Villancicos y Danzas Criollas De La Iberia Antigua Al Nuevo Mundo (1550-1750)
Recording Date and Place: from 10 to 13 December 2001, 5 November 2002 and 8-9 January 2003 en la Colegiata del Castell de Cardona(Catalunya)
La Capella Reial de Catalunya
Montserrat Figueras, Adriana Fernandez, Marisa Vila, sopranos
Maite Arruabarrena, Rosa Dominguez, mezzo-sopranos
Carlos Mena, Josep Hernandez, contretenors
Lambert Climent, Francesc Garrigosa, Lluis Vilamajo, Miguel Bernal, tenors
Furio Zanasi, Jordi Ricart, barytons
Ivan Garcia, Daniele Carnovich, basses
All Music Guide
One of the hallmarks of the cultural history of the Iberian peninsula is the absence of any clear-cut division between the domains of popular culture on the one hand and "intellectual" and courtly production on the other. Another essential feature is that over time, as a result of numerous ethnic, linguistic and cultural influences, Iberian culture achieved a degree of cross-fertilisation that is virtually unknown in the rest of Europe. First of all, it was enriched by the Celtic and Latin traditions, and later by the contributions of Islamic and Jewish culture.
These cross-cultural exchanges were broadened still further by the maritime and colonial expansion of the 15th and 16th centuries, thanks to the contact with non-western civilisations in Africa, Asia and the Americas. Although the building of empire is often extremely violent and unconducive to cultural interaction, an already hybrid culture such as that of Iberia could hardly resist its inherent tendency towards artistic exchange. Moreover, European composers were fascinated to discover the distinctive musical languages of African and Amerindian cultures, and in particular the sensual atmosphere evoked in their dance rhythms and the sonorous qualities of their exotic languages.
In Villancicos y Danzas Criollas, Jordi Savall offers an amazing reflection of the resulting musical cross-fertilisation, proving that this multicultural heritage was generated above all by the fruitful encounter of three vibrant traditions - the Iberian, the African and the Ameroindian - mutually influencing one another and driven largely by improvisation, rather than by a purely academic approach. Mestissage and exchange are recurrent themes throughout this album, which focuses on Villancicos, or "carols" (both the sacred and the profane varieties) - themselves examples of the cross-fertilisation of cultures and experiences - since this is a genre of popular song with an implicit and almost dramatic dialogue between all social and ethnic groups. This recording marks a magnificent crossroads of traditional 17th century music and dance forms: Latin and South America, works by Iberian (Spanish and Portuguese) composers based on Amerindian traditions and musical forms, alongside works by composers from the New World who owed their musical training to Iberian musicians.
A Homage to Musical Mestissage: a Meeting of Musical Traditions and Cultures of the Iberian Peninsula and Ibero-America.
In putting together the most representative selection of music for this fascinating Route to the New World entitled "A homage to musical mestissage: a meeting of musical traditions and cultures of the Iberian peninsula and Ibero-America" the choice of pieces for this recording was inspired by these ideas. Likewise, our performance we pay tribute to all the musicians of these countries who have kept alive to the present day their ancient languages and traditions, as well as to the scholars (in particular, Robert Stevenson and Samuel Caro, to whom we owe the first anthologies published in 1974-75) who have contributed so much to our knowledge of one of the richest musical legacies of mankind. After a long process of selection, the programme of Villancicos y Danzas Criollas emerged as the chief expression of that marvellous Meeting of Musical Traditions and Cultures which has always been one of the most valuable and unfailing characteristics of Hispanic and Ibero-American musical history. In terms both of its historical context (in which the presence, contact and coexistence of multiple cultures on the Iberian peninsula began and evolved from the earliest Middle Ages), and its essential role in the daily life of all levels of society (in which the various popular musical forms were accepted and prized even among the highest Court and ecclesiastical circles), musical mestissage grew out of a fundamental respect, tolerance, acceptance and, above all, assimilation of difference, both racial and cultural. Whilst we cannot forget that such meetings - or clashes - of cultures and civilisations also entailed episodes of terrible violence and great injustice, the beauty, quality and originality of the resulting music that has survived to our day leave us in no doubt as to the great ability of those musicians of a bygone age, whose music bridged the gap between the most disparate peoples and succeeds in conveying to us a vivid lesson in coexistence and humanity. An essential hymn to the unity between peoples, these "Negrillas and Guarachas, Juguetes and Rorros, Chaconas and Cachuas, Mestizos and Indians", these Villancicos y Danzas Criollas are, in the final analysis, hymns of life and spirituality, of love and joy, which bring us a little closer to the living history of the men and women of that now distant New World and, as musical expressions of memory and sensitivity, make us dream of and long for a more just and humane (New) World in Harmony.
