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Hyperion Records

CDA67836 - Guerrero: Missa Congratulamini mihi & other works
The Penitent Magdalen by Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641)
Private Collection / © Agnew's, London / Bridgeman Art Library, London
CDA67836

Recording details: November 2009
Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, United Kingdom
Produced by Jonathan Freeman-Attwood
Engineered by Martin Haskell & Iestyn Rees
Release date: August 2010
DISCID: AC0F450D
Total duration: 65 minutes 4 seconds

GRAMOPHONE EDITOR'S CHOICE
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH CLASSICAL CD OF THE WEEK

'This latest addition to Guerrero's discography is especially to be welcomed for his fine Mass on a motet by Thomas Crecquillon, in which one hears echoes of the style of Guerrero's near-direct contemporary, Palestrina. Like its model it is a joyful, extrovert piece, to which Andrew Carwood's singers respond with an equal measure of buoyancy and vigour' (Gramophone)

'This Mass, beautifully sung by The Cardinall's Musick, reflects Guerrero's soaring style' (The Independent)

'Since 1989, Andrew Carwood has nurtured the group to its current status as a leading exponent of Renaissance music, retaining the essential quality of individual vocal timbres that contribute to a refined, characterful mix and with a polish that is second to none … this entire disc is captivating in its fluency and expressive power' (The Daily Telegraph)

'This is one of the finest Guerrero discs … Carwood has given us a program of the highest distinction … it is beyond excellent' (Fanfare, USA)

Missa Congratulamini mihi & other works
Kyrie  [4'15] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [6'03] LatinEnglish
Credo  [9'14] LatinEnglish

The award-winning Cardinall’s Musick have finally completed their Byrd series, and now look outside the British isles to a composer who had to wait for a long time for his genius to be fully recognised, although he was well known to his contemporaries, and produced a considerable output. Guerrero was born in 1528 in Seville, the city that was to remain at the centre of his entire life. His early training came from his brother Pedro and it is thought that he was a chorister at the magnificent Cathedral in Seville with its sumptuous music foundation. Guerrero himself states that he studied with Morales, and it was Morales who recommended the young musician for the post of maestro de capilla at Jaén Cathedral in 1546 – a short-lived appointment.

The main work on this disc is the gloriously sunny and joyful Missa Congratulamini mihi. Based on an Easter motet by Crecquillon (also recorded here), it is full of the voluptuous exuberance of the Paschal season. The five-part texture, with two treble parts, adds to the shining sound.

Also included are a number of Easter motets. Maria Magdalena et altera Maria and Post dies octo are highly descriptive, narrative works, highly contrasted in mood and texture. The four other pieces on this disc show various facets of Guerrero’s mastery. Dum esset rex (in honour of Mary Magdalene) is similar to a spiritual madrigal whilst the eight-part Ave Maria is a sonorous double-choir plea to the Virgin. The two settings of Regina caeli (the Marian antiphon to be sung during Eastertide) both use a plainsong cantus firmus as their starting point. The older sounding, four-part version uses a minor-mode motif whilst the eight-part setting uses the more traditional plainsong melody woven into an exuberant and joyful Easter statement.


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Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
It was perhaps inevitable that those who contributed most in terms of publications and were most famous in their own day would be considered first in the twentieth-century revival of Renaissance music. Palestrina (who never left his exalted pedestal, even in the dark days when polyphony was all but forgotten), Lassus, Victoria and Byrd all came to prominence quite quickly, but Francisco Guerrero had to wait longer for his genius to be recognized even though he was well known to his contemporaries and produced a considerable output. His music was published in Seville, Louvain, Paris, Rome and Venice between the years 1555 and 1597 and his reputation was cemented by two ‘best-sellers’, one musical and the other literary. One was the stunning motet Ave virgo sanctissima. This motet was published no fewer than three times, was the subject of parody Masses by Esquivel, Ruimonte and de Ghersem and was performed in the Spanish colonies of the New World for at least two centuries after the composer’s death. The other was a book penned by Guerrero himself describing his journey to the Holy Land and his subsequent adventures (El Viaje de Jerusalén or The Journey to Jerusalem). This popular travelogue is unique for composers of the period and is the source of much useful biographical information. Guerrero also had the tribute of a posthumous biographical article by Francisco Pacheco (later father-in-law to the painter Diego Velázquez) in his publication Libro de descripción de verdaderos retratos de illustres y memorables varones (Seville, 1599): Guerrero was the only composer to be included in the collection.

Guerrero was born in 1528 in Seville, the city that was to remain at the centre of his entire life. His early training came from his brother Pedro and it is thought that he was a chorister at the magnificent Cathedral in Seville with its sumptuous music foundation. Guerrero himself states that he studied with Morales, and it was Morales who recommended the young musician for the post of maestro de capilla at Jaén Cathedral in 1546. His musical abilities may already have been obvious but this appointment was not a success. It may have been that youth (he was only eighteen at the time) and lack of experience were the main problems, as he seems to have been unable to cope with the demands of the job which included being responsible for the housing and education of the Jaén choristers. The employment lapsed in 1549 and, perhaps not surprisingly, Guerrero returned to his home town of Seville where he was appointed assistant to the increasingly infirm maestro of the Cathedral, Pedro Fernández. In 1554, in order to rebut an offer from Málaga Cathedral that Guerrero should move to be their new maestro de capilla, the Seville Chapter granted him the right to succeed the ailing Fernández, and Guerrero seems to have undertaken all of his duties. Frustratingly, Fernández lived for another twenty years and it was not until 9 March 1574, after much patient waiting, that Guerrero assumed the position of maestro de capilla at Seville.

