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Early Music

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Alfonso X el SABIO (1221-1284)
Cantigas de Santa Maria

Nawba Ramal al-Maya Bughya (overture) – instrumental [1:06]
Cantiga 100: Santa Maria, streta do dia [3:24]
Cantiga 406: Ben vennas, Mayo [2:42]
Cantiga 370: Loemos muit’a Virgen [3:19]
Cantiga 90: Sola fusti, senlleira [3:44]
Cantiga 52: Mui gran derait’e – instrumental [1:49]
Nawba Gharibat al-Husayn Tushiyas (prelude) – instrumental [2:16]
Cantiga 230: Tod’ome deve dar loor [2:17]
Cantiga 130: Quen entender quiser [4:57]
Cantiga 56: Gran dereit’e [5:13]
Nawba Irak al-Ajam Mizan Dari – Sana "Kouli Lmalihti" – instrumental [0:44]
Cantiga 320: Santa Maria leva [3:44]
Cantiga 200: Santa Maria loel [5:34]
Cantiga 417: Nobre don e muy precado [5:14]
Nawba Gharibat al-Husayn, Mizan Bacit – Sana "Kad nilto hibbi" – instrumental [1:46]
Cantiga 140: A Santa Maria dadas [3:35]
Nawba Rasd al-dhil Mizan Koddam – Sana "Allah hoo Yalamo" [1:45]
Cantiga 250: Por nos Virgen Madre [2:39]
Camerata Meditarranea with Joel Cohen, Abdelkrim Rais Andalusian Orchestra of Fes with Mohammed Briouel
APEX WARNER CLASSICS 2564619242 [56.10]

 

Imagine a king so cultured and wise that he spends his days composing, or overseeing the composition of over four hundred glorious, imaginative, inspired and stunningly beautiful songs to the Virgin Mary (the Cantigas de Santa Maria). A sovereign so open-minded and civilised that he wallowed in, absorbed and incorporated into his court and own artistic works the cultural influence of Moors and Jews despite his own strongly Christian faith. What a glittering star in the firmament of monarchs! This is what the lucky Spanish had in the thirteenth century in their ruler, Alfonso X, nicknamed El Sabio, The Wise, who called himself the "King of three religions". A selection of the Cantigas, possibly the highlight of Alfonso’s creations, have here been reconstructed taking into consideration the non-European elements, with accomplished Moroccan musicians supplying traditional accompaniment to the melody lines given by the Cantigas manuscript, and using instruments as close as possible to those shown in the manuscript. The results are deeply striking – a collection of moving, exciting, and thrilling songs, performed with passion and panache by the Camerata Mediterranea and Abdelkrim Rais Andalusian Orchestra of Fes under the direction of Joel Cohen and Mohammed Briouel.

The pieces themselves range from ones that are very familiar to us from the performances of other mediaeval groups – such as the Cantigas 100 – Santa Maria, strela do dia, and 417 – Nobre don e muy precado, to ones that are less well-known. From the atmospheric opening instrumental Bughya (overture), Nawba Ramal al-Maya, we are taken on a magical journey encompassing many different moods and airs, ranging from the rousing Ben vennas, Mayo (Cantiga 406) and lively and beautiful Mui gran dereit’e (56) with its spoken introduction giving a greater flavour of the culture and language, through to the moving solo song Sola fusti, senlleira (90), or haunting Cantigas 230 and 320, and concluding with a melting rendition of Por nos Virgen Madre, Cantiga 250.

The ensemble playing is outstanding, and the voices are strong, confident and powerful, capable of shining out alone, or blending into the tutti as required. The decision to use musicians steeped in Moorish music has paid off exceptionally well. Both lovers of mediaeval and non-European music will find this coming together of cultures fascinating and appealing. All in all, it is an extremely well-presented, designed and performed disc and I recommend it highly.

Em Marshall

 



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