in Seville (the son of a painter), Guerrero seems to have
spent most of his life in that great Andalusian city - though
he worked briefly in Jaen and Malaga, and in later life spent
some years (1581-1584) in Rome, as well as making a pilgrimage
to the Holy Land in 1588-1589; spending some time in Venice
on both outward and return journeys. In his youth he studied
with Christóbal de Morales. At the age of 15 he became a
choirboy in the cathedral in Seville; eventually he was to
become maestro de capilla there. In modern times he
is best known for his large-scale choral works, of which
a number of fine recordings exist – such as the collection
by Peter Phillips and The Tallis Scholars on Gimell CDGIM
040, which includes the Missa Surge propera and several
striking motets (see review)
and the recording of his Vespers for All Saints and
the Missa Pro Defunctis by the Chapelle du Roi directed
by Alistair Dixon on Signum CD017 (see review).
Guerrero’s eighteen Masses, his many motets, his settings
of the Magnificat – these are important and satisfying works
in the tradition of Renaissance polyphony.
less well known and, admittedly, less central to Guerrero’s
standing as a composer is the music represented on this CD.
While it may not be fully representative of Guerrero’s achievement
as a composer, it is certainly not without considerable interest.
It reflects Guerrero’s involvement in the rich cultural life
of Renaissance Seville.
of Guerrero’s works for Church use set, naturally, Latin
texts. Here, on the other hand, the texts are in the vernacular.
Guerrero mixed with significant Spanish poets such as Baltasar
de Alcázar and Gutierre de Cetina, setting texts by them.
These songs and villancicos - in older Spanish the word describes
a particular musical/verse form, in modern Spanish it means
a Christmas carol - were predominantly settings of secular
at least of these songs were written early in Guerrero’s
musical career; some can be found in manuscripts dated as
early as 1548. When the composer eventually decided to publish
some of this repertoire, towards the end of his life, he
put sacred texts in place of the original secular words.
The volume of Canciones y villanescas espirituales was
published in 1589, precisely the time of his pilgrimage to
the Holy Land.
is fascinating to hear Guerrero working on this more intimate
scale. So far as I can judge with my very limited Spanish
- unfortunately the sung texts are provided only in Spanish
- there is a certain amount of word-painting, part of a detailed
musical responsiveness to text. The ‘spiritualisation’ of
the original texts is often only surface-deep, so that most
such effects survive. Many of the settings contrast passages
of counterpoint – sometimes in five voices, sometimes less – with
some elegant homophonic writing and the results are often
quietly beautiful. This music may lack the sublimity of Guerrero’s
major choral works, but what it doesn’t lack is imagination
and consummate craftsmanship. There is a good deal of variety
, too; from the bright energy of ‘¿De dónde vienes, Pascual?’ to
the relative sobriety of ‘Acaba de matarme’.
Trulla de Bozes was founded by Carlos Sandúa in 1998; their
first CD, Sevilla circa 1560: Secular Polyphony of the
Andalusian School (Passacaille
PAS 936) was widely praised. I haven’t, sadly, heard it,
but this later CD makes it easy to understand why it got
such a positive reception. There is a smoothness of vocal
production and balance, achieved without loss of clarity,
which makes La Trulla de Bozes very easy on the ear; their
singing has a pleasing rhythmic vivacity, without ever feeling
forced or mannered. The instrumental trio (the bajón
is an ancestor of the bassoon) acquit themselves very well
when called upon. This is a very enjoyable CD, both for the quality of performance
and recorded sound and because it explores still relatively
little-known music of some considerable quality.
see also review by Jonathan Woolf
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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