Notes and Editorial Reviews
MIR I LLUSÀ
Mass in D.
Quomodo Obscuratum est. Lauda Jerusalem
Dani Espasa, Pere Lluís Biosca, cond; Lluís Vilamajó (ten); La Xantria Ch; Vespres d’Arnadí (period instruments)
MUSIÉPOCA 004 (58: 46
Text and Translation)
The body of unexplored sacred music in Catalonia by local composers during the 18th century is a
world that one barely obtains glimpses of now and again. To be sure, the Catalans were major contributors of music to the entire Iberian region, and many of the composers from Barcelona, Gerona, and Montserrat went on to serve in the major cathedrals of Spain. Moreover, their music was also exported to the outside world, as men such as the Pla brothers, Josep de Campderros, and Domenec Terradellas left to serve a far-flung musical empire, from Chile (Campderros) to Germany (Pla). It was in the Spanish centers of Madrid, Segovia, Seville, and Valladolid, however, that their music was especially well-regarded for its lyricism and interesting approaches to both harmony and counterpoint. Alas, until recently, finding information on any of these was an extremely difficult task.
Within the last two decades this situation has begun to change, and slowly but surely musicians like Carles Baguer and Antonio Soler have emerged to considerable acclaim. This may be a factor of reawakening Catalan national pride, as evidenced in the booklet of this disc, the first two sections of which are pointedly in Catalan and Spanish (with English taking a third place). Here one finds a small tithe of sacred works by Josep Mir i Llusà, who spent much of his career in Segovia, Valladolid, and the monastery of La Encarnación in Madrid. He composed hundreds of works up to his death in 1764, many of which were exported all over the Spanish provinces on both sides of the Atlantic. Here, the collaboration of the La Xantria chorus led by Pere Lluís Biosca and the period instrument ensemble Vespres d’Arnadí under the direction of Dani Espasa features four of the larger works, two of which are for a double choir. The disc opens with the magnificent, brilliant D-Major Mass, scored for flutes, oboes, trumpets, and strings. The original manuscript does say
, which normally would indicate horns (trumpets generally being designated as
), but the use of timpani does seem to favor the not unacceptable obvious direct translation here. Indeed, as with any Mass in D, their brilliant tone is almost a requirement in certain sections in my opinion, and certainly Mir uses them to great effect.
What strikes me most is that the works are all quite individual in their own ways, particularly when it comes to the effective use of the orchestra. In the Gloria, for example, the two flutes have some lovely warbling parts, into which suddenly a high trumpet emerges, rushing suddenly up the scale. The Kyrie, which one might think would open with some sort of fanfares, begins actually with a nicely homophonic statement followed by some intricate counterpoint above a relentlessly marching bass line. At once one is tempted to think it old fashioned, but the way it is handled is more early classical in style. The “Qui sedes” is a gorgeous duet for the two sopranos with a mysterious solo violin line accompanied carefully by the flutes, all above a walking bass. The texture is varied and changeable, but it never sounds anachronistic for the time. In the mournful
, the two choruses accompanied only by the continuo move easily in and out of contrapuntal sections, now soft suspensions, now imitation, and now entirely fugal. The solo tenor line of the short Lamentations flows gently like a stream in the “Daleth” but duels with the oboes in the “Adhaesit lingua.” There are hints of the Italian here and there, especially in the Vivaldian “Lauda Jerusalem,” with its distinctive unison accompaniment by the oboes and violins.
I like the tempos that Biosca and Espasa take, not too fast so that this unknown music emerges unfolding at its own pace, but not too slow to insure that one thinks of it as a lugubrious relic. I am especially impressed by the clear woodwind lines, the oboes at times almost sounding like trumpets themselves with a crystal clear tone and the flutes having considerable warmth and depth. The selective use of the organ and harp as the continuo foundation is also quite sensitive and contributes to the sometimes interesting and unique textures that emerge. No intonation problems with the strings, either. As for the voices, I like Lluís Vilamajó’s clear tenor, which in the Lamentations smoothes the flow of the often weaving line. The two sopranos and contralto solos in the Mass begin a bit tentatively in the “Laudamus te,” but by the time they hit the “Domine Deus” section, they have warmed up sufficiently to give rich performances. They in fact may not entirely be at fault, for all of the soloists in the Mass seem as if the microphone was not placed at its best position, resulting in a more close-up sound, at least initially. Still, these should not be taken in any way as diminishing the beauty and cohesiveness of this terrific disc. Here is to more rediscoveries of the legacy of Catalan music and to more Mir in the future by this group. One disc that is highly recommended.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
Stabat Mater for double chorus & ensemble in G minor by Josep Mir i Llussa
Hugo Bolivar (),
Josep Ramon Olive (),
Marta Cordomi (),
Luis Vilamajó (),
Glòria Fernàndez (),
David Montserrat ()
Length: 8 Minutes 48 Secs.
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