Guerrero: Missa De la batalla escoutez & other works
CDH55340 Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
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.
from notes by Bruno Turner © 1999