Kyoto, Autumn 2003
One of the most distinctive traits of the cultural history of the Iberian Peninsula is the lack of a clear separation between the territories of popular culture and of courtly, "highbrow" artistic production. In most European countries the local elites, from the aristocratic troubadours of the twelfth century to the early Renaissance courts of Italy and the Netherlands, sought to produce an artistic discourse that would affirm their social distinction in regard to the "rough" cultural practices of the common people. Iberian artists, on the contrary, always tended to be remarkably attentive to their own local roots, as if they felt the need to achieve a constant balance between adopting-an often excelling in-the international trends of each period and at the same time stressing a cultural identity rooted into the popular traditions of the Peninsula. As a consequence, one can say that well into the nineteenth century each international style shared by Spanish and Portuguese artists seems to have acquired immediately in their works a number of idiomatic Iberian characteristics that can often be traced back to the specificity of popular culture West of the Pyrenees. It is precisely this local reprocessing of even the most cosmopolitan artistic movements and its close connection with a permanent interplay between all social levels of artistic production that gives us such a strong feeling of historical continuity in the overall evolution of the arts in the Peninsula.
Iberian culture, furthermore, has always been the result of an intense process of interaction between different components. In the later stages of the Roman Empire, the Christian matrix had been able to achieve a remarkably balanced integration of the Celtic, Latin and Vizigothic traditions. Nevertheless, this unified Christian pattern was then exposed for almost eight centuries to a permanent and fruitful dialogue with the Muslim and Hebrew cultures, due to the arrival of the Arabs in the Peninsula in 711, leading to the establishment of such influential artistic centres as Cordoba or Granada, and to the presence of a network of wealthy and highly cultivated Jewish communities. The rich multiethnic, multilingual and multicultural society thus generated experienced a degree of cross-cultural exchange virtually unknown elsewhere in Europe, which not even the political unification of the late fifteenth century under Ferdinand and Isabella was able to change significantly. In fact, the gradual building of a national state encompassing all of the Peninsula with the exception of Portugal, the growing centralization of power in the hands of the Crown, at the expense of the traditional privileges of the various regions, the forced conversion and violent expulsion of Jews and Muslims and later the establishment of the powerful apparatus of the Counter-Reformation in Spain and Portugal certainly had a profound unifying impact. But the vast and complex mosaic of cultural identities that coexisted within the ancient Hispania could not be artificially homogenized, and this perennial internal diversity and interaction can be found in practically all aspects of Spanish and Portuguese artistic life of this period.
The maritime and colonial expansion of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries widened the scope of this cross-cultural interaction even further, through the contact with a number of different non-Western cultures, first in Africa, then in Asia and in the Americas. The building of a colonial empire is always an extremely violent process, and the Spanish and Portuguese empires were certainly no exception to this rule, with their brutal mixture of unbridled greed, religious intolerance and mass-scale atrocities-hardly a fertile ground for creative artistic exchange of any sort. And yet, even within such a general framework of aggression, exploitation and acculturation, a culture already so hybrid at its origin as the Iberian heritage could not escape its inbred tendency to interact with any other cultural traditions with which it came into contact.
Part of this cross-cultural artistic exchange was of course the result of a conscious effort on the part of the colonial authorities, both secular and ecclesiastic, to produce a hybrid cultural message that could in some way legitimate the Iberian domination in the eyes of the peoples of the conquered territories, and build bridges between the various local cultures and the Peninsular matrix imposed upon them. The first Jesuit missionaries in Brazil and Paraguay, for instance, were already known to use, as a catechising tool, traditional Amerindian melodies to which they adapted Christian doctrinal texts translated into the various local languages, and Amerindian musicians were often called upon by the sixteenth-century vice-royal authorities of Peru and Mexico to take part in church and state ceremonies, performing their own traditional songs and dances, playing their own instruments and wearing their native garb.
