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Luys de NARVÁEZ (c.1500-after 1550) Musica del Delphin
Primer tono por ge sol re ut [2:50]
Cancion del Emperador (Mille Regretz de Josquin) [2:10]
Fantasia del quinto tono [1:46]
Segundo tono [3:09]
Diferencias sobre Conde Claros [3:15]
Tercero tono [2:40]
Fantasia del primer tono [0:54]
Baxa de contrapunto [1:16]
Quarto tono [2:57]
Diferencias sobre el himmo O Gloriosa Domina [6:56]
Quinto tono de consonancia [2:24]
Je veulx laysser melancolie de Richafort [1:42]
Sesto tono sobre fa ut mi re [3:05]
Sanctus y Hosanna (Missa Faisant Regretz de Josquin) [3:13]
Septimo tono sobre ut re mi fa mi [3:20]
Fantasia del quarto tono [1:55]
Octavo tono [2:31]
Pablo Márquez (guitar)
rec. April 2006, Kulturbühne AmBach, Götzis, Austria
ECM NEW SERIES 1958 476 5878 [46:12]

Musicologists of a puritanical cast of mind will doubtless be unhappy about the repertoire for vihuela being played on the modern guitar; but others will surely delight in this lovely recital by one of the great sixteenth-century masters of Spanish music.

Biographical details of Luys de Narváez are few and far between. He was probably born in Granada, near the end of the fifteenth century at the very beginning of the sixteenth. He worked for Francisco de los Cobos as a court musician in Valladolid; in the 1590s he worked as music teacher to the children in the chapel of Prince Philip (later Philip III) and apparently travelled in Italy and Northern Europe. Almost all of his surviving music is to be found in his book Les seys libros del delphin, published in 1538. This is made up of music for solo vihuela notated in a tablature like that used in contemporary Italian lute books. The volume includes sets of variations, fantasias, intabulations of songs and other vocal pieces, villancicos and pieces in other genres.

Narváez has a considerable reputation as an improviser on the vihuela; it isn’t entirely paradoxical to say that one can hear the skills of the improviser in some of these written pieces, in terms, for example, of their often simple melodic and rhythmic modules, repeated and varied insistently, and of his use of common rhythmic figurations in several works.

The most impressive works here are perhaps the sets of variations – and it is worth noting that Narváez was a significant figure in the development of variation form, both within the Spanish tradition and beyond it. In the six variations (‘diferencias’) on the Spanish hymn O Gloriosa Domina the hymn tune appears in each variation. In the more numerous variations on Conde Claros the original melodic phrase is effectively reduced to an ostinato pattern upon which new constructions are built – including abrupt changes of register, some striking scalar passages and much else. (Conde Claros was a lengthy ballad (more than 400 lines long) which probably dates from the 15th century. Various musical settings exist).

The fantasias are fine pieces too, their melodic lines spinning out expressively, richly evocative of mood. The transcriptions of vocal works by Josquin Desprez and Jean Richafort are fascinating too – in truth, there is nothing here that isn’t.

The modern guitar - Pablo Márquez plays a 1952 guitar made by Daniel Friedrich – has a richer sound palette than the vihuela and an altogether burlier sound. But played as sensitively as it is here by Márquez (Argentinian born and currently Professor at the Musik-Akademie of Basel) it proves to be a very effective medium for the interpretation of Narváez’ music. Márquez’ interpretations are sensitive and sympathetic and apt in scale. He is (as other CDs have already shown) possessed of a considerable technique, but there is no showing off of virtuosity here – his love and respect for the music of Narváez is clearly too profound for that ever to be a temptation. His performances benefit from a characteristically beautiful ECM recorded sound.

Glyn Pursglove


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