Cabezon, Ganassi, Ortiz: The Art of the Vihuela de Arco


Composer(s): Cabezon, Ganassi, Ortiz

Artist(s): Fernando Marin, Vihuela de Arco

Barcode: 0793597335708

  • EAN Code: 7.93597335708
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Instrumental
  • Instrumentation: Vihuela de arco
  • Period: Baroque
SKU: C00037 Category:

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FROM ALBUM NOTES by Fernando Marin:

The vihuela de arco (bowed vihuela) was one of the most widely used musical instruments in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries and the predecessor of most modern European bowed instruments. Johannes Tinctoris, at the end of the 15th century, attributed Spanish origin (‘hispanorum’) to the viola de arco in order to distinguish its specific typology from the rest of European violas of the period (De inventione et usu musicae, Nápoles, 1481-83, l. iv). At first, these instruments had fewer strings, they were polyvalent, their origins go back to the Middle Ages. In the Iberian Peninsula we find the oldest and most diverse models, such as those with a flat bridge, double bridge or da braccio position. […]


Antonio de Cabezon: (b Castrillo de Matajudíos, nr Burgos, c1510; d Madrid, 26 March 1566). Composer and organist. Blind from childhood, he was probably educated at Palencia Cathedral under the care of the organist García de Baeza. In 1526 he entered the service of Queen Isabella and on 12 February 1538 he was appointed músico de la cámara to Charles V. On Isabella’s death in 1539 he was entrusted with the musical education of Prince Felipe and his sisters. Between 1548 and 1551 he accompanied Felipe on his travels to Milan, Naples, Germany and the Netherlands, and between July 1554 and August 1555 to London on the occasion of Felipe’s marriage to Mary Tudor. Cabezón married Luisa Nuñez de Mocos of Avila and they had five children. In his will, dated 14 October 1564, Cabezón described himself as ‘músico de cámara del rey don Felipe nuestro señor’.

Cabezón is ranked among the foremost keyboard performers and composers of his time. His music is rooted in the instrumental tradition of Spain and was composed for keyboard, plucked string instruments and ensembles (curiosos minestriles, ‘skilful minstrels’) that probably included string as well as wind players. Some of Cabezón’s compositions appeared in Venegas de Henestrosa’s Libro de cifra nueva (Alcalá de Henares, 1557). However, the greater part of his works were printed posthumously by his son (4) Hernando de Cabezón in Obras de música para tecla, arpa y vihuela (Madrid, 1578; ed. in MME, xxvii–xxix, 1966). Together, these two volumes transmit some 275 works (migajas, ‘scraps’ or ‘crumbs’) by Cabezón. (His collected works are edited by C. Jacobs, Brooklyn, NY, 1967–86.)

His compositions fall into four distinct groups and contribute to all the principal musical genres of the period. They include: (i) functional liturgical works including hymns, Kyrie verses, psalm settings, Magnificat settings and fabordones; (ii) free works (tientos); (iii) intabulations (canciones glosadas y motetes); and (iv) variations (discantes). In general the compositions display a variety of styles, influenced by variation techniques, by the glosa or diminution. In the hymns and Kyrie verses, the cantus firmus is the principal structural framework, sometimes abandoned in favour of imitative polyphony. The fabordones comprise variations, organized according to mode, following a homophonic exposition (llano). Cabezón’s tientos form a significant contribution to the development of instrumental music between 1535 and 1540. In these works, the improvisatory style characteristic of the free works written at the beginning of the century is no longer seen; Cabezón used his knowledge of imitative counterpoint and an unusual sense of formal organization to create masterpieces with strong internal coherence. The tientos are linked thematically to plainchant formulas, in keeping with the form’s liturgical function. The intabulations are ordered according to polyphonic density, progressing from works with four parts to works with six. They are based on sacred and secular models by composers such as Josquin and Lassus, and are exuberant witnesses to a practice recommended by theorists such as Bermudo, who demanded that all instrumentalists study Franco-Flemish musical models. Finally the variations, called discantes, diferencias or sometimes glosas, form a high point in the history of the genre. His models include popular Spanish songs, such as El canto llano del caballero, dance forms and melodic-harmonic frameworks (as in the melody Guárdame las vacas, paired with a romanesca bass pattern). A wide range of variation techniques are seen, including migrating cantus firmus themes altered beyond recognition, and profuse ornamentation. During his journeys with the royal chapel Cabezón must have influenced musicians throughout Europe, in particular in England where composers such as Tallis and Byrd took up the art of variation.
A vocal work by Cabezón, Invocación a la letanía, is transmitted in the Cancionero de la Casa de Medinaceli (E-Mmc 13230; ed. in MME, viii, 1949). It also appears, under the title letanías, in an inventory of music from Cuenca Cathedral in 1611 together with ‘una misa de Cabeçon’.
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Diego Ortiz: (b Toledo, c1510; d ?Naples, c1570). Spanish theorist and composer. He was at Naples by 10 December 1553, when he dedicated his Trattado de glosas to the Spanish nobleman Pedro de Urríes, Baron of Riesi (Sicily). This work appeared simultaneously in Spanish and in an Italian version full of hispanicisms suggesting that Ortiz served as his own translator. If so, he must already have spent an extended period in the part of Italy under Spanish rule.