This political strategy coexisted, nevertheless, with an enormous amount of sheer mutual curiosity between the musicians of the various cultures involved in regard to each other's musical traditions. The reports of the missionaries and of the colonial administrators constantly mention and praise the facility with which the African and Amerindian musicians learned the fundamentals of European music theory, read musical notation, sang chant and polyphony and could build and play practically all Western instruments, including the most technically demanding amongst these. If for more than a century the Spanish and Portuguese authorities were loath to admit that local musicians could also excel as composers and conductors, by the second half of the seventeenth century the repertoire of the Latin American cathedrals was already full of works by remarkable native, locally trained polyphonists, some of which even received enough recognition to ascend to the position of chapel master, a function until then strictly reserved for musicians hired in the Peninsula itself. If these local artists sought, first of all, to affirm their identity by excelling in the art of the conquerors, and thus, to some extent, by winning in the field of the enemy and with his very own weapons, they often produced a number of works in which the European modal system, formal structures and contrapuntal techniques were combined with their own melodic and rhythmic patterns, and most likely also with their traditional performance practice in such aspects as vocal placement, ornamentation and choice of instrumentation.
For the European composers, on the other hand, the characteristic musical idioms of the African and Amerindian cultures were obviously fascinating, especially those associated with dance rhythms that established a sensual atmosphere unknown to the rather puritanical Catholic tradition of the Iberian Peninsula, then at the peak of the Counter-Reformation. Spanish and Portuguese composers trained in the most austere polyphonic tradition of cathedral music were soon gladly experimenting with some of those "exotic" idioms and incorporating them in their own compositions, especially in the lighter genre of the sacred villancico, in which the combination of folk and erudite elements within the Peninsular context was already an established practice. One must not forget, no matter how temptingly "native sounding" these works can be (or made to be), that they represent an European view of the traditions they try to incorporate, and that such a view is naturally bound to misread or undervalue its object. Negro and Native American characters are often portrayed in them as childish and irresponsible, overindulging into wild partying, dancing, drinking and love-making, called upon to share the Christian message but clearly unfit for self government, thus legitimising the colonial rule. But there is no doubt, at the same time, that an authentic fascination with some of these non-Western musical patterns can be perceived in many of these cross-cultural works by Iberian born and trained authors. A middle ground of interaction between folk and art music, similar to the one that had already existed within the Peninsula for centuries, was thus extended to this new, expanded colonial sphere, incorporating many of the idiomatic features of African and Native American music, through the combined approach of both the Amerindian and Negro musicians trained in the Western polyphonic tradition and the European composers attracted by such new sources of inspiration.
Part of the programme of the present recording consists of Iberian dances of popular origin that by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries found their way into music manuscripts and prints, at the hands of academically trained instrumental virtuosos and composers. We must bear in mind that the highly elaborate versions in which these dances were thus written out are in themselves but carefully revised examples of an art of virtuosic improvisation that was an essential part of the Peninsular instrumental repertoire of this period. Not only were those versions intended to be performed with plentiful and free recourse to the extensive grammar of diminutions (glosas) and ornaments typified by such theorists as Diego Ortiz, Juan Bermudo or Tomas de Santa Maria, but the dance patterns they incorporate, both melodic and rhythmic, were certainly the object of many similar elaborations that instrumentalists were then expected to improvise in all kinds of performance contexts.
Some of these dances were built on ostinato bass lines, such as the Folia, the Passamezzo antico and moderno or the Romanesca. One of the many variants of the latter is the Danza del hacha, so popular from the Middle Ages on that as late as in 1708 it was still inserted by the Franciscan organist Antonio Martin y Coll (ca.1660-ca.1734) in one of his keyboard anthologies. The Perra mora, a dance with a strong Arab flavour in its characteristic rhythmic design in 5/2 time, is given here in the version attributed to Pedro Guerrero and taken from the so-called Medinaceli Songbook, compiled in the second half of the sixteenth century. Together with the Pesame d'ello, the Zarabanda and the Chacona, it was mentioned by Miguel de Cervantes in his novella La ilustre Fregona as one of the secular dances that were so fashionable in his time that they even managed to "squeeze through the door cracks into the convents of nuns" ("ha intentado … entrar por los resquicios de las casas religiosas").
