The idea behind this recording is a musical stroll through the urban spaces in Granada where minstrels used to perform. The route was laid out by selecting a number of pieces from Manuscript 975 in the Manuel de Falla Library (E-GRmf 975), one of the few extant books which was originally intended for these instrumental ensembles. There seems to have been some relationship between Manuscript 975 and the Royal Chapel, the emblematic ecclesiastical center of the city, especially in connection with the Chapel Master, Rodrigo de Ceballos, who held this post from 1561 till his death in 1581. From all indications, it is the oldest extant book of its kind since it can be dated to somewhere in the 1560s. The book contains a wide variety of musical genres, from liturgical music for the Mass and Divine Office -psalms, hymns and Magnificats-to motets and “canciones”, which was a generic title in the 16th century for any piece in the vernacular: villancicos, chansons and madrigals.
The Falla Manuscript has been our companion on this musical stroll through a varied repertory of motets and chansons by both foreign and local composers. We have discovered some pieces that are truly unique, such as the anonymous Strambotto S’io fusse certo di levar per morte, a chanson by Lupus Ung moine and Manchicourt’s song Yo te quiere matare, all by other European composers, and the motets Christe potens rerum and O quam super terram by Francisco Guerrero; or those which have come down to us in books for minstrel ensembles but for which no vocal model is known: Pane me ami duche by Crecquillon, Guerrero’s O Maria, or the four songs that were not chosen to appear in this composer’s Venetian print Canciones y villanescas espirituales (1589). Along with these, there are the great hits of its time, such as Orlando di Lasso’s Susanne ung jour or Pierre Sandrin’s Doulce mémoire. Many of these pieces are recorded here for the first time. This will certainly be a significant factor in getting this little known musical heritage out into the wider world so it can be better appreciated. There are some real jewels here from the 16th century waiting to be discovered.
Juan Ruiz Jiménez
Reconstructing the sound of a 16th century wind band (ministriles) is a real challenge for any musician who wants to make the music come alive for contemporary audiences. After over four centuries, there are a large number of unanswered questions regarding many musical matters that seem to be almost impossible to reconstruct satisfactorily without making us feel that it is still foreign to us, imprecise and strongly subjective. However, Manuscript 975 in the Manuel de Falla Library (E-GRmf 975) provides us a great opportunity to study and become better acquainted the wind band music in the city of Granada in the second half of the 16th century, giving us both a specific geographical and time-related context.
The information we have about the instruments played at this period is found in documents from the Royal Chapel and the Cathedral in Granada and these are our chief sources. The standard instrumental consort of the time in every church-related institution was as follows: shawms, cornetts, sackbuts and dulcians. Also, there is specific evidence that recorders and crumhorn ensembles were used in Granada, instruments that are not mentioned as often in the sources at other centers (with the exception of Toledo and Sevilla). All of these instruments and their respective families, are played on this recording.
“…the measure is called the governor by which everything in music is both ruled and guided, both when we sing and when we play, giving it grace and elegance…” Thomas de Santa María (Arte de Tañer Fantasía, 1565)
This extract from Fray Thomas de Santa María’s treatise, is an introduction to the always difficult world of musical performance of this period for musician’s today. The explicit absence of performance marks in the musical sources of this period (mainly tempo indications and indications for nuance) has been the source of many doubts and controversies regarding the character, speed and general direction the music in this period should have, among other things. However, theoretical sources are quite clear and all agree regarding one of the most important topics: how to indicate the measure.
The music on this recording was all performed from facsimile of Manuscript 975 (choirbook format read from a single lectern with individual parts) and, therefore, gave us a chance to put into practice the theoretical concepts on the measure as they appear in the treatises Arte de Tañer (1565) by Sancta María, and Declaración de Instrumentos Musicales (1555) by Fray Juan Bermudo, for instance. Performance under these circumstances requires tempos to be constant throughout, from beginning to end, no slowing down even in the final cadence. This way, the implicit rhythmic sense of each piece is properly highlighted, and this, in turn, is of vital importance if all the voices have to sing together, especially in those pieces that are more contrapuntal. Performing this music from original sources forces us to keep the measure constant and well-defined (on occasion, using a baton or even slapping the palm of our hands), something which is often alluded to in the theoretical sources: “...the most important thing a choir director ought to know is: how to beat time, to be wise and honest [...] the measure must not be rushed so that it causes confusion, nor should it be so slow, thus causing a loss in devotion. Never alter the measure from slow to fast, nor vice versa, if there is no particular reason…”. Chapter II, f. XVIIII. Fray Juan Bermudo, Declaración de Instrumentos Musicales, 1555.
In conclusion, this recording aims to offer an overall view of the wind bands in Granada and the music they played in different settings and contexts in the second half of the 16th century. We hope to help our listeners get some idea of how this music sounded. And furthermore, we expect this will serve as a musicological study, the result of research and historically informed experimentation in collaboration with acknowledged musicologists. And finally, we hope this recording will contribute to a wider appreciation and understanding of our musical heritage.
Ensemble La Danserye