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Vea Yo Los Ojos Bellos: Music From The Time Of Cervantes
Sebastian DURÓN (1660-1716)
Las iras detan [4.56];
Antonio Martin y COLL (c. after 1733)
Jacaras [3.02]
Juan Bonet de PAREDES (d.1710)
Cuando podré lagrate [4.50]
Manuel de EGUÈS (1657-1729)
Quieros estarte quieto [4.07]
Gabriel GUERAU (c.1653-1720)
Ves el sol, luna y estrellas [3.27]
José MARIN (c.1618-1699)
Québien vanta un ruiseñor [4.05]
Viuda tórtola del Tajo [3.52]
Diego ORTIZ (c.1510-c.1570)
Recercadas III and VII [3.33]
Filippo COPPOLA (1628-1680)
Mis tiernos afectos (El Rapto de Proserpina) [4.29]
Juan del Vado y GOMEZ (c.1625-1691)
No te embrarques, pensamiento [3.18]
Andres NAVARRO (fl.18th Cent)
Como, podré yo de ti… [3.42]
Bartolomé Selma y SALAVERDE (fl.c1613-1638)
Fantasia para bajo [5.38]
Son los ojos de Gilata [3.25]
No podrás, que es en balde [4.00]
La morena de más gracias [2.48]
Victor Sordo Vicente (tenor)
Luz Y Norte
rec. September 2015, Alconadilla. Segovia, Spain

In all the hype of 2016 surrounding the 400th anniversary of the death of our greatest playwright William Shakespeare, we in the UK (and in the rest of the English speaking world no doubt) overlooked an equally great writer whom Shakespeare much admired. He was Miguel Cervantes, who, remarkably, seems to have died on the same day as Shakespeare. Its quite possible that Shakespeare’s last play ‘Cardenia’ is based on a plot found (as a subplot) in Cervantes’s Don Quixote. That that play was adapted into a piece called ‘Double Falsehood’ and recently re-introduced into the RSC’s repertoire.

If I were to be a bit picky I would have to say that only Diego Ortiz, represented by two of his Recercedas for divisi viol, and possibly de Selma y Salaverde whose Fantasia para bajo also has divisi sections, could have been known to Cervantes. All of the others were not even born by the time of his death. The anonymous pieces are difficult to date.

It is not the famous Don Quixote de la Manche and his marvellous side kick Sancho Panza who are celebrated here but a much lesser known collection of music published by Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz from Burgos in 1677. “Luz y Norte Musical para caminar”…. “ A musical Light and Guide to direct readers through tablature for Spanish Guitar and harp, to aid playing and singing in time in organ songs, and a brief description of the art, via easy and flawless precepts explained with clear rules for theory and practice” – what a title!

Some of this large repertoire, which comes from a period known as Spain’s Golden Age, has been recorded by others. Jordi Savall and Hesperion XX for example, on a disc entitled ‘El barroco espanol’, has included music by some of these composers. One such is José Marin whom I consider to be the most striking and interesting of 17th Century Spanish composers due to the catchiness of his melodies and foot tapping, repeated rhythms. Some of the songs, like Coppola’s Mis tiernos afectos, subtitled ‘The Rape of Proserpina”, are quite dramatic and others often have several changes of tempo and time signature, for example Navarro’s Como podré yo de ti? This lurch towards drama and sudden change was, by the eighteenth century, to move into that uniquely Spanish art form - the Zarzuela.

Other songs are more light-hearted and have that typical alternation of what we call 6/8 and 3/ 4 time which with the addition of castanets, as in Martin y Coll’s Jacares, and in Paredes’s Cuando podre lograte, gives a fine Spanish atmosphere. As required by the didactic directive above, in the 1677 publication the four members of the group Luz Y Norte, making their debut recording, and taking their name from the publication, use appropriate instrumentation. A large harp is played by Sara Agueda, a viola da gamba is played by Calia Alvarez and various percussion are in the hands of Daniel Garay. Victor Sordo’s voice is very appealing and completely suitable and although crisp in diction and articulation can be expressive and sensitive.

The vocal items are separated by three instrumental ones and the sound evoked through some delightful playing is an absolute joy. However the group have, in my opinion, been let down by Brilliant Classics. Not the recording, which is well balanced and spaced, but by the documentation. We are offered a few lines from Cervantes’ novel ‘La Galatea’ which was, says Victor Sordo Vicente, the inspiration for the CD, then a brief note about the publication ‘Luz y norte’ and then all of the texts in Spanish only. Now I don’t know about your Spanish but mine is very much British-tourist level, so for a CD which was stimulated by the work of a great author such as Cervantes, not to translate the texts and not to know what the songs are all about is deeply frustrating. There are three photographs of the musicians which seem like two too many, taking up space in the twelve-sided booklet. I know that Brilliant Classics are even more budget price than Naxos but this kind of presentation just is not good enough, and lets the performers down too.

So I’m not really sure I can recommend this disc but perhaps at budget price and if you don’t care about translations of possibly quite uninteresting poems and the repertoire appeals, search it out. These are good quality performances.

Gary Higginson



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