The improvisation on the Jota given here is not based on any of the versions of this Spanish song preserved in European sources, bur rather on a setting taken from an early eighteenth-century manuscript tablature for the five-course guitar found-and most likely originally copied-in the Mexican province of Guanajuato (Codice Saldivar III). As to the Chacona, and regardless of whether or not this can be considered the direct origin of the later Baroque Chaconne, several sixteenth-century literary sources explicitly mention it as having just arrived from the New World and having an irresistible exotic, sensual appeal. In the above-mentioned novella, it is again Cervantes who gives us a colourful reference to this dance, in two quatrains that even fit the metric pattern of its music: "Let then come in all female and male nymphs that wish to come in, as the dance of the Chacona is wider than the sea, this mestizo Indian of whom Fame proclaims that she committed more sacrileges and insults than Aroba ever has." ("Entren, pues, todas las ninfas / y ninfos que han de entrar, / que el bayle de la Chacona / es mas ancho que la mar. / Esta Indiana amulatada, de quien la fama pregona / que ha hecho mas sacrilegios / e insultos que hizo Aroba"). And yet another great Spanish writer, Lope de Vega, stated in 1618 that the Chacona had "arrived from the Indies to Seville by mail" ("De las Indias a Sevilla / ha venido por la posta"). The version performed by Hesperion XXI, A la vida bona, is by Juan Aranes, and was published in his Libro segundo de tonos y villancicos" (Rome, 1624).
Although the only other secular song in the programme, Ay que me rio de amor, by Juan Hidalgo (+ 1685), does not bear, at first sight, such a strong mark of a folk origin, its flowing rhythmic pattern in triple meter and its catchy refrain (estribillo) clearly place it in the tradition of the Iberian popular villancico. It is also, however, an excellent example of the courtly tono humano, with its elegance and its refined craftsmanship, and the ability to combine these two elements without any apparent contradiction is one of the most typical aspects of Spanish and Portuguese music of this period, and the one that gives it its most recognizable identity within the context of European art music. The same can be said, when we begin to discuss the sacred villancicos, about Serafin que con dulce harmonia, by the great Catalan master Joan Cererols (1618-1676). By listening to the delicate melodic phrasing and the refined contrapuntal texture of this piece, clearly the work of a polyphonist as skilled as any other great European composer of the mid-seventeenth century-and one obviously aware of the most cosmopolitan developments of Baroque music occurring elsewhere in Europe-it may be hard to believe it is based on the tune of Marizapalos, a charming but rather bawdy popular song more than two centuries old, set by a number of Iberian composers of the time and used, namely, by the seventeenth-century Brazilian poet Gregorio de Matos for the setting of some new satirical lyrics dangerously rubbing on the obscene.
The sacred Villancico (or Chanzoneta, as it was often called in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) was indeed a particularly appropriate genre for all sorts of cross-cultural experimentation. A kind of religious song in the vernacular performed within Mass or at the Office Hour of Matins, it often involved a quasi-theatrical dialogue between characters representative of all classes and ethnic groups within the Iberian and Latin American society and tried to portray each of them using all the most obvious common places usually associated with it in the popular imagination, including its specific linguistic usage of the Castilian or the Portuguese language. A favourite liturgical context for this were the ceremonies of the Christmas cycle, including the Matins of Christmas Eve itself, but starting already with the feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 8th, and ending only with the Epiphany, on January 6th. Shepherds and peasants of all Iberian regions would speak in their regional languages or dialects and talk about their cattle and crops, Gypsies would offer to do palm readings, and by the same rule Amerindians and Africans would appear in the process of performing their traditional songs and dances, all with the explicit purpose of going to Bethlehem and adoring the newborn Christ. Purists such as the Neapolitan music theorist Domenico Pietro Cerone complained bitterly against this genre, claiming that it transformed the house of God into a theatre, but the Peninsular ecclesiastic authorities realized it was a powerful tool for motivating church attendance on the part of the faithful, and by the late sixteenth century it was already a generalized practice in all the great cathedrals of Spain, Portugal and the New World, representing a large percentage of the output of the best composers of sacred music of this period.
