Official Release: 16 July 2021
Sweden is one of the northernmost European countries; Calabria is the southernmost region of the Italian peninsula. This geographic axis, crossing the entire European continent, is just one of the geographical references of the songbook constituting the object of this Da Vinci Classics recording.
While the reception history of this songbook is well documented and fascinating, very little is known about its origins, opening the gates for speculations and musicological debate. The history of its reception officially begins in 1909, with an article published by Rafael Mitjana Gordon (1869-1921). Mitjana was the Secretary to the Spanish Embassy in Stockholm, Sweden. During his stay in the Scandinavian country, in 1907, Mitjana took the opportunity of studying the holdings of an august library, in one of the oldest Universities of Europe, the University of Uppsala. In the Library known as Carolina Rediviva, his interest was caught by a relatively small book. It was a printed copy of a Venetian publication of the sixteenth century, realized by one of the most important music publishers of the era, i.e. Girolamo Scotto. The book’s complete title is “Villancicos de diversos Autores, a dos, y a tres, y a quatro, y a cinco bozes, agora nuevamente corregidos. Hay mas ocho tonos de Canto llano, y ocho tonos de Canto de Organo para que puedan aprovechar los que a cantar començaren. Venetiis, Apud Hieronymum Scotum, MDLVI”, and it actually provides us with the most detailed and reliable information we have about it.
In fact, and in an entirely unusual fashion for its time, the songbook has no dedication or preface, thus making it difficult to reconstruct the occasion or destination for which it was conceived. It is unusual also for many other reasons: it small size (209 x 147 mm), its format as a choirbook (all parts appear on adjacent pages), and its vertical orientation. It includes fifty-four musical works, only one of which is explicitly attributed (it is piece no. 49, Dezilde al cavallero, whose composer is identified as the Flemish musician Nicolas Gombert). The authorship of other works has been later established or inferred by musicologists: a few songs included in this songbook were also found in other collections, where their composer was explicitly indicated, while other pieces have been attributed for stylistic reasons.
As proclaimed by the titlepage, the collection consists mostly of villancicos, a genre of madrigals typical for Spanish Renaissance music, and comprising both sacred and secular works, along with eight duets unprovided with sung lyrics. The songs are organized in the publication according to the number of parts; this, together with the indication that some songs are “suited for those who are beginners in singing” has suggested to musicologists that the songbook may have had an intended educational or pedagogic value. Moreover, the specification “newly corrected” leads to the inference that the Scotto edition might represent a later emendation of an earlier (printed or unprinted, but already circulating) version. Following the table of contents, the reader finds twelve two-part villancicos, twelve in three parts, twelve in four parts, as well as twelve Christmas villancicos and eight more five-part villancicos. Almost all lyrics are in Castilian, while four are in Catalan (one of which employs a Gascogne dialect); yet another includes a section sung in Latin and one is in the Galician language.
The specimen found by Mitjana currently remains the only known copy of the printing. In 1909, as previously mentioned, its discoverer published a famous article, discussing twenty-eight of the poems set to music in the songbook. His work was reprinted in Mexico in 1944, along with an essay by Isabel Pope, by Jesús Bal y Gay, who also published the music for the first time. Another influential study appeared in 1958, written by Josep Romeu Figueras, and focusing on the figure of Mateo Flecha the Elder; this article was the first to connect the songbook (which had been known as the Cancionero de Uppsala up to that moment) with the Duke of Calabria and its Court. This destination has recently been disputed by musicologist Emilio Ros-Fábregas, who points out that no reference to the Duke, no family crests, and no works by local composers are found in the book. He also interestingly suggests a narrative interpretation of the entire collection: different from other so-called cancioneros, which were compiled by copyists who might not follow an “editorial” plan, this printed collection presents, in his opinion, a “theological” structure focusing on the redemption of sins through the Incarnation of Christ. While Ros-Fábregas’ contentions are being discussed by the specialists in the field, the Cancionero is still commonly known and referred to as the Cancionero del Duque de Calabria, the Duke of Calabria’s Songbook.
According to Romeu Figueras, the Cancionero originated in Valencia, at the court of Fernando of Aragon (1488-1550) and of his wife, Germana de Foix. The connection with Fernando might therefore explain the high proportion of Christmas songs found in the collection; in fact, it was believed that Fernando’s ancestry dated back to Balthasar, one of the three Wise Men who, according to the Gospel of Luke, had worshipped the Child Jesus shortly after his birth.
