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An album of gorgeous late-Renaissance polyphony from composers Cristóbal de Morales, Hernando Franco, Tomás Luis de Victoria, Francisco Guerrero, Alonso Lobo, Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, Francisco López Capillas and Miguel Mateo de Dallo y Lana.
In this recording the singers present music by eight composers. Four of them never went to the New World; their music did. Three of them were born in Spain and were trained in music there; they held appointments in Spain and later emigrated to the new colonial cities. One more became the first composer-choirmaster to be born there of Spanish parents, thus criollo.
Cristóbal de Morales (d1553) was a Sevillian who spent ten years away in Rome at the Sistine Chapel. Tomás Luis de Victoria (d1611) who came from Ávila in Castile spent twenty years in Rome and published most of his works in Italy. Francisco Guerrero and Alonso Lobo were from Seville or nearby. Guerrero spent his mature career serving Seville Cathedral, visiting Rome and the Holy Land briefly. Alonso Lobo stayed at home. At first he was assistant to Guerrero, then appointed maestro at Toledo, a prestigious post he held for ten years. He returned to Seville, taking charge until his death in 1617. Guerrero, his beloved mentor and model, had died in 1599, by then the most widely known and admired composer in Spain.
Hernando Franco was born near the Portuguese border in 1532, just four years younger than Guerrero. He trained at Segovia and became associated with companions intending to cross to New Spain. We hear of him as maestro at Guatemala Cathedral in 1573, then in 1575 he gained charge at Mexico City and remained maestro there until his death in 1585. Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla was a native of Málaga. In his twenties he held posts in charge as maestro at Jerez and Cádiz. In 1622 we find him in New Spain at the Cathedral of Puebla de los Ángeles, appointed assistant maestro. There he stayed until his death in 1664; he had become maestro at the richly endowed cathedral in charge of the largest and best choral and instrumental establishment in the Americas. Francisco López rose from humble bassoonist (bajonero), then organist and assistant to Gutiérrez de Padilla at Puebla, becoming maestro de capilla at the cathedral of Mexico City in 1654. He added Capilla or Capillas to his name at that time. He remained there until he died in 1674. Certainty about his birth in Mexico and its date has been revealed in the discovery of his baptismal record: it took place on 7 April 1614. Both Padilla and López have left great stores of work in the archives of their respective cathedrals. Miguel Mateo de Dallo y Lana, a native of Logroño (La Rioja), was maestro at Seville’s church of San Salvador. He moved to Mexico and took charge at Puebla, succeeding Antonio Salazar in 1688.
Regina caeli a 6 Cristóbal de Morales (c1500-1553)
Regina caeli laetare is the Marian antiphon to be sung at the end of Compline in Paschal Time (Easter to Pentecost). Three settings by Morales survive; the present one is for six voices, the others are for five and for four. It is a fine example of Morales creating a sustained flow of equal voices in exuberant counterpoint.
Salve regina Hernando Franco (1532-1585)
Salve regina is the Marian text that takes over as the final antiphon at Compline from Pentecost until Advent, but it had been widely used for extra-liturgical devotions especially in Spain. Hernando Franco seems to have written at least five settings, four are for four voices, the other for five as sung here. All but one are found in manuscripts almost identically at Guatemala and Puebla cathedrals. They alternate polyphony and plainsong, verse by verse. Franco’s ‘Salves’ preserve an Hispanic variant, adding semper to the last phrase—Mary ever virgin.
Vidi speciosam Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)
This is a motet for the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary (15 August). Its text combines verses from the Song of Songs to form a Responsory at Matins. Victoria’s splendid setting exploits the six voices with call-and-answer effects pitting varying combinations of three against three, dovetailed together. There is a glittering variety of texture interspersed with bursts of declamation in four, five or six voices. The two distinct parts follow the responsorial plan (AB CB) with shared endings.
Trahe me post te, virgo Maria Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599)
This work is a Marian motet adapted from the Song of Songs in which Guerrero symbolically has the second alto ‘drag’ its twin, the top voice, after it—a canon ad tertiam—one and a half bars behind and a third above. Among the effects this creates is the beautiful ‘lift’ at 'carissima in delitiis'. This poetic work is surely a jewel in Guerrero’s crown.
Versa est in luctum Alonso Lobo (1555-1617)
Alonso Lobo’s masterpiece is one of three motets for six voices included in his sole publication (1602), four years after Philip II had died. Lobo had designated all the motets as for singing at solemn masses, and the funeral motet was headed ’at the obsequies of Philip II Catholic King of Spain’. It is possible that it was sung at the king’s funeral, but there’s no evidence. We can be sure that it was sung at Toledo Cathedral’s memorial service.