Alongside his Cathedral responsibilities, Guerrero also busied himself with publications and travelling, even combining these two activities so that at various times he was able to present his music in person to the Emperor Charles V (1557 or 1558), King Sebastian of Portugal (1566) and King Philip II of Spain (1588), whose hand he is reputed to have kissed.

In 1581 he travelled to Rome and remained there for a little over a year dealing with two large collections of music which were published in 1582 and 1584, but his most extraordinary journey was to the Holy Land in 1588. The fact that he undertook this journey at all shows considerable courage and presumably a certain amount of religious devotion (Guerrero was briefly in training for the priesthood whilst a teenager in Seville). No other composer is known to have undertaken such a journey. The party travelled first to Italy and then set off from Venice on 14 August 1588. They visited Zakinthos, Jaffa, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Damascus and returned to Venice on 9 January 1589. Guerrero remained in Venice to supervise the publication of two further collections and then sailed to Marseilles via Genoa and he was subjected to the terrifying ordeal of being attacked by pirates, not once but twice. His money was stolen and a ransom exacted. This misfortune together with the cost of funding his publications meant that, when Guerrero eventually reached Seville in the summer of 1589, he was dangerously short of funds. During Advent 1590, at the age of 62, he was forced to take back responsibility for the choristers (presumably to increase his income) but, in an interesting parallel with the beginning of his career, Guerrero found himself unable to cope with the demands of the position. On 21 August 1591 he was confined to a debtor’s prison until the Cathedral authorities at Seville took pity and paid the outstanding debt, securing the composer’s release on 2 September. By 1599 his fortunes had obviously improved (perhaps as a result of the successful publication of his travelogue in 1592) as he planned a second trip to the Holy Land which was approved by the Seville Chapter on 11 January. For some reason Guerrero delayed his departure and this proved a fatal mistake as Seville was struck by plague in the summer and Guerrero was not strong enough to withstand it.

Guerrero produced eighteen settings of the Mass (almost as many as Victoria and more than Morales), including five based on the works of other composers—one each from Verdelot, Crecquillon and Janequin as well as two from his old teacher Morales—two settings of the Requiem Mass and some 150 other liturgical works including complete sets of music for the Office of Vespers. Unlike Morales and Victoria, Guerrero also produced a significant number of secular songs, many of which were influenced by his journey to the Holy Land.

The music recorded here is associated in the main with the time of Easter, that glorious explosion of joy after the sombre re-enactments of the last hours of Jesus’ ministry on earth. Often the drama of the triduum and the music associated with it, and the fact that few choirs in the twenty-first century sing in the period immediately after Easter, hide the excellence of Paschal music. The exuberance and joy is clear to see in Thomas Crecquillon’s setting of Mary Magdalene’s encounter with the risen Christ Congratulamini mihi. So total is the composer’s sense of joy that even the words ‘et dum flerem’ (‘and while I was weeping’) receive only scant attention—a quick semiquaver figure in one voice part gives the merest suggestion of a tear. The secunda pars is more sombre, as the confused Magdalene attempts to make sense of the empty tomb. Crecquillon uses a common device of Renaissance motet composition and repeats the music from the end of the first section in order to complete the second, and thus the sense of joy is recaptured.

Guerrero re-works many of Crecquillon’s themes to form his Missa Congratulamini mihi, and this in itself is a tribute to his consummate compositional abilities. Interestingly the only theme Guerrero seems not to use is the motif associated with ‘et dum flerem’. The rollicking Hosanna is a particularly clever movement when he marries two themes—‘Congratulamini mihi’ and ‘vidi Dominum meum’ (‘Rejoice with me’ and ‘I saw my Lord’)—and thus provides in a nutshell the very heart of the matter. To enhance the Easter joy, and unlike Crecquillon, Guerrero chooses not to use two bass parts but writes two treble parts instead. In the final invocation of the Agnus Dei he restores the second bass voice and repeats the marriage of themes already used in the Hosanna but this time with music of exquisite serenity.

The five-part texture is maintained throughout most of the Mass but Guerrero uses a trio in the Gloria and a telling duet followed by another trio in the Credo. Further delights come when Guerrero allows himself the freedom to compose new material (the ‘Et incarnatus est’ in the Credo and the prayerful Benedictus) and briefly moves away from the sunny disposition of the Mass.

Maria Magdalena et altera Maria tells the entire story of the Saint’s visit to the tomb. Here Guerrero is in one of his most descriptive moods. The tender repeated first-inversion chords at the words ‘ungerent Jesum’ (‘to anoint Jesus’), for example, and the clarion call announcement of Christ’s resurrection towards the end of the second part clearly belong to the world of madrigal composition. This narrative motet uses no repetition of musical material and impels the listener forward in a spiritual journey.

Opposite in mood and texture is the other narrative motet in this collection Post dies octo. After eight days, the euphoria has passed and the disciples are huddled together in a room with the doors closed, fearing for their safety. Guerrero chooses to use a narrow compass for the voices, perhaps to mirror the clandestine nature of the surroundings. Christ appears and pronounces his benediction and asks the doubtful Thomas to touch his wounds so that his faith can be truly grounded. Guerrero points many of the salient phrases with homophony but indulges in some writing which sounds more reminiscent of the approaching style of Monteverdi (at the end of the first section, for example). However, the intimate nature of this narrative is preserved throughout, even in the concluding Alleluias.

The four other pieces on this disc show various facets of Guerrero’s mastery. Dum esset rex (in honour of Mary Magdalene) is similar to a spiritual madrigal whilst the eight-part Ave Maria is a sonorous double-choir plea to the Virgin. The two settings of Regina caeli (the Marian antiphon to be sung during Eastertide) both use a plainsong cantus firmus as their starting point. The older sounding, four-part version uses a minor-mode motif whilst the eight-part setting uses the more traditional plainsong melody woven into an exuberant and joyful Easter statement.

Andrew Carwood © 2010

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