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RECORDING OF THE MONTH
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Pedro Ruimonte en Bruselas
Herman Stinders (organ)
La Grande Chapelle / Albert Recasens
rec. 2017, Onze-Lieve-Vrouwkapel Elzenveld, Antwerp, Belgium
Texts and translations included LAUDALAU017 [63:00 + 51:20]
There was a time when the southern Netherlands, today largely the region known
as Belgium, was the breeding ground for singers and composers who dominated
the music scene in Europe. They were in the service of the main churches
and royal or aristocratic chapels across the continent. The Franco-Flemish
school, of which they were the representatives, was the leading force
until the emergence of the modern style around 1600. In the region itself
there were many interesting and prestigious positions to be held, for
instance at the court of the regents, who ruled the Netherlands in the
name of the Habsburg sovereign.
In the last decades of the 16th century, however, music life in Flanders
was in decline. That was the result of the revolt of the northern part
of the Low Countries against the rule of the Habsburg-Spanish dynasty,
from 1555 in the person of Philip II of Spain. It caused a political and
economic crisis, which demanded the complete attention of the regent.
In 1595 Philip II appointed Archduke Albert VII of Austria regent of the
Netherlands. In 1598 Albert married Philip's daughter Isabella
Clara Eugenia, and they ruled the Netherlands together. They attempted
to turn the tide and restore their court in Brussels to its former glory.
It took some time before these attempts bore fruit. The Twelve Years'
Truce between the conflicting parties (1609-1621) played a major role
in the revival of the court as a centre of the arts.
The present production sheds light on music life in the early decades
of the 17th century. The key figure is Pedro Ruimonte (or Rimonte). He
was from Zaragoza in Spain and probably travelled to Brussels in the company
of the newly-wed couple. By 1601 he was master of their chapel and chamber
music, a position he held until at least 1611. He is put into his historical
perspective through the inclusion of music of some of his colleagues,
who either worked at the same court or were active elsewhere in the southern
Netherlands. Like Ruimonte, the main composers of the time were from outside
the region. John Bull (not included here) and Peter Philips had left England
for various reasons; in the case of the latter it was his Catholic faith.
His countryman Richard Dering, who also stayed some time in Brussels,
came from Italy, where he had converted to Catholicism.
One of the effects of the presence of musicians from elsewhere was the
mixture of various influences. Like Dering, Philips had been in Italy,
where he observed the latest musical fashions. In his sacred works the
adopted the Roman polychoral style (Benedictus Dominus; Caecilia virgo).
He also composed sacred concertos for solo voices and basso continuo in
the monodic style (Cantate Domino; Sicut misit me vivens Pater).
Ruimonte also composed polychoral works (Sancta Maria, succurre miseris),
but is mainly represented here by two other genres: the madrigal and the
Ruimonte's madrigals – on Spanish texts – are in the
Italian style, but not so much the style which had developed in the late
decades of the 16th century, with a strong connection between text and
music. They were rather modelled after the older madrigal of the mid-16th
century. His madrigals are certainly not devoid of text expression, but
madrigalisms – marked depictions of the text – are rare. They
are dominated by imitative polyphony.
The villancico was a characteristically Spanish genre, with origins
in the early renaissance; the first known specimens date from the late
15th century. During the 16th century composers started to write villancicos
in polyphonic style. Whereas they were originally secular in character,
towards the end of the 16th century an increasing number of devotional
villancicos were written, especially for Christmastide. This
development reflects the growing influence of the Counter-Reformation.
That development can also be observed in Ruimonte's oeuvre. Quiero
dormir y non puedo for six voices is an example of a secular villancico:
"I would sleep and cannot, for love robs me of sleep". It is
followed by Mal puede estar escondida, a piece for Christmastide,
which – as is quite often the case – also refers to Jesus's
Passion: "And you, chosen Virgin, cause of such good fortune, have
forbearance with his death for he comes to give us life". Virgen
escogida, about the Virgin Mary, bears witness to the importance
of the veneration of Mary in the Counter-Reformation. Pieces like these
remind us that the regent couple not only wanted to restore the state
of the arts, but also aimed to strengthen the position of the Catholic
faith. It is interesting that Henri Vanhulst, in his liner notes, sees
a connection between the villancico and the popular songs for
Christmastide written in the southern Netherlands: "The villancico
form inspired a number of composers of the old Spanish Netherlands in
their Flemish Christmas songs, generally known as cantiones natalitiae."