Circumdederunt me Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (c1590-1664)
The words of this motet are adapted from Psalm 114: 3, 4. The Psalm was chanted at Vespers of the Dead. The motet extract became a favourite of composers throughout Europe in the sixteenth century and beyond. One by Morales was sung at the obsequies in Mexico City Cathedral marking the death of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in 1559. Padilla’s setting was composed more than a century later in a manner directly descended from the great master, in six-voiced polyphony, poignant and powerful.
In horrore visionis Francisco López Capillas (c1605-1674)
The Prophet Job supplies the phantasms of the night for this motet by López. He sets it with intensity and contrives a quite sinister effect with his close packed opening phrases as the voices rise in semitones and minor thirds. Like Circumdederunt and Versa est it is intended for extraliturgical devotions at the catafalque.
Versa est in luctum Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (c1590-1664)
Lobo’s dignified work of majestic sadness may have impressed his contemporaries Victoria and Vivanco; both wrote similar settings for six voices, both taking pains to begin with striking descending phrases paired with answering voices that rise. Some forty to fifty years later Padilla, at Puebla, Mexico, wrote his own version for five voices using similar devices.
Tantum ergo Francisco López Capillas (c1605-1674)
This is the penultimate stanza of the Corpus Christi hymn Pange lingua gloriosi corporis mysterium. Spain had its own distinctive triple-time tune; it enjoyed widespread popularity. López has used this melody, unadorned, in his second voice of the six, buried under the top and almost obscured by a welter of faster notes from its companions.
O quam suavis est, Domine Alonso Lobo (1555-1617)
Once more this is from the Office of Corpus Christi, written by Thomas Aquinas. It is the antiphon to the Magnificat at First Vespers. Alonso Lobo’s motet is deeply devotional, full of expressive melody, wrapped in gorgeous harmony. It must surely stand with Lobo’s great funeral motet as one of the finest of its time.
Christus factus est attrib. Hernando Franco (1532-1585)
This has been attributed to Franco because his name has been attached to one of the three manuscript copies that survive at Mexico City Cathedral. They are dated between 1717 and 1730, 150 years after Franco’s time. More likely it was the work of Manuel de Sumaya whose Holy Week music surrounds it in one of the choirbooks. Its three sections follow the plainchant as specified at the three Tenebrae services, the first on the Thursday, with the second added on Good Friday, then all three on Holy Saturday. Probably this polyphonic version was reserved for that final day.
O sacrum convivium Cristóbal de Morales (c1500-1553)
Morales sets the antiphon to the Magnificat for Second Vespers of Corpus Christi. In typically free counterpoint with variable imitation he proceeds to weave a tapestry of interlocked phrases. He takes his time. The rising fourths, 'O sacrum', stamp character and devotion on a work that seems one of organic growth.
O quam gloriosum Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611)
One of Victoria’s most popular motets. It uses the words of the antiphon to Magnificat at Second Vespers of All Saints (1 November). The opening heralds its joyful vigour. Three voices hurtle up at gaudent below the top voice’s long notes. It’s all joyful; it is one of those happy pieces that remind us that Victoria’s music is not all penitential or linked to Holy Week and Tenebrae.
Beatus Achacius Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599)
What a strange one this is. Did Guerrero know how many saints were called Achacius? Perhaps. In his first printed collection, in 1555, he took care to label his motet in festo S.Achacii, 22 Iunii. The saint was said to have been martyred along with 10,000 companions at Mount Ararat, no less. In Guerrero’s time the Feast was in the Seville liturgical books. It disappeared in the 1570s, excised by Roman reforms. It remained in the Martyrologium of 1949, and was abolished as myth in 1969. Guerrero’s motet is a fine example of his flowing style, unhurried and mellifluous. It owes much to the influence of Morales, but somehow gentler. This was a piece that did not get reprinted in Guerrero’s later books, due to the fading of Achacius from festal status.
Laudate Dominum Miguel Matheo de Dallo y Lana (?c1650-1705)
Miguel Mateo de Dallo y Lana was maestro at Puebla Cathedral from 1688 until his death in 1705. He became well known for his settings of psalms, mainly for Vespers, and for sacred villancicos, composed to vernacular poems, notably some by Sor Juana de la Cruz. He handles his six voices almost as though for twin choirs in this sprightly major key setting of Psalm 116 (KJV117).
Bruno Turner © 2020