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Madrid 1752 - Sacred Music / Wilkins, Madrid Barroco


Release Date: 09/04/2001 
Label:  Sono Luminus   Catalog #: 93237   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  José NebraFrancisco Courcelle
Performer:  Eduardo SantamariaGregorio Poblador FuenteTamara Crout MatthewsScott Cameron,   ... 
Conductor:  Grover Wilkins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Madrid Baroque Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

It's way past time for performers and record companies to be taking a greater interest in choral music from 18th-century Spain, but better late than never. Recently, several recordings have approached some of this repertoire via a kind of geographical-historical back door, that is, focusing on religious works performed in baroque-era Mexico, many of which originated in Spain and were transported (sometimes with their composers) to the New World. One such effort is an ambitious, multi-volume series titled Mexico Barroco, from Urtext. Also, both composers represented on this disc are included in a program by the Spanish National Radio Orchestra and Choir on the Spanish label RTVE Classics. Not that there are any surprises of the certified Read more world-class masterpiece variety among the manuscripts transcribed and performed so far, but there is a sizable body of worthy and often outstanding music nevertheless.


Very simply, José de Nebra (1702-68) was born in Spain and was best-known for (and best-suited for) theatre music, but he also served many years as principal organist to the Spanish Royal Chapel and also as assistant "maestro de capilla" to Francisco Courcelle, who was three years younger. Courcelle was born in Italy to French parents, and Italian influences are everywhere in his music. He joined the court in 1733 and of his nearly 300 extant works, most are liturgical (32 are masses). The music featured here contains music for the three Nocturn services containing responsories for Christmas and Epiphany. For chorus and orchestra and occasional soloists (SATB), they are fairly elaborate in size of the forces required and in their dramatic scope. Unfortunately, the music that opens the program, an introduction, invitatory, and hymn by Nebra, is the most conventional and unremarkable on the disc. It's pretty straightforward European late-baroque church music, albeit skillfully managed, and it works well if you imagine it presented in its original context: Christmas eve in a large Madrid church, with antiphonal choirs and an orchestra of 30-plus instruments. And it does have its moments of glory, especially some grand choruses ("Venite, exultemus Domino", for one) and skillful use of the traditional technique of alternating soloists and small solo ensemble with large chorus.


Interestingly, as soon as the music turns to the first Responsory, the quality of Nebra's writing immensely improves, with engaging orchestral flourishes and attractive solo quartet/chorus interactions, all of which provides some genuinely exciting listening. The best music, however, the stuff we've been waiting for, comes from Courcelle, whose two Responsories conclude the disc. Although not profoundly original--the first setting of the chorus "Et intrantes domum" is straight out of Vivaldi, the second is reminiscent of Handel--Courcelle shows a real flair for text setting, for melody, and for orchestration (listen to the brilliantly written and scored soprano aria "Stella, quam viderant Magi"), and a consummate mastery of polyphony. Highlights include "Reges arabum" a movement that begins with a spirited duet and leads into a Handelian fugal chorus and a brief but effective brass fanfare near the end. The final chorus also is a page ripped from Bach or Handel; a majestic, moderately polyphonic structure laced with homophonic accents at important textual moments.


The choir assembled for this performance is quite a fine outfit, not only technically polished but capable of an impressive range of expression (not always the case in performances of music from this period, whose grandiosity often encourages choirs to just "let it fly"). The soloists, especially the three upper voices, are suitably accomplished for this repertoire and are never less than pleasing to hear. Likewise for the Madrid Barroco orchestra, which effectively supports the chorus while capturing and confidently articulating the music's substantial excitement and drama. Now for the downside: the sound, while it has an undeniable opulence (you can tell that it was recorded in a huge cathedral), is seriously lacking in the kind of detail (especially in the chorus) and careful internal balances we normally get from Dorian. Obviously, cathedral acoustics can be very tricky, more so when multiple performing forces are involved--but we've come to expect a certain amount of miracle-working these days from recording teams, to allow us to hear everything, and to hear it even better than if we were sitting in the audience. And you can hear everything, just not as cleanly defined and balanced as you might like. Yet, the music is well worth hearing, and the performances are very, very good--an enticing introduction to these two composers and to a long-neglected repertoire. I for one will be on the lookout for more Courcelle.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Responsories for Christmas Matins: Introduction, Invitatory and Hymn by José Nebra
Performer:  Eduardo Santamaria (Tenor), Gregorio Poblador Fuente (Bass), Tamara Crout Matthews (Soprano),
Scott Cameron (Countertenor), Javier Corcuera Martinez (Tenor)
Conductor:  Grover Wilkins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Madrid Baroque Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1752; Spain 
Date of Recording: 11/1999 
Venue:  Collegiate Basilica, San Isidro, Madrid, 
Length: 23 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
2.
Responsories for Epiphany (8), Set 1: no 2, Videntes stellam by Francisco Courcelle
Performer:  Gregorio Poblador Fuente (Bass), Tamara Crout Matthews (Soprano), Eduardo Santamaria (Tenor),
Scott Cameron (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Grover Wilkins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Madrid Baroque Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1750; Spain 
Date of Recording: 11/1999 
Venue:  Collegiate Basilica, San Isidro, Madrid, 
Length: 19 Minutes 24 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
3.
Responsories for Epiphany (8), Set 1: no 3, Reges Tharsis by Francisco Courcelle
Performer:  Eduardo Santamaria (Tenor), Scott Cameron (Countertenor), Tamara Crout Matthews (Soprano),
Gregorio Poblador Fuente (Bass)
Conductor:  Grover Wilkins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Madrid Baroque Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1750; Spain 
Date of Recording: 11/1999 
Venue:  Collegiate Basilica, San Isidro, Madrid, 
Length: 12 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
4.
Iam sol recedit igneus by José Nebra
Performer:  Eduardo Santamaria (Tenor), Tamara Crout Matthews (Soprano), Gregorio Poblador Fuente (Bass),
Scott Cameron (Countertenor)
Conductor:  Grover Wilkins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Madrid Baroque Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 18th Century; Spain 
Date of Recording: 11/1999 
Venue:  Collegiate Basilica, San Isidro, Madrid, 
Length: 3 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Language: Latin 
5.
Responsories for Christmas Matins: no 1, Hodie nobis caelorum by José Nebra
Performer:  Scott Cameron (Countertenor), Eduardo Santamaria (Tenor), Kym Amps (Soprano),
Tamara Crout Matthews (Soprano), Gregorio Poblador Fuente (Bass)
Conductor:  Grover Wilkins
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Madrid Baroque Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1752; Spain 
Date of Recording: 11/1999 
Venue:  Collegiate Basilica, San Isidro, Madrid, 
Length: 16 Minutes 1 Secs. 
Language: Latin 

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