Serenissima una noche: Christmas in Spain and the New World
¡Atención! Silencio! Antonio Durán de la Mota (ca. 1672–1736)
Iesu, coróna vírginum Domenico Zipoli (1688–1726)
Tarara qui yo soi Anton Antonio de Salazar (1650–ca. 1715)
Voláte Ángeli Anonymous
Los que fueren de buen gusto Francisco de Vidales (ca. 1630–1702)
Serenissima una noche Fray Gerónimo Gonzales (fl. ca. 1633)
arr. Covita Moroney and Christopher Moroney for the CD La Buena Noche
Christus natus est Pedro Bermúdez (ca. 1558–1605?)
Christe redemptor omnium Tomás Luis de Victoria (ca. 1548–1611)
Gaude Maria Virgo Victoria
Tierno Infante divino Anonymous
Según veo el aparato Roque Ceruti (ca. 1686–1760)
Hoy la tierra produce una rosa Ceruti
Shannon Canavin & Shari Wilson, soprano
Martin Near, countertenor
Michael Barrett, tenor
Paul Tipton, bass-baritone
Katherine Winterstein & Emily Dahl, violin
Nancy Hurrell, cross-strung harp
Emily Walhout, cello
Andrus Madsen, organ
Friday, December 9, 2011 at 8pm
First Lutheran Church of Boston, 299 Berkeley Street, Boston
Notes on the Program
Christmas has long been a happy time spent with friends and family, a holiday inspiring countless musical works expressing the joy and hope of the season. The vivid rhythms and vibrant energy of music of Spain and the New World lend themselves particularly well to this festive season, from the solemn hymns and motets of the Spanish master Victoria to danceable villancicos found in the archives of Peru, Bolivia, and Mexico. Tonight’s program offers a sampling of this wonderful but seldom-heard repertoire to celebrate this joyous time of year.
Popular in the Iberian Peninsula and Latin America from the late fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, the villancico was a type of popular song sung in the vernacular and derived from medieval dance forms. The poetic form of the Spanish villancico was that of an estribillo (or refrain) and coplas (stanzas), with or without an introduction. While the exact order and number of repetitions of the estribillo and coplas varied (as heard in the many examples on this program), the most typical form was a loose ABA framework, often in triple meter with sometimes extreme syncopations.
The villancico developed as a secular polyphonic genre until religious villancicos gained popularity in the second half of the sixteenth century in Spain and its colonies in Latin America. These devotional villancicos, which were sung during matins of the feasts of the Catholic calendar, became extremely popular in the seventeenth century until the decline of the genre in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While the villancico in Spain and its Latin American colonies generally share a common history of development, the Latin American villancico tradition is particularly known for its incorporation of dialects and rhythms drawn from its diverse ethnic population. The texts were mostly in Spanish, but some employed pseudo-African, the Indian language Náhuatl, or corrupt Italian, French, or Portuguese words, and were frequently named after the ethnic group that was characterized in the lyrics. For example, villancicos called “negro” or “negrilla” imitated African speech patterns and used onomatopoeic phrases such as “gulungú, gulungú,” possibly to invoke a childlike and uneducated stereotype of that marginalized group. In colonial Mexico, villancicos were performed before mass on special feast days as part of a theatrical spectacle that served as lighthearted, comical entertainment which drew large crowds from all sectors of society and included ornate costuming and stage effects.
The attitude of the church authorities to villancicos in the guise of a xácara, guaracha, or negrilla (villancicos depicting the song and dance of African slaves in the Spanish colonies) could almost be seen as neutral—while the dances were repeatedly condemned as excessively arousing, Pedro Cerone, author of a famous seventeenth-century treatise, defended the villancicos:
I would not like to say villancicos are a bad thing, for they are received in all Spanish churches, and were it not for them, it would not be possible to reach the appropriate heights of solemn celebration…There are some people so lacking in piety that they attend church but once a year, and miss all the masses of Obligation, because they are too lazy to get up out of bed. But let it be known that there will be villancicos, and there is no one more devout in the whole place, none more vigilant than these people, for there is no church, oratory, or shrine that they will not visit, nor do they mind getting up in the middle of the night in the freezing cold, just to hear them.”
Antonio Durán de la Mota (ca. 1672–1736) worked in Potosí, composing villancicos that follow the Hispanic American tradition to insert songs in popular style into the liturgical services, written with great freedom and imagination that represent one of the summits of the colonial culture of Bolivia and the musical richness of the Colonial epoch. His ¡Atención! ¡Silencio! mixes religious, mythological, and nature imagery set in a wonderfully rhetorical idiom.