Fernando’s youthful years had been rather eventful. The firstborn of Fredrick, the King of Naples, Fernando spent eleven years in captivity, before being released by Charles I in 1523, who also arranged his marriage with Germana; the couple married in Sevilla in 1526, but their life together lasted only ten years. Fernando’s title of Duke of Calabria was later complemented by that of Viceroy of Valencia. After Germana’s death, Fernando remarried: both of his wives, Germana and Mencía de Mendoza, were highly cultivated patronesses of the arts. His musical chapel was refined, and its masters were chosen among the leading musicians of the era; among them are Pedro de Pastrana (from 1529 to 1533) and Juan de Cepa (from 1544 to 1554), while the presence of Mateo Flecha the Elder at his court is still being disputed. Certainly, the Chapel’s quality was famous throughout Europe, and contributed to the Court’s fame crucially. It is therefore rather likely that, at Fernando’s death, this collection could have been intended as a posthumous homage to his culture and to the artistic level of his court. The fact that the only extant copy is found in Uppsala is still unexplained, though it is rather likely that this specimen found its way to Sweden during or after the Thirty Years War, possibly after having travelled as far East as to Vienna and Prague or Poland.
The composers who have been identified, along with Gombert, are Juan del Encina, Cristóbal de Morale, Bartomeu Càceres and Francisco de Peñalosa, although the Cancionero has still much to reveal. The instrumental pieces mirror the Spanish musical culture as it expressed itself not only within the borders of the Iberian Peninsula, but also in many other territories under Spanish rule, such as the Kingdom of Naples.
On the other hand, the vocal pieces seem to display a direct link with another collection of songs, the so-called Cancionero de Palacio, probably dating back to the last decades of the fifteenth century. These collections display a fascinating variety of styles and genres, among which villancicos, refined polyphony and folk tunes, both sacred and secular.
The performance recorded here is particularly interesting for several reasons. It generously employs the sweet tones of the vihuela and of the viols. These instruments sound differently from each other, but they are in fact closely related, also for historical reasons. The vihuela actually is a typically Spanish instrument, which arrived in the Italian Peninsula within the chapel of the Valencian Rodrigo Borja, who would later become Pope as Alexander VI. In Italy, the vihuela changed its shape and features, and gradually became the Italian viola da gamba.
Taking advantage from the warm and expressive timbral fabric provided by these instruments, the performance recorded here opted for a practice in line with contemporaneous habits. The lower parts are not sung, but played instrumentally, thus allowing for a greater timbral variety; moreover, the sung texts become more clearly intelligible, following a concern which was widely shared by humanist thinkers, poets and Churchmen alike. Practices such as these would ultimately create the space for the emergence of accompanied monody, and for the development of a harmonic and tonal concept, leading straightforwardly to Baroque aesthetics and to the birth of wholly new genres and styles.
Accademia degli Imperfetti: The association Accademia degli Imperfetti has been giving performances and organising educational workshops and courses since 1996. Its productions are characterised by their detailed exploration into how music relates to particular locations and narratives. Sometimes working as artists in residence, their projects have been hosted by civic and state museums in Genoa and Pescara and also by numerous artistic and cultural festivals in Italy and elsewhere. These include: Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Festival of the Saracens in Pamparato, Echoes of Cagliari, Giovine Genovese Orchestra, Cusiano Early Music Festival, Salerno Early Music Festival, Antiqua in Piedmont, RomaFestivalBarocco, Los Conciertos del Cervantes in Rome, Foligno’s Segni Barocchi Festival, and the Signes Festival in France.
The association has also collaborated with the France-based contemporary dance company Silenda in producing the soundtracks for their performances ‘Vuota dismisura’ and ‘Courants..Ponts..Courants’. This was a co-production involving the Centre Choréographique National de Caen/Basse Normandie and the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication. In December 2003 Accademia degli Imperfetti established a series of early music workshops and concerts ‘Il Canto della Memoria’ at the Museo delle Genti d’Abruzzo in Pescara. Since 2013 the association has been working on another project “Musica Antica a Palazzo”, organising concerts, seminars (with speakers including Pedro Estevan) and specialist workshops. One series of workshops, "PerCorsi di Musica Antica", is based in the educational department of the Palazzo Bianco Museum in Genoa, and has led to performances in some of the most significant of the city’s villas, palaces and convents.
Recent concert venues include Albergo dei Poveri and the Palazzo Ducale in Genoa. This Palazzo was the location for ‘Sound Frescoes’, a series of performances whose repertoire was designed to relate closely to the musical frescoes which decorate the walls of the Doge’s Chapel where the concerts were held.
