It has been a long wait for anyone wanting to hear the Spanish song repertory of the midsixteenth century in any significant amount on a single recording. The odd item has appeared in miscellaneous anthologies in the past, but this has never achieved more than to whet the appetite and heighten the sense of frustration. The song repertory of 50 years earlier is much more widely available especially after the Columbus anniversary and better known. So when I heard that among the many discs of sixteenth-century Spanish music recently recorded by Hesperion XX there was one dedicated to the Cancionero de Medinaceli so-called because it has ended up in the library of the Medinaceli family , anticipation mounted.
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Worth reading in the original version. Here are a few excerpts: " As always, the standard of instrumental playing is very high and the execution very imaginative. What I object to—and it is really not just an academic nicety—is that most of the songs, of whatever style, are performed with one or more voices with these being consistently doubled by the instruments, whether wind or bowed or both and usually plus a frenetically active in Leppardesque continuo style vihuela.
This weightiness of sound cannot but muddy the textures, very often of subtle degree of intricacy, and, worse still, mar the expressivity of the music ". Montserrat Figueras sings the version of Claros y frescos rios by Alonso Mudarra which differs in many respects from that found in the songbook with vihuela accompaniment.
Her vocal idiosyncracies will never appeal to everyone, but at least here the text gets some sort of look in. The last song on the disc, Francisco Guerrero's magical Ojos claros y serenos, is performed a cappella—no instruments at all. This should have made me happy—and to an extent it did, because, all of a sudden, both text and texture were clear and the subtle expressiveness of the music could be discerned.
This was a taste of something altogether different: a fusion of words and music of immense and, despite the language, universal appeal. Of course, it is one of the finest pieces in the collection, which is perhaps why Hesperion singled it out for such special treatment. Other reservations about the manner of performance quickly made themselves felt, however.
Without instrumental support the singers seemed lost, with little sense of overall blend or how to phrase: such matters were present but largely concealed in the tutti items ".
El Cancionero de Medinaceli Subscription Abonnement. Reviewer: Tess Knighton A devastating review. Abonnement Subscription. Reviewer: Abridged version :.
It was copied during the second half of the 16th century and rediscovered in the 19c in the Library of the Duke of Medinaceli, whence its name. With examples of Spanish secular polyphony, it is probably the most important compilation of its kind after the Cancionero de Palacio. Publication date and place: post — Manuscript. View the Wikipedia article on Cancionero de Medinaceli.
Cancionero de Medinaceli