triple time, though Guerrero still contrives, at first, to give the tune its long–short–long values.

Of Guerrero’s nineteen Masses only three are based on themes of secular origin, the present one being modelled on a few passages from Janequin’s popular chanson La guerre, sometimes known as La bataille de Marignan; the battle at Marignano was fought in 1515 and the chanson was printed in 1528. Guerrero’s Mass came out in his Missarum Liber Secundus, printed in Rome in 1582. Its odd title refers in Spanish to the battle, adding the French ‘escoutez’, the first word of Janequin’s chanson. At the end of the century, Victoria used this graphic battle-piece as material for his own Missa Pro Victoria, creating a very lively work. Guerrero’s setting is more circumspect, sober in contrast with Victoria’s and Janequin’s own, rather literal, ‘parody’ Mass. It seems that Guerrero had no intention to be spectacular in the manner of the original, nor in the way that battle Masses and organ ‘battles’ became riotously Baroque in the following centuries.

It is best for the listener to forget the origins of Guerrero’s themes and accept his masterly work for its intrinsic beauty and vigour. Written for five voices (SSATB), the Mass has subsections for trios at ‘Domine Deus, agnus Dei’ in the Gloria and for the Benedictus (SSA and SAB, respectively); in the Credo, ‘Crucifixus …’ is for a quartet (SSAT). The second Agnus Dei calls for eight voices, but not as a ‘call and answer’ double choir. Variety is also introduced by the use of that swinging triple time which the Spaniards called tiempo de proporción (sesquialtera) in the second Kyrie and in the Osanna sections after the Sanctus and Benedictus.

Almost everything about Guerrero’s setting of the long Psalm In exitu Israel is out of the ordinary. Usually chanted to a simple formula, the verses alternating rapidly between the two facing sides of a monastic or cathedral choir, it was set by Guerrero so that the odd-numbered verses are in concise but varied polyphony. He printed the first five words of the Psalm tone in distinct note values indicating the kind of mensural chant he expected, a type used for psalmody and recitation in his day. This non-exact but quantitive and accentual style was the method, well documented, that prevailed in Spain between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. We have tried to revive this in the present performance, basing it upon the notation given by Guerrero and by his colleague Luys de Villafranca, the Seville plainchant master, whose Breve instruc[c]ión de canto llano (1565) was printed with the joint approbation of Pedro Fernández and Guerrero. The special Psalm tone used for In exitu Israel is now known as ‘Peregrinus’: it has two reciting notes, the one in the second half of each verse is a tone lower than that in the first half. Villafranca calls it ‘modo. vij. com~ixto’.

In Guerrero’s fifteen brief alternate verses, the chant’s outline is clearly heard, either plainly or mildly paraphrased, in one voice or another. Differing feelings of movement are built into these, sometimes by rhythms in chordal blocks, sometimes by snatches of lively imitation and little bursts of short notes. At ‘Manus habent’ (v15) Guerrero chooses to write in longer notes and changes his time signature compás mayor instead of the prevailing compasillo—a different beat, a different feel to the music.

Guerrero’s superiors of the cabildo of Seville Cathedral had ordained that Canticles and Psalms should be varied in their instrumental accompaniment and so, in this recording, the verses are varied with different instrumental groups doubling and sometimes replacing the voices. Shawms, cornetts and flutes are deployed to achieve this, along with the sackbuts and the bajón. After the plainchant intonation, the antiphon is played by instruments in Guerrero’s setting; this is repeated by all after the Psalm.

Guerrero’s contemporaries apparently esteemed this great Psalm very highly. In his biographical Book of True Portraits, the artist and publisher Pacheco asserts that Guerrero composed an In exitu Israel de Aegypto which ‘those who are best informed declare he must have composed in a state of the highest contemplation’. It is a superb example of the happy marriage of chant and polyphony. It was printed in Guerrero’s Liber Vesperarum of 1584.

Duo Seraphim clamabant seems to have been the composer’s only piece (surviving complete) for twelve voices in three choirs. Guerrero had it printed twice, first in 1589 and again in his final collection (1597). Two lone high voices begin; at ‘Tres sunt’ three voices are exposed on their own. At ‘Plena est omnis terra …’ the grand tutti join in massive chords. The Trinitarian symbolism is obvious. Here different choral and instrumental groups enhance the separation of the three choirs and their dramatic potential.

Guerrero wrote two settings of the joyful Antiphon Regina caeli laetare. In an intimate four-part version he used the local Spanish chant melody, but he produced the present grand eight-part one using the Roman melody, well known throughout Christendom. This came out in the Liber Vesperarum of 1584.

Here it is performed by the instruments alone. A sung performance was recorded by Westminster Cathedral Choir in 1985.

In 1563 Guerrero published a book of Magnificat settings to the eight tones (consisting of polyphonic music for the odd-numbered verses to alternate with the chanted even-numbered ones) and also a companion set in which the polyphony takes over the even-numbered verses. Thus Guerrero’s complete set consisted of sixteen Magnificats. In 1584, in his Liber Vesperarum, Guerrero republished some of these versions, revised (even recomposed in places) and with some new combinations of the verses. One of these is recorded here. The 1584 version of the odd-verse Magnificat upon the eighth tone alternates with chant as usual but, at the end, the alternation is broken at the Lesser Doxology, ‘Gloria Patri …’ and ‘Sicut erat in principio …’ both being polyphonic; the former is for the standard four voices but in triple time, while the ‘Sicut erat …’ reverts to the duple measure and is expanded to six voices, the extra tenor carrying the chant melody while the first tenor is followed by the second treble part in imitative canon at the octave above—a splendid conclusion.

The chant verses have been provided with the nearest match to what appears in Guerrero’s polyphony, based on Hispanic chant books including Luys de Villafranca’s Breve instruc[c]ión de canto llano.

Conditor alme siderum is the first hymn of the ecclesiastical year and the first of Guerrero’s set of liturgical Office Hymns included in his 1584 Vespers book. Guerrero sets the Spanish triple-time variant of the traditional melody, putting it into the stately measure called tempus perfectum. Thus the swinging tune is slowed so that it can be festooned with running counterpoint as the three accompanying voices surround the alto (verse 2), the treble (v4) and the bass (v6) when these voices carry the chant.

The hymns recorded here, and three more that appear in Westminster Cathedral Choir’s first Guerrero CD (Helios CDH55313), represent a start in making this rich repertoire, long known to scholars, available to hear. The neglect has been due to the appropriate chant verses not being accessible to choirs.

This recording was originally issued in the year which celebrated the fourth centenary of Guerrero’s death. A substantial number of the works are from the Vespers book of 1584 which was dedicated to Guerrero’s senior colleagues, the Dean and Chapter, the canons of Seville Cathedral. Addressing them in his preface, the composer asserts that the Almighty always had found it acceptable that the ceremonies of divine worship in the Temple of Jerusalem were offered with a full ensemble of singers and with various types of instrumental music, ‘not forgetting that His worship is presently offered with equal ceremony’ [at Seville Cathedral]. It is to be hoped that we may try here to experience something close to what Guerrero knew.

Bruno Turner © 1999

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