Baltazar Zúñiga: Baltazar Zúñiga was born in Mexico City, from 1998 it has artistic career as soloist in concert and operatic repertoire in Mexico, Italy and Nord Europe. He studied singing at the Superior School of Music of the National Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico City. In 1998 e 1999 Baltazar Zúñiga started his career as an opera singer in Mexico in the role of Tamino in Mozart’s Magic Flute, Count Almaviva in Rosini’s Barber of Seville, during that time he has participated in Japan at the Pacific Musica Festival singing in the most important concerts halls of Sapporo with important conductors as Nicholas Mc. Geegan and Simon Shauten. He moved to Italy to study bel canto and early music repertoire with Gioacchino Zarrelli, Michael Aspinal and William Matteuzzi at “Accademia del Teatro Città di Cagli” and debuted in 2001 at Rossini Opera Festival (R.OF) in the Rossini’s opera “Il Viaggio a Reims” conducted by Antonino Fogliani, continued the debuts of the role of Rinuccio in “Gianni Schicchi” G.Puccini, Ferrando in “Così fan tutte” and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni W.A.Mozart, Foleville, in “Il Signor Bruscchino” G.Rossini, Lurcanio in “Ariodante” G.F.Händel and th role of Rodolfo of La Bohéme G.Puccini. By 2001 he began a carrer in Italy in operatic repertoire and began to participate as a soloist singing oratorios, symphonic reprtoire and sacred music with important orchestras in Italy. In the same years he began to specialize in early muisc with important musicians as Gustav Leonhardt, Michael Radulescu, Gloria Banditelli and Francesco Cera. In 2007 he won the international competition for the 400 anniversary of Monteverdi’s Orfeo in Mantua singing the role of Orfeo at Theatre Bibiena. Currently He works with european ensembles of early music: Accademia Bizantina, Concerto Romano, Arìon Choir & Consort, Arte Musica, L’Arte dell’Arco, La Stagione Armonica, De Labyrintho, La Capella di Cremona, La Capella di San Petronio di Bologna, Orchestra da Camera di Mantova, I Musicali Affetti, La Venexiana, Collegium Vocale Gent, Ensemble Pygmalion, Ensemble I Gemelli singing in the most important festivals of early music in Europe and America: Bruge, Europalia, Lufthansa Festival, Early Music Festival Istanbul, Early Music Festival Postdam, Ravenna Festival, Salzburg Festival, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Anima Mundi Pisa, Chopin Festival Varsavia, Festival Accademia Chigiana Siena, Festival di Hannover, Emilia Romagnia Festival, Festival Monteverdi di Cremona, Casa della Musica di Parma, Alte Musik Melk and others. He collaborates with conductors: Riccardo Muti, Luciano Acocella, Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli, Gustav Leonhardt, Claudio Cavina, Vito Clemente, Antonino Fogliani, Marc Andrè, Diego Fasolis, Filippo Maria Bresan, Michael Radulescu, Alberto Zedda, Aldo Salvagno, Cinzia Pennesi, Ottavio Dantone, Nicholas Mc.Geegan, Philipphe Herreweghe, Frans Brugen, Francesco Cera, Alessandro Quarta, Enrico Onofri, Sergio Balestracci e Fabrizio Bastianini. He was presented with great succes in theaters and concert hall as Lincoln Center di New York, Auditorium St. John’s London, Konzerthaus Vien, Auditorium Kitara Japan, Teatro de Bellas Artes of Mexico City, Auditorium Köln in Germany, Auditorium Brugge in Belgium, Grand Théatre de Montpellier, Théatre de Tulouse, Théatre de Reims, Grand Théatre de Marseille, Théatre de Bordeaux, Théatre de Tours, Théatre de Avignon, and Théatre des Champs Elysées in France, Teatro Bibiena di Mantova, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Teatro Rossini di Pesaro, Teatro della Fortuna di Fano, Teatro Lauro Rossi di Macerata, Teatro Comunale di Fermo, Teatro Nichelino di Torino, Casa della Musica di Parma e Teatro Olimpico di Vicenza in Italy.
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.
Luis Milán (b c1500; d after 1560). Spanish musician and writer. He is best known as the author of the first printed vihuela music, the Libro de musica de vihuela de mano intitulado El maestro (Valencia, 1536/R1975; ed. R. Chiesa, Milan, 1965, and C. Jacobs, University Park, PA, 1971). Along with his earlier booklet, Libro de motes de damas y cavalleros, intitulado El juego de mandar (Valencia, 1535), it was composed during his residence at the Valencian court of Germaine de Foix, where he remained until at least 1538. Nothing of Milán's earlier life is known, although it is possible that he was the nobleman of the same name mentioned in Valencian documents in 1516. His last book, El cortesano (Valencia, 1561), clearly inspired by Castiglione, offers valuable insight into life at the Valencian court and Milán's own musical practice. With an air of self-assurance and conceit, Milán refers to himself in El maestro as a second Orpheus. Testimony to his musical ability is found in poems published in the 1560s by Juan Fernández and Gil Polo.