An Italian organist and composer, Domenico Zipoli (1688–1726) was born in Prato and studied in Florence, Naples, Bologna, and Rome. He was one of many excellent musicians recruited by the Jesuits between 1650 and 1750 to work in the so-called Paraguay reductions, and in 1716 he joined the Society of Jesus, traveling to Seville to await passage to the Paraguay province along with 53 other prospective Jesuit missionaries. After the three years of required study at the Jesuit Colegio Máximo and university in Córdoba, he was ready to receive priest’s orders in 1725, but died of tuberculosis before being ordained by the bishop.
Zipoli was the most renowned Italian composer to go to the New World in colonial times, and his music was much in demand in South America: the viceroy in Lima, Peru asked for copies, and Jesuit documents of 1728, 1732, and later note his continuing reputation up to at least 1774 in Indian villages from which Europeans were usually excluded; additionally numerous works of his were recently discovered among a large collection of manuscripts at the San Rafael and Santa Ana missions in eastern Bolivia. Iesu, corona Virginum displays his flair for melody with solo verses for the soprano and alto voices, followed by a short choral conclusion.
Mexican composer Antonio de Salazar (1650–ca. 1715) was appointed maestro de capilla in his native Puebla in 1679, where he provided daily one-hour lessons in polyphonic music to the entire cathedral music staff and composed Latin motets and hymns as well as many villancicos for special feasts. In 1688 he won the competition for the post of maestro de capilla at Mexico City, receiving more than twice as many votes as the nearest of his four rivals for the position. Salazar found the cathedral music archive there to be in a lamentable state, with many works missing altogether, and he set about reorganizing it; he also helped to supervise the installation of a new organ built in Madrid in 1692. In 1710 the cathedral authorities agreed to Salazar’s petition to cease his duties as teacher of counterpoint and canto figurado to the choirboys since, at the age of 60, he was almost blind an in poor health; he died five years later after deputizing his student Manuel de Zumaya as his successor.
Salazar’s compositions were disseminated throughout New Spain and are found today in archives in Guatemala, Mexico City, Morelia, Oaxaca, Puebla, and Tepotzatlán. A significant number of his villancicos remain, which include movements based on popular dance and song forms. In his Tarara qui yo soy Antonio, the two top voices—boys or women—have a go at emulating the adult verve and swagger of Anton, “black by birth,” who proposes to dance, with bells on his feet, for the baby Jesus: he will do a Puerto Rico (the island was already known for its “hot” dances) and a Cameroun. Such African-style dances were actually performed in the churches at Christmas time, and this little piece may be in fact intended for dancing.
The recent gathering together of manuscripts, previously scattered across different locations in the rainforest of Beni in Bolivia, is currently permitting a new approach to the study of the musical repertory of the old Jesuit missionary settlements (or reductions) in Latin America. Within the more than 7000 musical documents—today held in the Archivo Misional of San Ignacio de Moxos—a striking balance exists between the musical forms: those on the one hand characteristically associated with the missions (music for the purposes of teaching the Catechism in indigenous languages, the polyphonic Mass, Passion, Vespers, Sonata, and Baroque concerto forms), and on the other the villancico, the principal development of which was carried out in the cathedrals as well as tin some convents. From the archive of Chiquitos, the anonymous Voláte Ángeli is a delightful dialogue between two sopranos with an instrumental ritornello announcing the arrival of the newborn Jesus.
Born in Mexico, Francisco de Vidales (ca. 1630–1702) was an organist and composer who served as maestro de capilla of Mexico City Cathedral from 1648 to 1654. He left Mexico City for Puebla Cathedral in 1655 where he served as principal organist for nearly half a century under such notable composers as Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, Juan García de Zéspedes, and Antonio de Salazar. His Los que fueren de buen gusto is an example of the xácara, an extraliturgical religious song based on a dance from of the same name that is a rustic and rhythmically diverse outgrowth of the Mexican Baroque villancico.
The carol Serenissima una noche was composed by the Franciscan friar Gerónimo Gonzales, who was active in Portugal in the 1630s, though it survives in a seventeenth-century manuscript now in the Mexican Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, but which originally belonged to the Holy Trinity Convent in Puebla, Mexico. This unique arrangement, courtesy of Covita Moroney and Christopher Moroney for San Antonio Vocal Arts Ensemble’s CD La buena noche features a wonderful “call to dance” as its refrain.
