Guerrero wrote a number
of secular works. Many were written
early in his compositional life but
they were not published until 1589 under
the title Canciones y Villanescas
Espirituales. He took the precaution
however of replacing the secular texts
with sacred ones, the better to keep
him out of harm’s way.
Given that several
of these songs can with reasonable certainty
be dated to 1548, when Guerrero was
twenty-one, we can see that they occupied
him throughout much of his career in
Seville. The most salient features of
his writing here are imitative counterpoint
and something that comes close to the
madrigal. The Villanescas have
a refrain and couplets (one or more)
and were a common feature of chapel
life, something of a musical prerequisite
for the Chapel Master in fact. Most
of the songs in this disc are taken
from the Christmas cycle given "to
praise the Holy Nativity of Christ."
Despite the sacred
texts one would hardly confuse these
with liturgical works. They possess
far too much animation and sheer rhythmic
vivacity. Alternating single lines and
madrigal like consort textures ensure
there’s always a sense of changeability
in these settings and this is something
that Guerrero takes care to keep alive.
De Dones vienes, Pascual is an
especially vivacious, and brief, example
of his elan in this kind of repertoire.
In this performance Nino Dios d’amor
Herido evinces fuller textures and
is more resonantly expressive, more
reminiscent in fact of the liturgical
Guerrero; evocative in sound at least
of the masses he was to write in Seville.
La Trulla de Bozes
under Carlos Sandua do make something
of a play for the broader and more intensely
sculpted aspect of the writing, as if
the one were in reality embedded in
the other. So their performances tend
to be heavier and less lightly textured
than their competitors in this repertoire.
This brings rewards. The dynamics and
colour of La tierra se esta gozando
are impressive and the singing reaches
a pitch of beauty. Then there’s moving
gravity and simplicity of utterance
in Acaba de matarme and the refinement
and delicacy of Al resplandor de
una estrella where the fine instrumental
ensemble of organ, harp and bajon really
make their mark.
The vocal ensemble
consists of soprano, counter tenor,
two tenors and baritone. The counter
tenor has a certain James Bowman-like
hoot though it’s not an unattractive
hoot and it certainly adds a distinctive
quality to the vocal ensemble.
The attractive notes
have some fine illustrations. The texts
are in Spanish only. Admirers of Guerrero
are living in happy times with a plethora
of new releases both secular and liturgical.
Fortunately there’s enough for there
to be no serious overlap between discs
so if you go for the selection on Enchiriadis
EN2014 sung by Musica Ficta you can
be sure of little duplication. This
group takes a more airy, less pressured
and liturgical view. For an expressive
and powerful look at the Canciones
however La Trulla de Bozes certainly
do themselves justice.