By February 1558 Ortiz was maestro de capilla of the viceregal chapel maintained at Naples by Fernando Alvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba and Spanish Viceroy from 1556 to 1558. In 1565 he was still maestro de capilla to the conservative Pedro Afán de Rivera, Duke of Alcalá, Alvarez de Toledo’s successor as Spanish Viceroy (1559–71) to whom he dedicated his Musices liber primus. A book of masses promised in the preface to this work never appeared.

The Trattado de glosas, or ‘treatise on the ornamentation of cadences and other types of passage in the music of viols’, is the first printed ornamentation manual for the player of bowed string instruments. It teaches neither how to improvise nor how to add ornamentation at sight, but provides numerous written-out ornaments fitting exactly prescribed time limits. The player is told in book 1 to inspect the dozen or more ornamented variants provided after each simple cadence or passage, to choose the most apt and to write it into his part at the appropriate place. The accidentals shown in the simple cadence are to be retained in whatever ornamented variant the player selects. The second book begins with four solo recercadas (studies) for bass viol, followed by six recercadas on the bass La spagna in which agile tenor-clef counterpoints for violón are accompanied by keyboard harmonizations of the theme. Next come four recercadas (ornamented versions) of Arcadelt’s four-voice madrigal O felici occhi miei for viol and keyboard, followed by four of Pierre Sandrin’s four-part chanson Douce mémoire. Book 2 concludes with eight recercadas for bass viol and keyboard over passamezzo basses. Neither book quotes any distinctively Iberian air. Ortiz’s preoccupation with bowed rather than plucked instruments contrasted with contemporary Spanish preference. The sole 16th-century peninsular manuscript that cites his ornamentation formulae is a Portuguese keyboard source (P-C Mus.242), not a Spanish viol source.

The hymns, psalms, Salves and alternatim Magnificat settings of Ortiz’s Musices liber primus, for four to seven voices, are without exception based on plainsong. Although one setting of Pange lingua gloriosi quotes a Spanish chant, few other native traits are evident in the collection. His use of accidentals (the same note may be unaltered in one verse and sharpened in the next) agrees with Infantas’s treatment of plainsong cantus firmi in Plura modulationum genera (1579). In his dedication Ortiz encouraged the Spanish predilection for accompanying sacred polyphony with instruments. In his preface he referred to Ockeghem, Josquin Des Prez and Mouton as the ‘true doctors of music’, a view in accord with the conservative style of his compositions, which show the distinctive influence of Morales.

A five-part funeral motet, Pereat dies (ed. H. Eslava in Lira sacro-hispana, Madrid, 1869), is not in the book of 1565 and may be by another Ortiz, like the three long six-part motets of I-Rvat C.S.24, copied in 1545. Vicente Lusitano, the probable author of an anonymous treatise (ed. in Collet), mentioned a Missa ‘L’homme armé’ by ‘Ortiz’. Two intabulations in Valderrábano’s Silva de sirenas(1547) are ascribed in that collection not to Diego but to Miguel Ortiz.

Sylvestro di Ganassi dal Fontego: (b ?Venice, 1492; d mid-16th century). Italian instrumentalist and writer. He was the author of two treatises on instrumental performance. Ganassi joined the pifferi of the Venetian government in June 1517, when he was hired as ‘contralto’ to fill a vacancy. From the 1517 document it is clear that his nickname ‘dal Fontego’ was derived from his place of residence near (or at) the Venetian ‘Fontego’, the palace by the Rialto where German merchants lived and traded. He is also mentioned in a few other documents from the late 1540s, and he might be the ‘Silvestro del cornetto’ who rented a storeroom near the Rialto in 1566. In his capacity as ‘piffero del Doge’ he probably supplied ceremonial and court music for the Doges and instrumenal music at the Basilica di S Marco.

