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Juan de ANCHIETA (1462-1523)
Missa Sine Nomine
Salve Regina

Capilla Peñaflorida
Loreto Fernández Imaz (organ)
Ministriles de Marsias/Josep Cabré
Recorded at Villabuena, Álava, October 2000
NAXOS 8.555772 [67.23]


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Related to Ignatius Loyola, Juan de Anchieta was born in 1462 and spent much of his life in royal service. In 1489 he was appointed as a singer in Queen Isabella’s court, gradually rising in importance over the years, accompanying the royal court as far afield as Brussels and England. He remained with Queen Joanna, Isabella’s heir, after her abdication but suffered an attack by two of the Loyola brothers and was lucky to have emerged unscathed through the political and religious complexities of the time (a nephew who succeeded Anchieta as Abbot of Arbás was not so lucky and was murdered). He retired in 1519 but was allowed to retain his salary and after his death an unseemly squabble took place over his final resting place.

About thirty or so works by Anchieta are known to have survived including two Masses, four Passion settings, Magnificats and a Salve Regina. This Missa Sine Nomine is also known as the Missa quarti toni and is presented here in its liturgical and ceremonial context. So The Kyrie I is an organ elaboration of Josquin’s music by the royal chapel organist Francisco Fernandez Palero (d 1597) and Anchieta’s famous rival and superior Francisco de Peñalosa is represented by his Sancta mater istud agas (for instrumental forces). The Hymn; Pange lingua is in the setting by Juan de Urreda (conjecturally born the Flemish Johannes Wreede of Bruges).

The aim to present a reconstructed ceremony has been well met with the interspersed works evoking a genuine consonance. Anchieta was not alone in setting L’homme armé, that pan-European melody of melodies, but it’s interesting that the use to which he puts it (in the tenor part of the Agnus Dei) is relatively restrained and certainly not straining for technical dazzle. Elsewhere in the Mass he makes considerable use of a dotted three-note figure and he aims for a wholeness of expression. The opening instrumental fanfares are bold and affirmatory whilst the beautiful Introit is excellently sustained in the attractive ambience of Villabuena. Some of the Mass does sound Northern European – Anchieta was clearly familiar with Josquin for example – and the way in which Gregorian Chant is juxtaposed with polyphony is often seamless – the Agnus Dei is a particularly impressive example of his sheer technical skill in this regard. The Mass is not florid and the nearest it comes to austerity is the Graduale whilst the Credo moves with flexibility to a brass punctured and rather wonderful climax. The simplicity of Anchieta’s writing can be gauged from the Ave Sanctissima Maria and the play of the voices in the Sanctus-Benedictus is irresistible.

For one who has lain so long in Peñalosa’s shadow this Mass shows the sophisticated heights to which Anchieta could ascend, whilst never shedding the generous simplicity of style for which he is know (and often found wanting). The brass and vocal forces respond with genuine understanding and unflagging enthusiasm. Let’s have more Anchieta from these forces.

Jonathan Woolf


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