Besides Cererols' Serafin, one of the most lyrical Christmas villancicos of this programme is Desvelado dueno mio, a gentle cradle-song metaphorically addressed to the infant Jesus in his crib. Its author was Tomas de Torrejon y Velasco (1644-1728), a Spaniard who came to the New World in 1667, in the retinue of the new Viceroy of Peru, the Count of Lemos, and who not only became chapel master of the cathedral of Lima but went on to compose the first opera written in the Americas, La purpura de la rosa (1701). Un juguetico de fuego also dwells on yet another metaphor frequently used in connection with the subject of the Nativity: the shining stars above Bethlehem seen as a display of magnificent fireworks.
When a Villancico involved African characters speaking in an early Creole of Castilian or Portuguese, sometimes mixed with scattered words in any of the Bantu or Yoruba languages, it was usually designated as Negro, Negrilla or Guineo, and it tended to incorporate the strong rhythmic patterns of a percussive nature that were seen as typical of African dances, as well as antiphonal and responsorial effects between soloists and tutti frequently associated with the ensemble vocal performances within that same tradition. The earliest notated example of this subgenre can already be found in the Ensaladas of Mateu Fletxa the Elder (1482-1553), compo sed in the first half of the sixteenth century but published in 1581 in Prague by his nephew, Mateu Fletxa the Younger. It is from one of these-La Negrina-that comes the negrilla San Sabeya gugurumbe, which served as a model for many later examples by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Old and New World composers. In a similar vein we can hear two other pieces: A siolo flasiquiyo (a Creole adaptation of the Spanish words "Senor Francisco"), by Juan Gutierrez de Padilla (+ 1664), who became chapel master of the Mexican cathedral of Puebla in 1629, and Antonya, Flasiquiya, Gasipa (or "Antonia, Francisca, Gaspar" in a similar linguistic transformation), by the Portuguese composer Fr. Antonio da Madre de Deus, who served as master of the chamber music of King Alphonse VI of Portugal from 1660 to 1668. The latter work contains a particularly amusing plot, as the characters involved, who have fallen asleep after a long evening of drinking and dancing, now wake each other up in order to go to Bethlehem on time to pay homage to Jesus, one of them repeatedly complaining, at regular intervals, of a terrible headache from having drunk too much.
The same kind of cross-cultural interaction occurred between the Iberian models and the influence of Amerindian music. Gutierrez de Padilla's predecessor as chapel master of the Puebla cathedral, the Portuguese Gaspar Fernandes (+ 1629), composed several villancicos in a mixture of Castilian and Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec empire, amongst which Tleycantimo choquiliya, clearly based on a local Indian dance, and another musician associated with the Puebla school, Juan Garcia de Cespedes (+ 1678), left us a hilarious Christmas Villancico, Ay que me abraso (literally, "I am burning") written on the characteristic rhythm of another Mexican dance, the Guaracha, and in which the characters portrayed are panting and sighing because of the excessive heat generated by their emotions at the sight of the newborn Christ.
Two further fascinating pieces of Amerindian influence come from the Viceroyalty of Peru. One of them is a processional Hymn in the Quechua language of Peru, Hancpachap cussicuinin, most likely written by a native composer and later published by the Franciscan scholar Juan Perez Bocanegra at the end of his treatise Ritual formulario, of 1631, thus becoming the first example of polyphony printed in the Americas. The second one is the closest thing to an "ethnomusicological" record of the Amerindian music of Peru to have reached us from the colonial period: a traditional Cachua, or Christmas song, collected already at the end of the eighteenth century by the Bishop of the Peruvian diocese of Trujillo, Baltazar Martinez Companon, and here used as the ground for an instrumental improvisation that in some way matches the improvised Jota discussed above. In both cases, whether the music in question is of Iberian or Amerindian origin, we are thus once again reminded of the fact that this multicultural musical heritage developed by the triangular interaction of the Peninsula, Africa and the New World was generated, first of all, by the actual encounter of all three living traditions, mutually influencing each other in the context of a performance practice largely dominated by improvisation rather than by a purely academic approach.
RUI VIEIRA NERY
University of Evora