Thursday, January 28, 2016

Music for the Septuagesima Season

In the Extraordinary Form of the Latin Liturgy of the Roman Rite, we are in the midst of the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima and thus I've started listening again to this CD of Spanish Choral Music. Matthew Shorter reviewed it for BBC Music in 2002:

If most British listeners have an image at all of Spanish choral music, it will be of Renaissance masters such as Victoria and Lobo, who brought a special fervour to the seamless 16th-century contrapuntal style.

So neglected is 19th-century Spanish choral music that the majority of recordings on this disc, recently selected by Gramophone as a Critics' Choice CD of the year, are world premières. The Coro Cervantes - Britain's only professional group devoted to Hispanic classical repertoire - and their director Carlos Fernández Aransay are clearly on a mission of discovery and recovery. Their zeal shines forth in these performances, whose passion is balanced by finely-nuanced direction and precise ensemble.

The excitement of discovery is especially palpable in the first four tracks of the disc, which in their awestruck polyphony capture something of the spirit and technique of the Renaissance greats, from the numinous opening of Albéniz's a capella psalm setting to Vicente Goioechea's impassioned Christus Factus est, via some splendid organ fanfares in Granados' Salve Regina and a perfect minute-long sliver of a motet by Falla.

One reason that this music is so little known is that, as Shorter notes, it is from "a period in which Spanish church music seems to have been under attack from all sides, as first Napoleonic invaders and later the Spanish government itself seized church assets, closed music chapels and finally banned lay musicians from performing in churches."

You can hear some samples here. The revival of sacred choral music in Spain came through Pope St. Pius X's moto proprio on sacred music, Tra le Sollecitudini.

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