El maestro is the earliest Spanish collection of independent solo instrumental music and accompanied songs, and is the first printed Spanish tablature. It is also the earliest known music to provide verbal tempo indications. In most cases, a single tempo prevails throughout each piece, expressed in terms such as ‘algo apriessa’ (somewhat fast), ‘compás a espacio’ (a slow measure) or ‘con el compás batido’ (with an agitated beat). For works in the ‘gallant style’ (de tañer de gala), which alternate passages of chords and diminutions, he advocated a more flexible tempo in which ‘all that is chordal is to be played slowly and the diminutions fast, pausing briefly at each fermata’. El maestro is unique among Spanish tablatures in being notated in a similar way to Neapolitan tablatures with the highest line of the staff indicating the highest-pitched course.
The prefatory texts of El maestro, as well as its title ‘the teacher’, advertise that it was designed with a didactic purpose, with the pieces arranged in increasing difficulty following ‘the same manner that a teacher would do with a student who had never played’. Even the easiest pieces, however, call for considerable instrumental dexterity. The book instructs in the reading of tablature, selection of strings and the tuning of the vihuela. It also includes an explanation of the modes that specifies the superius rather than the tenor as the voice by which mode is determined. The book is further arranged symmetrically in two parallel libros, each of which is formed by a combined cycle of genres, modes, and styles: fantasias (modes 1–4), idiomatic works (modes 1–8), fantasias (modes 5–8), pavans (modes 1–8; only in bk 1), Spanish and Portuguese villancicos, romances, Italian sonnets. Despite its novelties, El maestro is also a unique link with past generations of instrumental improvisors. The style of Milán's music sets itself apart form the work of all later Spanish instrumental music and, according to the author's own testimony, it is the work of a self-taught musician, an improviser who composed directly on the vihuela, later committing his works to notation.
The largest group of pieces in El maestro is the 40 fantasias, designated as such by Milán because they ‘proceed from the imagination and industry of their author’. As the first known examples of their genre in Spain they display a high level of sophistication and stylistic maturity. They are composed of multiple independent episodes that achieve coherence through their narrative continuity. They are based on a simple rhetorical model and unified by strong adherence to the modes. Thematic material is derived from the composer's reservoir of improvisatory formulae, many of which recur almost identically in different works. These range from occasional passages of strict imitation to others based on idiomatic devices, chiefly passage work or occasionally arpeggios. Milán's textures usually evoke an imitative style, but they are most frequently crafted as pseudo-imitation, built from short, accompanied melodic units that are reiterated at different pitches or in sequences to create the illusion of an imitative texture. The fantasias follow a characteristic tripartite scheme, beginning with an extended episode based on imitation or a combination of polyphonic and idiomatic devices, and continuing with a series of shorter episodes. The final episode is nearly always repeated as a signal of approaching conclusion, and a brief coda is frequently added. This style and structure also applies to the tentos in the gallant style. Also designated as fantasias, because they are original works, the six pavanas are similarly composed, within the confines of the dance rhythm. Two of these are based on Italian melodies, and the final one, in triple metre, is given as a galliard in at least one other contemporary source.
Milán's songs are notated with the sung melody shown in the tablature in red. This is a clear indication that the vihuelist would normally also have been the singer; the pitch register of the sung part is often quite high. Milán described himself as singing to his own accompaniment on a number of occasions in El cortesano. The Spanish and Portuguese villancicos are settings of popular love poetry and follow the formal pattern ABBA. Two versions are provided for 10 of the 12 of them, simple homophonic settings in which the singer embellishes with ‘quiebros’ (trills) and ‘glosas’ (diminutions), and alternative versions where the vocal part is to be sung unadorned while the vihuela part is written with added rapid dimiutions. The romances also have embellished accompaniments. Three of them deal with frontier themes of the reconquest, while one is based on the siege of Troy. All the Italian sonnets are through-composed settings. In one of them, Madonna per voi ardo, Milán suggests that the diminutions may be omitted from the accompaniment. The only sonnet by a known poet, O gelosi d'amanti by Sannazaro, was also set as a vihuela song by Mudarra.