Well here’s a new name
for you, In fact here’s a new full name
because he should be called Francisco
Junca Y Carol. Junca was born in Sabadell
twenty kilometres north of Barcelona.
He was a choirboy at the mountain monastery
at Monserrat a further twenty kilometres
to the west. He then worked away for
twelve years in far away Toledo and
then in Girona, only to return to Barcelona.
With the exception of those twelve years
his entire long working life was spent
in the service of the church in Catalonia.
His music is typical
of its age. One might say ‘Rococo’ but
straight ‘Classical’ will do. His output
is large, over three hundred works according
to the amazingly brief booklet notes
by Joan Pàmies, the overall director
of this performance. Junca left Toledo
under appointment from the King to be
a canon at Girona Cathedral a very important
musical centre at the time. It was in
Barcelona that this Mass was composed.
It’s good therefore to have it performed
here by a choir and soloists who hail
from that city, in a good edition by
Daniel Guinot and recorded by a company
with an extensive catalogue set up with
the express aim of promoting Catalonian
music and performers.
I must say that finding
any other information about this composer
is rather hard. His Mass number 22 is
recorded on the Spanish broadcasting
organisation label (RTVE 65111) but
it is difficult to find out much else,
but then perhaps Junca had a fairly
uneventful life. Listening to this music
I would guess that that is the case.
Its style is akin to
the early Haydn Masses but, as was common
in Spain at the time, is a little more
Italianate. The movements are, as usual
divided between the soloists, who carry
the bulk of the text in several often
elaborate arias and the choir, which
we might call ‘the ripieno’. Although
it is not always easy to tell with continental
voices, the choir seems to have boys
singing the treble lines and they are
strong with that typical vibrato you
expect of Spanish boys. Sadly the composer,
it seems to me, under-uses the choir
compared with the soloists. What of
Well I must try to
be polite and remove my English critical
ear and assume a continental one where
vocalists sound quite different and
have different expectations. It’s not
easy. Let’s take the longest movement,
the ‘Gloria’. Junca divides this into
seven movements and incidentally each
section of each movement is separately
tracked which is an excellent idea.
We open with ‘Et in terra pax’ which
is normally for full chorus. The orchestra
open the bowling, and feature the oboes
and some other attractive woodwind playing.
Here the bass and alto sing the opening
to be joined by the soprano and only
later - and briefly - by the chorus
who interject occasionally. A graceful,
operatic aria for alto follows with
the ‘Laudamus te’ after an orchestral
prelude. No texts are produced in the
booklet. It is assumed that you know
the words of the mass. The phrases can
be long, just as in an operatic aria
with the words constantly repeated.
The alto voice of Montserrat Pi is flexible
The ‘Gratias’ is mainly
a chorus item with the soloists adding
the odd phrase. The soprano soloist,
Olivia Barnès, has, it appears,
only one dynamic – and that ‘can belto’.
The ‘Domine deus’ is a tenor solo where
surely Jordi Casanovas is very lumpy
and heavy-handed. His trills are likewise
rather perfunctory and I’m not sure
if he has a convincing upper range.
The soprano takes over and then the
bass Rafael Muntaner booms out. When
all four sing together the decibels
ring out in the spacious church acoustic.
The dramatic ‘Qui tollis’ is choral
at the start with soloist interjections
which are nicely unpredictable in their
placement. The movement includes a little
vocal cadenza from the tenor. The ‘Quoniam’
is blasted and screeched out by the
soprano soloist which is so unnecessary
against a chamber orchestra. I could
go on, but you get the idea I’m sure.
At this point both with the (I’m sorry
to say) second-rate music and the soloists
I was practically at frustration point.
I was only relieved by the fact that
the Credo, with its huge text, is somehow
all over in half the time of the Gloria.
The playing time of the disc is mercifully
short. In many ways however this is
all a pity because of fine work from
the choir who end the Gloria with a
brief if uninspired fugal ‘Cum sancto
spirito’. The orchestral playing is
pleasing and neat; the direction crisp
I have British ears
and who’s to say anyway if this kind
of operatic approach is not the one
which the composer expected and had
in mind. After all at this period if
the opera houses were closed for whatever
reason, the star soloists made a few
pennies singing in the cathedrals and
abbeys. We do not know very much about
the quality of Spanish singers in the
late eighteenth century but the zarzuela
was immensely popular in not far away
On the positive side,
this disc represents a wholly admirable
venture and I would like to recognize
those who have put it all together.
I’m sure that many will enjoy the strongly
characterful music and earnest performance.
Unfortunately for me I am not one of