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Tomas Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), Alonso Lobo (1555-1617), Mateo Flecha (c1481-c1553), Pedro Rimonte (1565-1627) and Cristobal de Morales (c1500-1553). A fine crop of composers indeed, but what do they have in common? There is a goldmine of Christmas music written during the so-called 'Siglo de Oro' - the Golden Age of the Spanish Renaissance, and the eminent names above are regarded as, maybe, the finest among a myriad of others of this era.
This disc explores the many riches of that period by presenting a remarkably varied programme of sumptuous polyphony mixed with the irresistible dance-like carols in the Spanish language 'villancico' tradition.
Listen — Mateo Flecha 'El Viejo': Ríu ríu chíu
(track 8, 0:01-0:50) © 2019 harmonia mundi musique sas :
There is also a piquant 'ensalada' thrown in for good measure. The centre-piece of the show is Lobo's 'Missa Beata Dei Genetrix Maria' (Holy Mary, Mother of God), published in 1602, when the composer was 'maestro di cappella' at Toledo Cathedral. Like so many Masses of the period, it is a so-called 'parody Mass', borrowing its main musical ideas from an existing motet, in this case, one by Guerrero (Lobo's teacher) which bears the same title and which is also on this recording.
Listen — Francisco Guerrero: Beata Dei genitrix Maria
(track 2, 0:01-0:56) © 2019 harmonia mundi musique sas :
The Mass is one of Lobo's finest, and, with its soaring melodies and lavish sonority, it is highly appropriate to be included in this Christmas programme.
Listen — Alonso Lobo: Credo (Missa: Beata Dei genitrix Maria)
(track 7, 6:32-7:30) © 2019 harmonia mundi musique sas :
The other pieces compliment the Mass to the hilt. Indeed, all of them transmit a graceful weightlessness and spiritual intimacy that induce one towards a devotional intimacy that evokes the genuine spirit of Christmas.
Space constraints do not allow me to delve into the many splendours of these pieces, so if you decide to purchase, do read the booklet information before you press the play button. It will help you enjoy the music no end. Flawless performances by Stile Antico, added to some impressive sonics and eye-catching presentation, complete a glittering compilation that should kickstart those unique feelings associated with the Christmas season.
Copyright © 5 November 2019
CD INFORMATION: A SPANISH NATIVITY