Born in Granada, the Spanish composer Pedro Bermúdez (ca. 1558–1605?) was probably educated at Granada Cathedral. In 1584, while holding a benefice at Santa Fe, he was elected maestro de capilla of the collegiate church at Antequera. Unhappy there, he unsuccessfully competed for the post of maestro de capilla at Málaga in February 1586. Dismissed from his Antequera appointment in 1587 for gross negligence and a fight with one of his tenors that had led to a brief imprisonment, he returned to Granada, where he secured a half chaplaincy at the Capilla Real. He unsuccessfully competed for the post of maestro de capilla at Granada Cathedral in April 1592 and remained at the Capilla Real until he left for the New World, probably in the spring of 1595. In 1597 he succeeded Gutierre Fernández Hidalgo as maestro de capilla at Cuzco, mountain capital of the Incas. He seems to have left Cuzco during 1598, probably because of dissatisfaction with his salary and the enmity of his singers, since in that year he became maestro de capilla at Guatemala City Cathedral; he remained in this post until his departure for Puebla in 1603. He probably died at Puebla late in 1605 since the sochantre Luis Mendes was placed in charge of the choir there on 1 January 1606. His Christus natus est nobis earnestly announces the birth of Christ.
The dominating figure of sixteenth century Spanish music, Tomás Luis de Victoria (ca. 1548–1611) was born in Avila. He was sent to Rome to study, possibly for a time under Palestrina during the latter’s years at the Roman Seminary. In 1571 he succeeded Palestrina there as choirmaster, a post he also subsequently occupied at the Jesuit Order’s German College. Later he became active as a priest, working at St. Girolamo della Carità. Following his return to Spain in 1585, Victoria served the Empress Maria and her daughter as teacher, organist, and choirmaster until his death in 1611.
By the time Victoria arrived in Rome, the conservative ecclesiastical establishment and the Council of Trent had ensured that any musical hint of the “lascivious or the impure” was largely banished (Palestrina was even moved to dismiss his publication of secular madrigals as a youthful peccadillo). It is therefore not surprising to find that Victoria’s output consists solely of religious music that eschews even the use of secular cantus firmus, and that displays the formal perfection and the well-smoothed vocal writing of the Palestrina style. What is surprising is that despite his Roman training and years of service in the city, Victoria so strongly retained his Spanish roots. Some of his finest works were composed after his return home, and many of them contain features that seem to epitomize the deeply mystical approach of so much Spanish Renaissance music. Comparison with Palestrina reveals a greater emphasis on chromatic color and use of dynamic contrast; Victoria’s block harmonies and multiple choirs look forward to the Baroque. His response to words is acute and highly personal, a characteristic particularly suited to the comparatively dynamic and plastic form of the motet and to other texts which allow full rein to subjective treatment. Of Victoria’s 44 motets, the early four-part O quam gloriosum can perhaps be allowed a special mention, since it is pervaded by a youthful vigor and joyous radiance that gives lie to the understandable impression that Spanish Renaissance composers were preoccupied with somber religious subjects. His widely performed Christmas motet, O magnum mysterium, exudes a quiet sense of wonder. Victoria’s fame as a motet composer has tended to overshadow his masses, yet at their finest, as in the lovely Missa Ave maris stella, they are not inferior to those of Palestrina.
The hymn Christe, Redemptor omnium alternates plainchant with polyphonic verses of varying scoring, while Gaude Maria virgo features a canon at the unison between the two upper voices over rhythmically active lower voices.
Found in the archives of Chiquitos, the gentle melody of the anonymous Tierno Infante divino at once describes the simple surroundings of the birth of Jesus and foretells his difficult mission to come.
Originally from Milan, Italy, Roque Ceruti (ca. 1686–1760) was a prodigy of musical intelligence who served in different cathedrals throughout the Andes for more than fifty years. He was palace composer in Lima, Peru from 1708 to 1717, then maestro de capilla at Trujillo Cathedral from 1721 to 1728, and finally Lima Cathedral from 1728 until his death in 1760. Besides serenatas and pastorales, he wrote brilliant, often theatrical, Spanish- and Latin-text sacred music that was circulated throughout South America. Based on the xácara, Según veo el aparato is a lively call to celebrate the Christmas story with music and dancing, while the dramatic instrumental writing and harmonies of Hoy la tierra produce una rosa invokes the striking dark imagery of the text.
Notes by Shannon Canavin