Pla is the family name of a Catalan family of oboists
and composers. In the mid-18th century the three brothers Manuel, Joan
Baptista and Josep were active as performing musicians and composers.
The latter two travelled across Europe as oboe virtuosos, performing
at various courts and concert halls. They made their appearance in the
in Paris where their playing was received
with great enthusiasm. Manuel never left Spain and worked in Madrid
as a military musician and composer of theatre music. He also left a
considerable amount of religious music. It is not easy to establish
the authorship of their compositions, as in most cases only their family
name was mentioned on the manuscripts. It is likely that most vocal
works are from the pen of Manuel; in some cases he is specifically mentioned
as the composer, for instance of the Salve Regina in g minor
The programme begins with a setting of the Stabat mater
mentions 'Juseppe Pla' as its composer. We also know that it was performed
in 1756 at the Marian Sanctuary of Aranzazu in Basque Country. As with
so many settings of this text it shows the influence of the famous work
by Pergolesi. However, it has several features of its own, for instance
the inclusion of two horns in the scoring, even though their role is
limited. Two sections are written in the form of an accompanied recitative.
The opening section includes some modulations. The solo part is demanding
and requires a wide tessitura. Raquel Andueza delivers an impressive
performance of this fine piece which deserves to be part of the standard
repertoire and is an interesting alternative to Pergolesi's setting.
The other main work is a setting of the Salve Regina
. Here the
composer is also specified as 'Manl. Pla'. It has survived in two manuscripts,
also in Aranzazu. One of these belonged to Antonio García del
Rio, who was first bass of the Capilla Real in Madrid. It is an expressive
composition with contrasting sections. The opening section is rather
intimate and its music returns in the closing section, 'O clemens'.
The second section has an operatic character, with extended coloraturas
on "clamamus". In "Ad te suspiramus" the strings play pizzicato; it
ends with a cadenza. 'Eja ergo' is fugal, and 'Et Jesum benedictum'
ends again with a cadenza. Pau Bordas has a beautiful voice and effectively
explores the expressive and dramatic traits of this piece.
It is likely that Manuel Pla also is the composer of the aria and the
two cantatas in the programme. The aria Pedro, cuánto has
dejado por seguir a tu maestro
has been preserved in Guatemala in
Mexico, proving the exchange of music between the Old and the New World.
This dacapo aria would not be misplaced in an opera seria
the time. The two cantatas are both written for the Holy Sacrament (Corpus
Christi), and comprise a secco recitative and a dacapo aria. The arias
are again operatic in character. In both the trumpet has an obbligato
part; the aria 'Tanta fineza' (Es tan sumo
) includes some passages
in which it acts as the echo of the singer.
The disc ends with a rather curious piece, a seguidilla
- a song
in the form of a dance - from a 'eucharistic play', La lepra de Constantino
The text is from the pen of the playwright Calderón de la Barca
and was written between 1660 and 1663. Manuel Pla contributed 14 musical
numbers in 1757. The text of the seguidilla Tres coronas admite de
does not appear in Calderón's play and was probably
added during some performances in the 18th century. Despite the sacred
subject the music has a clearly theatrical character. The scoring includes
a guitar and castanets and could easily be taken for an aria from a
In these rather extroverted pieces Raquel Andueza seems to feel like
a fish in water. Their quite virtuosic traits come off impressively.
To what extent she pays attention to the text is hard to say, as the
booklet includes the lyrics, but no translations. Even so, her singing
is admirable and enjoyable, and she again proves to be one of the bright
stars of the early music scene today.
All in all this is a most interesting and musically captivating production.
Chamber music of the two younger Pla brothers has been recorded before,
for instance by the ensemble Rossini Piceno (review
but little attention has been paid to the oeuvre of Manuel. With the
exception of the seguidilla
all these pieces have been recorded
here for the first time. That makes this disc an important contribution
to our knowledge of Spanish music of the 18th century. Considering the
quality of the music and the performances this disc should not be missed.
Johan van Veen