Ganassi published two treatises, one on the recorder, Opera intitulata Fontegara (Venice, 1535), and one in two volumes on the viola da gamba, Regola rubertina (Venice, 1542) and Lettione seconda(Venice, 1543). Most 16th-century books on instruments are either quasi-encyclopedic surveys, like those by Sebastian Virdung (1511) and Martin Agricola (1528 and later), or else very simple sets of instructions for tuning, fingering and intabulating, like the lutebooks by Hans Gerle (1532 and later) and Adrian Le Roy (1574). Ganassi’s works differ from all others in their detail and subtlety. They offer a complete discussion of instrumental technique up to its most sophisticated aspects: how to produce a good sound, rules for articulation (including advanced problems in bowing, tonguing and fingering), how to improvise ornamentation and, most important, how technique must be subordinated to expressiveness. In short, Ganassi’s volumes should be regarded as the starting point for any serious study of 16th-century performing practice, for together they give the most extended and most complete statement on the subject and reveal the high level of achievement the instrumentalists of the time had reached. Unfortunately the volumes are not easy for the English-speaking musician to use since they are written in a difficult Italian and partly in Venetian dialect. The existing translations of Fontegara into German and English are not wholly satisfactory.

Fontegara purports to be an exposition of the principles of playing wind instruments, dealing with ways of controlling the breath, tongue and fingers. Much of the volume is taken up with a rather scholastic presentation in a series of tables of the sorts of passaggi which may be applied to a melodic line; this merely dramatizes the central position improvised ornamentation held in the education of young instrumentalists and in the professional activity of master players. Besides passaggi, Ganassi also explains trills by semitones, whole tones and 3rds; various sorts of articulation including several varieties of double tonguing; fingerings, among them some that extend the range of the recorder to more than two octaves; and breath control, for good intonation, dynamic contrast and expressive performance. Throughout his book Ganassi holds up the human voice as the model for instrumentalists to follow. The copy of Fontegara in D-W has an appendix in Ganassi’s own hand setting out some 175 varied diminutions on a melodic formula.

In the two volumes of Regola rubertina, Ganassi first describes the most elementary aspects of viol playing – how to hold the instrument, how to finger it and so on – and then proceeds to explain in a complicated way various sorts of bowings, fingerings and tunings, including several scordatura tunings and some for viols with only three or four strings. He discusses techniques for playing above the frets, how to transcribe vocal music into tablature, how to place frets on the instrument, how to tell good from bad strings, how to improvise unaccompanied ricercares and how to play polyphonically. The volumes are illustrated with a number of charts, tables and diagrams.


Marin, Fernando (Viola da Gamba), Originally from Alicante (Spain), the outstanding gambist, cellist and musicologist Fernando Marín has specialized in early bowed instruments of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, historical interpretation and chamber music. He received his doctorate in musicology with his thesis on the Hispanic Bowed Vihuela (its sound and gut strings). Through his research on its origins, ways of interpreting and repertoire of these instruments, he has developed a specific technique of bowing and accompanying the voice as well as contributing to the manufacture of historical gut strings. He studied in Prague (CZ), Cologne (DE) and Brussels (BE) being Wieland Kuijken one of his most renowned professors. Together with soprano Nadine Balbeisi, he founded the duo Cantar alla viola, dedicated for over 15 years to the interpretation of medieval and renaissance music. His art of accompanying the voice can be heard in his recordings: The Complete Polyphonic Works by Juan Blas de Castro (1561-1631), Robert Jones: The Second Booke of Songs and Ayres (1601), the Vihuela de Arco in the Kingdom of Aragon, Each Lovely Grace: The second book of Ayres by William Corkine (1612) and Segreti Accenti with works by Luca Marenzio, Costanzo Festa and Luzasco Luzzaschi. F. Marín has also recorded four solo CDs: eVIOLution on the evolution of the Viola da Gamba, sCORDAtura, on gut strings in different tunings, The Art of the Vihuela de arco (2017) and Magia consoni et Dissoni. He published several articles in the journals for musicology Nassarre and Quodlibet. Together with Nadine Balbeisi and the Brazilian composer, choir conductor, jazz and clavichord player Jean Kleeb, he founded the trio Viola da Samba, recording his first CD De río a Rio in 2015. Fernando Marín maintains active researching and teaching historical interpretation and early bowed instruments in Europe and the USA. He is currently, and since 2003 the Viola da Gamba teacher at the Conservatorio Profesional de Música in Zaragoza.

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