The inclusion of a piece by Girolamo Frescobaldi seems a bit odd, but
he was in Brussels for some time in 1607 in the retinue of the cardinal
and nuncio Guido Bentivoglio. In 1608 he published here his first book
of madrigals, dedicated to the cardinal. He is not represented here with
a keyboard piece – the genre for which he is best known –
but a canzon which also pays tribute to the polychoral tradition
of his home country. Organ works are included, but they are from the pen
of Pieter Cornet, one of the few home-bred musicians who played a major
role in music life at the time. For a number of years, Cornet was organist
at Albert's court.
Another composer from the region was Matheo Romero, born as Mathieu Rosmarin
in Liège. He is included here is not because he worked at the regent's
court: around 1585 Rosmarin left Liège for Madrid, where he joined the
Capilla flamenca. The reason is rather that Isabella may have heard him
when she was living with her father in Madrid. In Spain Rosmarin was known
as Matheo Romero. He soon received the nickname Maestro Capitán which
is used in several manuscripts. When King Philip III ascended the throne,
he appointed Romero as the new maestro de capilla.
Pedro Ruimonte is one of the lesser-known composers of the late renaissance.
It is not the first time that his music is recorded. In 2005 Enchiriadis
released a disc with villancicos and madrigals, and that same
year Et'cetera produced a recording of his Lamentations of
Jeremiah, performed by the ensemble La Hispanoflamenca. The addition
of another disc is most welcome, considering the quality and the variety
of his oeuvre. The present production is especially interesting in that
he is put into his context, through vocal and instrumental pieces of some
of his colleagues and also through the liner notes, which include much
interesting musical and historical information about his time and his
place in the picture.
I have heard quite a number of recordings by La Grande Chapelle, and without
exception they were of the highest quality. That is the case here as well.
Nine singers are involved in the performances, but every piece is executed
with one voice per part. That seems the historically most appropriate
line-up, and that goes in particular for the madrigals. It is of the greatest
importance that in such pieces the voices blend perfectly, and that is
the case here. The approach to the villancicos is particularly
interesting: this kind of repertoire is often performed in an exuberant
manner, mostly with instruments, lutes and/or guitars and sometimes also
percussion. The latter is completely omitted here, and the role of the
(arch)lutes is rather modest. The character of Ruimonte's villancicos
may point in the direction of a more intimate interpretation, but it is
also the approach of Albert Recasens. I have heard him in villancicos
by later composers, which were mostly performed in a comparable manner.
I find this refreshing, as it puts the genre in a somewhat different light.
A number of pieces are performed with voices and instruments, and here
the balance is pretty much ideal. The instrumentalists do a fine job.
As in other projects, Recasens has surrounded himself with singers who
know what it takes to bring this music to life. In the solo pieces some
of the singers have the opportunity to show their qualities.
In short, this is an outstanding production from every possible angle.
Reason enough to label it Recording of the Month.
CD 1 Peter PHILIPS (1560/61-1628)
Benedictus Dominus a 8, motet [3:25]
Jubilate Deo a 8, motet [2:52] Pedro RUIMONTE (1565-1627)
Quiero dormir y no puedo a 6, villancico [5:44]
Mal puede estar escondida a 6, villancico [5:41] Pieter CORNET (1570/80-1633)
Fantasia 8. toni [4:24] Pedro RUIMONTE
¿Has visto al despuntar...? a 4, madrigal [5:49]
Caduco tiempo a 4, madrigal [5:03]
De la piel de sus ovejas a 5, villancico [2:09]
Sancta Maria, succurre miseris a 8, motet [3:24] Peter PHILIPS
Cantate Domino a 2, motet [3:57]
Caecilia virgo a 8, motet [6:22]
Sicut misit me vivens Pater a 3, motet [3:58] Pedro RUIMONTE
Virgen escogida a 5, villancico [5:28] Pieter CORNET
Toccata 3. toni [4:45]
CD 2 Mateo ROMERO (c1575-1647)
Entre dos mansos arroyos a 4, romance [4:57] anon
Como suele al blanco cisne a 3, romance [3:47] Richard DERING (c1580-1630)
Fantasia a 5 [3:14] Pedro RUIMONTE
Mal guardará ganado a 4, madigal [5:02]
Esperanza tardía a 5, madrigal [13:09] Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Canzon XXIX a 8 [3:18] Peter PHILIPS
O sacrum convivium a 3, motet [3:05] Pedro RUIMONTE
El que partir se atreve a 6, madrigal [4:46]
De vuestro divino pecho a 6, villancico [5:57] Peter PHILIPS
O quam suavis est a 8 (II), motet [4:06]