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Un camino de Santiago
see end of review for track listing
Arianna Savall (soprano)
Ensemble La Fenice (Jean Tubéry (recorder, cornett), Mélanie Flahaut (recorder, bassoon), Martin Bauer (viola da gamba), Juan Sebastian Lima (theorbo, guitar), Michaël Hell (harpsichord, organ))
rec. 28-30 April 2010, church of Franc-Warêt; 15-16 September 2010, church of Saligny, Belgium. DDD
Texts and translations included
RICERCAR RIC312 [63:40]

Experience Classicsonline

"When musicians of our generation seek to provide musical depictions of the pilgrimages to St. James of Compostela, they turn most frequently to the Middle Ages. The La Fenice ensemble, however, has chosen a different approach by taking a map of the Camino francès (1648) at its inspiration. Here they bring formal as well as popular repertoire of the time back to life with songs both sacred and secular, combining these with the joyfully festive music that accompanied the travellers from France to Galicia via Languedoc, Aragon and Castile". Thus the text on the reverse of the tray.
What we hear is not in any way a reconstruction of the music pilgrims would have heard during their journey. Jean Tubéry underlines this in his programme notes. It is a collection of pieces they could have heard. Even that is questionable, though: a pilgrim in 1648 can't possibly have heard Di Jacopo si canti by Matteo Coferati as the composer was born only in 1638. The documentation of this disc is rather poor: Jean Tubéry mentions most of the pieces in his liner-notes, but he is not very specific about the sources and there is hardly anything there about the composers. That is a shame as several of them are virtually unknown. That is one of the attractions of this disc quite apart from the performances; more of that later.
The disc is divided into sections, in accordance to the stages of the journey. It begins with an antiphon in plainchant about the apostle St James (Jacob), followed by a sacred concerto by Urban Loth. He was a German composer, probably of Bohemian birth, who from 1610 until his death worked as organist in Passau. The largest part of his music was printed in two collections. The sacred concerto O beate Dei athleta Jacobe is written in the concertante style of the early 17th century, and shows Italian influence.
The second section is entitled 'following the Rhône', with three pieces by Guillaume Chastillon - Sieur de La Tour, to use his full name. He was born and died in Caen and belonged to the Huguenots. He received the privilege of having three of his books of airs published. Of these the first two have been preserved. His aim was "sweetness of melody rather than harmonic profundity". The three songs performed here bear witness to that: these are beautiful and charming songs on a French text of a spiritual character. "At the crossroads in Avignon we met Italian pilgrims who sang with all their heart", the text in the booklet says by way of introduction to the third section. Bienheureuse est une âme has a melody which was well-known in Europe, and turns up with several titles, like Une jeune fillette, La Monica, or The Queen's Almaine, and was used in Germany for the hymn Von Gott will ich nicht lassen. Eustache du Caurroy wrote several variations on this tune, one of which is played here. This is an example of a piece which was written long before the imaginary pilgrimage in 1648, and one wonders whether such pieces were still known and performed about half a century after the date of composition. Du Caurroy was an important composer who worked for the royal chapel. This section ends with the piece by Mattei Coferati already referred to above, which is based on the same tune. He was a composer from Florence, who was also active as music editor, theorist, organist and singer. The piece performed here is one of his many laudi spirituali - technically rather simple music to be sung in congregations.
The next stage is entitled "Languedoc and Gascony", and here there are two anonymous pieces and a composition by Étienne Moulinié, who was from Languedoc and acted as director of music to Gaston d'Orléans, younger brother of King Louis XIII. N'espérez plus, mes yeux is one of the many airs de cour for which he was most famous. The anonymous De cor, de boux celebrats, cantats toutis is a short Christmas cantata with recitatives and choruses. In the next section, devoted to Aragon and Castile, we hear mainly instrumental pieces. The gaïta is the term which was used at, among others, the Iberian peninsula for an instrument which is comparable to the bagpipe. La Girometa (usually known as girolmeta) is a well-known tune which appears in various compositions of the 17th century. Bartolomeo de Selma y Salaverde was a Spanish composer and bassoonist, who worked in several places in Europe. Very little is known about Bartolomeu de Olagué, who was Spanish or Portuguese, probably of Basque origin. A jacara is a rather wild dance which was often used in Spanish music of the 17th and 18th centuries. The last piece in this section, by the Italian composer and lutenist Andrea Falconieri, is a folia, one of the most frequently used bassi ostinati in music history.
In the next section we move to the church of Leon, where we are greeted with bell ringing. We hear another air de cour by Étienne de Moulinié, followed by variations for recorder on the same tune by Jacob van Eyck, the Dutch recorder player and carillonneur. I couldn't find any information about Francisco Escalada, but it seems Canten dos Jilguerros was written in Mexico. That makes it rather unlikely that any pilgrim in 1648 could have heard it ... The last stage is Galicia where we hear a piece by Gabrielle Bataille, a French composer and lutenist who was mainly known for his airs de cour, and two anonymous pieces, among them another gaïta. The pilgrimage ends in Santiago. First we hear a canzon by Falconieri, and the programme then appropriately ends with the Vilancico de nacions by Francisco Soler, who was choirmaster in several cathedrals. It describes how several people from various regions in Spain come "to adore the child".
This disc is a good example of creative, albeit speculative, programming. All historical considerations apart, the music is engaging, and as many pieces and even composers are little-known this is also a musical voyage of discovery. Adding to the delight is singing and playing which is of the highest order. Arianna Savall has a very beautiful and sweet voice which is perfectly suited to this repertoire. Her diction is immaculate, and she catches the character of the various songs perfectly. The players also give brilliant performances, and in particular the Spanish and the more 'popular' items are played with fire and passion. In two items the instrumentalists show that they can sing pretty well too.
This imaginary journey through Europe has resulted in an entertaining and musically compelling programme of mostly little-known music, fit for repeated listening.
Johan van Veen
Track listing
Procedens Jesus vidit Jacobum [1:56]
Urban LOTH (c1580-1636)
O beate Dei athleta Jacobe [2:49]
Guillaume CHASTILLON DE LA TOUR (c1550-1610)
Justes, chacun se présente [1:25]
Chantez au Seigneur [1:37]
Ce qui me plait davantage [2:54]
Bienheureuse est une âme [2:08]
Eustache DU CAURROY (1549-1609)
Fantaisie à 3 sur Une jeune fillette [1:47]
Matteo COFERATI (1638-1703)
Di Jacopo si canti [3:53]
Étienne MOULINIÉ (c1600-after 1669)
N'espérez plus, mes yeux [3:34]
Cancion real francesa in écho [1:38]
De cor, de boux celebrats, cantats toutis [5:19]
Gaïta spañola (sobre La Girometa) [5:16]
Bartolomeo DE SELMA Y SALAVERDE (fl. 1618-1638)
Canzon per canto e basso [3:25]
Bertolomeu DE OLAGUÉ (1658-?)
Jacara (baïla de Jaca) [2:14]
Andrea FALCONIERI (1585/86-1656)
Folias para mi Señora Dona Tarolilla [4:15]
Repicavan las campanillas /
Jacob VAN EYCK (1589/90-1657)
Repicavan [4:10]
Francisco ESCALADA (fl 17th C)
Canten dos Jilguerillos [2:21]
Gabrielle BATAILLE (c1575-1630)
El baxel esta en la playa [1:53]
Gaïta francesa [3:11]
Vuelve barquilla [2:38]
Canzon La Benedetta [2:12]
Francisco SOLER (c1625-1688)
Vilancico de nacions, de Gascuña, Aragon y Cataluña [2:58]