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Misa Pastorela de Callosa de Segura
Canto de entrada [2:48]
Misa Pastorela [23:05]
Los Forasteros (aguinaldo) [1:42]
A San Martin y a San Roque (aguinaldo) [1:45]
Villancico popular [1:51]
La Reina de los Cielos (villancico) [0:46]
Este Niño pequeño (villancico) [0:38]
A la Purísima (aguinaldo) [5:01]
Los Cuadros (aguinaldo) [4:59]
Camerata Amicitia; Coro de la Fundación Pajares Salinas / Balbina Serna Huertas
rec. October 2006, Auditorio del Conservatorio Superior de Música de Murcia, Spain.
Texts and notes in Spanish only.
RTVE MUSICA 65270 [42:43]
Experience Classicsonline

Having been fortunate enough to make visits to the University of Murcia in south east Spain, I did once play the tourist in the pleasant town of Callosa de Segura not far away, though in the province of Valencia. Its main church is that of St. Martin, an attractive structure belonging (chiefly) to the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. In the eighteenth century, a priest from St. Martin’s attended Mass in a church in Seville one day during the celebration of Christmas. He was very struck by a Mass setting he heard there, asked for a copy of the score and took it back with him to Callosa de Segura. The mass followed a pretty common pattern of the time. It used an organ  - or sometimes a harmonium – to support the singing of a principal voice, and to introduce decorated versions of the relevant melodies and of traditional ‘carols’. As the booklet notes of this CD rather charmingly put it, the success of a given performance depended very much on the skills of the organist, on his state of mind and on his “moderación en la comida y sobre todo, en la bibida” (his moderation in food and, chiefly, in drink)!
In the following centuries, versions of this Mass were sung regularly in St. Martin’s in Callosa de Segura on several of the key days in Christmas Week. The church apparently had a number of organists of considerable skill (and sobriety). But the church’s organ was effectively destroyed in 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. After the war years, attempts began to reconstruct the Mass, relying both on a partial score copied earlier in the century and on the memories of those who had performed it. In the course of this reconstruction, rescoring for a small group of strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion shifted the instrumental emphasis away from the organ alone. The driving force behind this activity was D. Luis Serena, generally known as ‘Maestro Torbellino’. The results, with a few more changes along the way (this is very much ‘organic’ music) are the basis for this first recording of the Mass.
What we get to hear is music of great charm, expressive of genuine, unpretentious faith. Full of infectious rhythms and simple melodies, this doesn’t – of course – have the weight or profundity of the great settings of the Mass, but there are many moments of sudden beauty, when the music slows, when voices and instruments express the recognitions of faith, the sudden apprehensions of the divine, with a thoroughly engrossing simplicity. There’s a persuasive sense of commitment and utter honesty in the performance which befits the nature and origins of the music. This Mass is the musical equivalent of some of that beautiful anonymous wooden sculpture that one sees in many of the churches of southern Spain; not the grand high art of a sculptor like Salzillo, but works by local craftsmen, traditional in conception but enlivened by a response to local tastes and traditions. Like the best of such sculpture, this music benefits from subtle use of colour, a use that falls short of the lavishness characteristic of the high baroque in Spain and retains a thoroughly homely quality. The most extended movement in this setting is the Credo, and very lovely it is; rather less successful – as if its profundities are beyond its musical reach – is the brief Agnus Dei. But overall this is a fascinating  - and thoroughly pleasurable – musical document.
The same goes for the selection of traditional Callosino villancicos and aguinaldos, sung with boisterous but sensitive energy. Many of these have apparently been preserved by word of mouth transmission and are frequently very touching in their representation of popular religious sentiments and images. The brief ‘La Reina de los Cielos’ and the nativity carol ‘Este Niño pequeño’ are particularly lovely. One wonders quite how ancient their melodies are. The aguinaldo ‘Los Cuadros’ makes a rousing conclusion to the CD, with its antithesis between soloists and chorus and some very lively instrumental accompaniment. Some of the singing (and rhythms) here remind one that the music originated in the home of flamenco.
This is an unusual recording, valuable both as documentation of a local tradition and as the opportunity to hear some music that should appeal with an open-eared interest in Spanish music.
Glyn Pursglove


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