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Dos Estrellas Le Siguen - Music from 17th Century Portugal and the Americas
Andres Silva (tenor)
Antonio Santos (baritone)
Daniel Zuluaga (theorbo)
Musica Ficta
rec. 2010, Church of St. Augustine, Villa de Leyva, Colombia
CENTAUR CRC3501 [70.24]

Recorded in 2010, but not released until 2018, this disc seems to tread paths which have become quite popular of late that is baroque music originating in Iberia but which may well have found its way to South America. Some of the composer’s names you may have come across before like José Marin, who was probably born 400 years ago this year (2019) and Gaspar Sanz but the chosen pieces do not tread or double up on things recorded too often before. In addition the group Musica Ficta has been working together for thirty years and this is their specialist area. They concentrate on a form called the ‘Xacara’ or ‘Jácara’ and their vocal work is totally idiomatic as you might imagine.

I have hardly ever come across a booklet, which has notes by theorbo player Daniel Zuluaga, which is so extensively written about almost each piece. It does mean that you might need a magnifying glass but the essay does go into some considerable detail. The twenty-page booklet also manages to give us most of the texts translated into sensible English and performer biographies. For some reason however the texts of the last four songs are not given.

Incidentally the title of the disc seems to mean, ‘Two stars follow’ as on the first track ‘Two stars follow the sun’ a song in the form of a seguidilla first in four parts which is repeated later in the disc a capella and finally with instruments alone. It uses the famous ‘La Folia’ ground base, well known even in our own times but it may be Corelli and his contemporaries who really used it extensively, men like Manuel Machado and the Frenchman Michel Farinel who also worked briefly in Madrid and Lisbon.

Also, as can be seen below, the ‘Jácares’ comes up in several titles and is implicit in other pieces even Hidalgo’s song Noble en Tinacia naciste. The essay goes into some detail explaining the term Jácares or Xacara and it appears that the form is similar to a chaconne or repeated bass pattern. A more precise definition, but perhaps a little long-winded one might be ‘a semi-sacred song which may use a repeated pattern and a mixture of ternary and binary rhythms often creating a hemiola effect’ – OK ? I suppose it comes out in the way Spanish music is expected to sound that is colourful, rhythmic but often tender with an emphasis, it seems, on modality and the minor tonality.

The instrumentation used by Musica Ficta includes various recorders, a baroque guitar as in Santa Cruz’s Jácara por 5 used within the ensemble or soloistically as in the beautiful Gallados by Gaspar Sanz. The inevitable castanets are used as in Hidalgo’s Noble en Tinacria naciste. A theorbo is included to add a continuo to strengthen the bass line and likewise the harpsichord either within the ensemble or as a solo instrument in pieces by Juan Cabanilles represented especially by his extraordinary Xacara 1st tono, there is also the rather mysterious ‘Jarana’, which is really a smaller, Mexican guitar.

A highlight? For sheer fun and contrapuntal excitement the Christmas song Los que fueren by Francisco de Vidales who came from Mexico and was organist in the city and the two keyboard works by the Valencian organist Juan Cabanilles.

So this is a highly colourful and enjoyable mixture of pieces idiomatically performed and brilliantly recorded.
Gary Higginson
Manuel MACHADA (c.1590-1646) Dos estrellas le siguen [3.01]
ANON: Xacara [1.50]
ANON: No hay que decirie ei primor [3.19]
Antonio Martin y COLL (d.c1730) Passacalies de primero tono
Antonio de SANTA CRUZ (c.1700) Jácares por 5 que es la E [1.59]
Juan HILDAGO (c.1614-1685) Noble en Tinacria naciste [4.36]
Gaspar SANZ (1640-1710) Chaconas [2.04]
ANON: Jácaras de cinco [3.06]
Francisco de VIDALES (c.1630-1702) Los que fueren de buen gusto (Jácares) [5.49]
Juan CABANILLES (1644-1712) Diferecias de folias primeo tono [6.14]
Michel FARINEL (1649-1726) Folia (Faronell’s ground) [5.47]
Juan ARAÑÉS (17th Cent) Un sarao de la chacona [4.08]
SANZ: Jácares [3.20]
ANON: Oh, qué bien que baila Gil (Chacona) [2.42]
Gaspar FERNANDES (1566-1629) Toquen los abeles (Chacona) [1.51]
Juan CABANILLES : Xacara 1st tono [4.51]
José MARIN (1618/19) Sepan todos que mueo [3.57]
SANZ: Gallardas [2.32]
MACHADO : Dos estrelles le siguen [2.39]
MACHADO: Dos estrellas le siguen (instrumental version) [5.19]

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