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Melólogos en Honor de Santa Teresa
Eduardo SOTO MILLÁN (b.1956)
Vivo sin vivir en mí [8:03]
Francisco NOVEL SÁMANO (b.1969)
El libro de la vida [15.48]
Alfredo RUGELES (b.1949)
Ayes del destierro [15.00]
Tomás MARCO (b.1942)
Camino de perfección [17.31]
José Luis TURINA (b.1952)
Nada te turbe [7.08]
Carlos CRUZ DE CASTRO (b.1941)
Las moradas del castillo interior [13.01]
Marisa Blanes (piano)
Manuel Galiana (reciter)
rec. Teatro de la Villa, Alba de Tormes, Salamanca, 5- 6 June 2015.
IBS CLASSICAL IBS-62015 [76:37]

2015 marked the 500th anniversary of the birth of St Teresa of Avila (1515 – 1582), Catholic saint, Carmelite nun, mystic and theologian. Her major works include her autobiography, The Life of Teresa of Jesus and The Interior Castle. The texts used here are from various sources. The words are central to the purpose of each piece. They need to be heard, and thought about: the melologue form makes each word clear. When she was about 39, she underwent a series of visions of Jesus, which she later used in her spiritual writings. She had a history of ill-health, which has led many to argue that her visions were caused either by her physical condition or perhaps as the result of sexual frustration. Her autobiography and other writings reveal a highly intelligent personality who subjected her visions – whatever caused them – to rigorous intellectual scrutiny. Against the charge of sexual frustration she argued that if that had been the case, she would have been left with a sense of disgust. She argued that if visions were genuine, they needed to be tested against the teaching of the church and whether they led to genuine change for the good in those who received them. She was canonized in 1622, named Doctor of the Church (with Catherine of Siena) in 1970, the first two women to receive the honour.

For this CD, six composers – all Spanish speakers, four from Spain, Rugeles from Venezuela, Soto Millán from Mexico – were commissioned to write works for piano and speaker in the genre of the melologue. Deploying a speaker permits the use of longer pieces of text, both prose and poetry, alternately.

Manuel Galiana has a lovely speaking voice, reading with beautiful tone. Marisa Blanes is a sympathetic accompanist, playing with commitment, though – at least to my ears - the recording of the piano very occasionally sounds harsh. The problem, with the centrality of spoken text, is that often the music comes across as little more than accompaniment. The natural speed of speech tends also to affect the range of tempo that composers have been able to use. Most of the music is slow.

Vivo sin vivir en mí (‘I live not living in myself’) is one of St. Teresa’s best known poems, and sets the tone for the CD. The idiom is conservative, but the piano part is most affecting in this piece. The second piece, Novel Sámano’s setting of Chapter 32 of the autobiography, El libro de la vida, provides in its music both an evocation of hell, in vivid terms, and a transformation over its quarter of an hour span to the release offered by soul-saving piety. The long introduction, before the speaker begins to recite, lasts almost five minutes, to establish the theme. Turina’s Nada te turbe (‘Let nothing you disturb’) achieves peacefulness with simple methods, a peacefulness reflected in the speaker’s voice.

There are useful notes in English and Spanish. Texts are in Spanish only.

This is a CD worth hearing, but perhaps for selective and occasional late-night listening - a well-made curiosity, but hardly essential.

Michael Wilkinson