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Tomas Milans I Godayol: Musica Religiosa

Milans / Xantria / Biosca
Release Date: 01/08/2013 
Label:  Musiepoca   Catalog #: 5   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Tomàs Milans
Performer:  Laia Frigole
Conductor:  Pere Lluis Biosca
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Xantria
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews



MILANS I GODAYOL Litaniæ laurentanæ; Salve Regina; Charitas Dei; Magnificat; Cantata Suspende, infelice; Reges Tharsis; Nunc dimittis; Villancico Hala, Zagalas Pere Lluis Biosca, cond; La Xantria (period instruments) MUSIÈPOCA 005 (45:32 Text and Translation)


Apart from those specializing in the music of the Iberian peninsula, few others will have heard of Tomás Milans i Godayol Read more (1672-1742), a composer who was the chapel master at the cathedral in Girona from 1714 until his death. After being trained in Barcelona, he became associated with the court of the Marquis of Los Vélez and later the Duke of Montalto. These noblemen were on the losing side of the War of Spanish Succession, and reprisals extended even to their court musicians and their families, so it is somewhat of a mystery as to why Milans was somehow rewarded with one of Catalonia’s most important musical positions. In any case, he was a prolific composer of church music, being a link, as the excellent booklet note by Josep Dolcet states, between the musicians of the Spanish and Austrian courts, such as Johann Joseph Fux and Antonio Caldara. That is not to say that Milans was a mere imitator, but rather that he was aware of, and incorporated into his own music, the various emerging stylistic trends of that age of transition.


One may wonder why so few have heard of Milans. The answer may lie in the only very recent rediscovery of Catalan musical heritage, as exemplified by composers such as Carles Baguer, an ongoing project that will take many years and, hopefully, many more recordings to even begin to scratch the surface. If the music presented here is any indication of what else lies out there, then this will be rewarding indeed. Milans has a knack of molding his structures in a way that is both creative and imaginative, particularly in this age when most were swayed by the Italian or French styles. In the opening Litaniæ Laurentanæ, for instance, the basic text is sung to a nice gigue, but the refrain, “Ora pro nobis,” recurs relentlessly, taming the secularized verses, and at the final pleas “Virgo potens, Virgo clemens,” each iteration of the invocation of the Virgin Mary is done to a rising line, indicating the urgency of the plea. In the motet Reges Tharsis , the opening, chant-like bass recorder line is followed by the solo voice that in the middle evolves into a nice canon, flowing like a haunting stream. In the introductory aria of the cantata Suspende, infelice , Milans has a running bassoon bass line in the continuo that is worthy of Handel’s best, or maybe I detect a nod to Vivaldi in the virtuoso twists and turns. The Magnificat has moments of textual rhythmic variation that are particularly Renaissance, reminding one almost of Monteverdi or one of the other late Italian madrigalists, but the counterpoint is modest, usually with flowing sequences that seem to cascade over each other. This same rhythmic-textual dichotomy is seen in the Catalan-Spanish villancico, where the dance-like quality of the music has a decidedly Iberian flavor with its more colloquial language and its “gurgling” refrain. Milans is particularly adept at blending his solo and choral voices, weaving the parts in and out of each other in a constant flow of well-conceived counterpoint and some lovely harmony.


To perform this music takes a special vision, particularly since the continuo is practically all the accompaniment that exists. Conductor Pere Lluis Biosca has thoroughly researched the performance practice, choosing a chorus of 16 singers, from which the soloists emerge where necessary. For the continuo, he varies the instruments, often accompanying the part with an organ and a harp, supported on occasion by the nasal sounds of the bassoon and dulcian, or the soft bass recorder, all expertly played by Carles Vallès. This lends a surprising variety to the simple lines, with the accompaniment blending nicely into the background as in the Salve Regina , or marching at a fast trot in the cantata. As a chorus, the voices are nicely matched in timbre (and here one can’t really say “period voices” in the headnote), and for the most part when the solos emerge, they maintain the same softer quality that the music requires. There is some iffy intonation from Laia Frigolé in the cantata, particularly in the melismatic passages, but she does recover and blends nicely elsewhere. The opening intonation by baritone Elias Benito in the Magnificat is hauntingly rich. In short, this is an excellent disc, and if you haven’t yet taken the plunge into the world of Catalonian music, this would be a good place to start. For baroque collectors, this is one that will be a nice anodyne to the flood of Italian composers and will give one pause to consider how delightfully varied the world of the early 18th century was.


FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

1.
Litaniae lauretanae by Tomàs Milans
Performer:  Laia Frigole (Soprano)
Conductor:  Pere Lluis Biosca
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Xantria
2.
Magnificat by Tomàs Milans
Conductor:  Pere Lluis Biosca
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Xantria
3.
Salve Regina by Tomàs Milans
Conductor:  Pere Lluis Biosca
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Xantria
4.
Reges Tharsis by Tomàs Milans
Conductor:  Pere Lluis Biosca
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Xantria
5.
Charitas Dei by Tomàs Milans
Conductor:  Pere Lluis Biosca
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Xantria
6.
Hala, zagalas by Tomàs Milans
Conductor:  Pere Lluis Biosca
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Xantria
7.
Suspende infelice by Tomàs Milans
Conductor:  Pere Lluis Biosca
Orchestra/Ensemble:  La Xantria

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