Ensemble La Romanesca AL ALVA VENID

One of the great attractions of Spanish court music of the 15th and 16th centuries is its unashamed use of themes from the popular tradition. It is music where joy is completely extroverted, where sorrow is pensive, and where expression of the passions is simple and direct. It reflects the self-conscious assertiveness of a new Spanish era, a pride in national values, and a disposition towards the enjoyment of local popular art. It was a period in which the poetic traditions of the romance and the villancico with their traditional melodies achieved the height of popularity among the highborn and, in turn, spawned new musical forms that were developed by musicians during the sixteenth century, particularly in the instrumental domain. Not all Spanish music of the period, however, is devoted to the celebration of the popular, and the secular music of the period should be seen in balance with the magnificent contribution to polyphonic music in the international style made by Spanish composers including Peñalosa, Morales, Guerrero and Victoria who worked under Church patronage to provide music for worship. 
The elevation of popular music to the status of art was not an isolated phenomenon, but an element of a broader panorama. The earliest manuscript relics of this tradition, the Cancionero Musical de Palacio, the Cancionero de la Colombina, and the Segovia and Barcelona manuscripts represent the period immediately following the marriage of the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabel, in 1469. The union of Castile and Aragon brought about by their marriage set the stage for further strengthening of Spain as a political unit. The nation was elevated, through unanimity of faith that was both a tool and a creed that fired the expulsion of the Moors and expansion through discovery. It is in this context that Ferdinand and Isabel decided to employ only Spanish musicians in their chapels. They encouraged music with simple structure and a strong national identity to reflect cultural self-confidence at a time when sophisticated contrapuntal artifice was becoming the vogue in elsewhere in Europe, particularly in the musical fashion centres of the Low Countries and in the Hapsburg dynasty into which they married their children Juan and Juana.

Ensemble La Romanesca’s Al alva venid covers some essential Spanish Renaissance repertoire with an all-stars line-up, in a set of interpretations which have set deep marks and are absolute references: here is Marta Almajano in her best singing moment, here is Paolo Pandolfo confirming his superior artistry, here are Juan Carlos de Mulder and Pedro Estevan in “de luxe” supporting roles, and of course here is José Miguel Moreno, the man who has probably been the finest translator of Renaissance secular Spanish music onto record. (GLOSSA)

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