Musical Delicacies

— Early Music Concert Series —

From Spain to the New World

An encounter with music from the golden period of the Spanish colonial empire.

Sunday 28 January 2018 17:00 — Church of Saints Cyril and Methodius, Tyršova, 664 01 Bílovice nad Svitavou, Czech Republic.

Further performances
Mo 11.12.2017 19:30 Museum of Applied Arts, 602 00 Brno
Tu 26.12.2017 18:00 Our Lady of Sorrows Church, 679 13 Sloup


OctOpus Vocalis:
instrumental ensemble (as guests):
Painting: Bartolomé Esteban Murillo: “Natividad”.
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617–1682) — Natividad (cca. 1670).


Juan Pérez Bocanegra (cca. 1560 – 1645) Hanacpachap cussicuinin   (Ritual Formulario e Institucion de Curas, Lima 1631)
Anonymus (15th c.) Rodrigo Martinez   (Cancionero de Palacio fol. 8)
Mateo Flecha sen. (1481 – 1553) Riu riu chiu, la guarda ribera   (Cancionero de Upsala fol. 43)
Diego Pisador (cca. 1509 – after 1557) Si la noche haze escura   (Libro de música de vihuela, Salamanca 1552)
Anonymus (16th c.) Si la noche haze escura   (Cancionero de Upsala fol. 8)
Nicolas Gombert (cca. 1495 – cca. 1560)
 + Enrriquez de Valderrabano (cca. 1500 – after 1557)
Assiste parata   (Silva de Sirenas, Valladolid 1547)
Anonymus (16th c.) Verbum caro factum est   (Cancionero de Upsala fol. 36)
Anonymus (16th c.) Dadme Albriçias hyos deva   (Cancionero de Upsala fol. 40)
Anonymus (16th c.) Ay luna que reluzes, toda la noche malumbres   (Cancionero de Upsala fol. 22)
Anonymus (16th c.) No la debemos dormir la noche sancta   (Cancionero de Upsala fol. 32)
Anonymus (16th c.) Vos Virgen soys nuesta madre   (Cancionero de Upsala fol. 45)
Anonymus (16th c.) Señores el ques nasçido de Virgen madre   (Cancionero de Upsala fol. 44)
Joan Cererols (1618 – 1680) Serafín, que con dulce harmonia   (Villancicos à 8, Biblioteca de Catalunya, Ms. 748)
Francisco de la Torre (14?? – 1507) Danza Alta   (Cancionero de Palacio fol. 223)
Anonymus (16th c.) Rey a quien Reyes adoran   (Cancionero de Upsala fol. 35)
Anonymus (18th c.) Dennos lecencia Señores   (Codex Martínez Compañón, Truxillo del Perù cca. 1785, vol. II E. 177)
Cachua del Nacimiento de christo Nuestro Seňor
Anonymus (18th c.) Lanchas para baylar   (Codex Martínez Compañón, Truxillo del Perù cca. 1785, vol. II E. 186)
Juan García de Zéspedes (1619 — 1678) Convidando esta noche
Juguete à 4 y Guaracha
Juan Arañés (15?? – cca. 1649) Un sarao de la chacona   (Libro segundo de tonos y villancicos, Roma 1624)

About the programme

During the 15th and 16th centuries, Spain became a pioneer in overseas discoveries and gradually created one of the largest colonial empires in history. In parallel to this, it emerged as an European cultural superpower. Apart from literature and fine arts, also music experienced an unprecedented flourishing and became an integral part of life, both in villages and at the court, an also an important ideological and didactic instrument of the Catholic Church in Spain and its colonies.

Sheet music: Hanacpachap cussicuinin.
Ritual Formulario (1631), pag. 708 — Hanacpachap cussicuinin.

The processional song Hanacpachap cussicuinin (The Heaven rejoices), intended for singing on arrival at the church, is a typical example of the mixing of Spanish and indigenous cultural and religious influences within the territory of today’s Peru. This hymn text to the Virgin Mary is written in the local Quechua language and is probably the oldest vocal work that was published in the New World. It first appeared in print in Lima in 1631 in Ritual Formulario, e Institucion de Curas, authored by the Spanish missionary Juan Pérez Bocanegra (ca. 1560 – 1645).

A common Spanish music form in the 15th and 16th centuries was the villancico, a type of song with roots in Spanish folk songs and dances with a characteristic alternation of verses and refrains. It flourished first in the courtly environment at the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century. Later it was also applied to sacred music, especially associated with the Christmas period. Thanks to its popularity, it became instrumental for the propagation of the religion and a source of cultural dialogue in the colonies of New Spain and Peru, where, as part of efforts to spread the Catholic faith among the local population, it was enriched with influences from the indigenous cultures such as the use of local dialects, traditional dance rhythms and new musical instruments.

The villancico Rodrigo Martinez takes us to the time of the reign of Catholic Monarchs, when Spain was experiencing unprecedented cultural flourishing. The court of King Ferdinand (1452–1516) and Isabelle of Castile (1451–1504) became the center of musical life and attracted many musicians and composers, mostly from Spain. Over the course of around 40 years an extensive collection of music by various authors was created, known as the Cancionero de Palacio. This manuscript with some 450 compositions is a significant anthology of Renaissance music of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. This programme also features the instrumental dance Danza Alta by Francisco de la Torre (14?? – 1507).

Another important source for the development of the villancico is a book known as Cancionero de Upsala, printed in 1556 in Venice. The only surviving copy was discovered around 1906 in the University Library in Uppsala, Sweden, whence the name. This songbook contains a total of 70 mostly anonymous songs for 2–5 votes. It was created in Valencia at the court of Duke Ferdinand of Aragon (1488–1550), which was famous for its spectacular music festivals, especially during the Christmas period. One part of this songbook is a whole cycle of Christmas villancicos, from which a few works celebrating the birth of Christ will be heard: Verbum caro factum est (The word was made flesh for the salvation of us all), Dadme Albriçias hyos deva (Sons of Eve, listen to my news, the new Adam was born), No la debemos dormir la noche sancta (We must not sleep in this holy night), Vos Virgen soys nuestra madre (You, the Virgen, are our mother), Seňores el que es nasçido de Virgen Madre (The Lord is the one who is born of the Mother of God), Rey a quien Reyes adoran (The King, to whom kings worshipped, signalling he is the One in Trinity). The famous Christmas song Riu riu chiu, la guarda ribera (God protects the lamb from the evil wolf) was written by Mateo Flecha sen. (1481–1553), who, according to some sources, worked directly at the court of Ferdinand of Aragon. Love themes are represented in the lyrical songs Ay luna que reluzes, toda la noche malumbres (A beautiful moon, shine on the mountains where he is coming) and Sila noche haze escura (When the night is dark and the journey is short, why do you not come, my love?). This text was subject to several reworkings in the 16th century; one of them, written by Diego Pisador (ca. 1509 – after 1577), will be played on vihuela.

Codex Martínez Compañón.
Codex Martínez Compañón, vol. 2, E. 158.

The renowned Spanish renaissance violinist and composer Enríquez de Valderrabano (ca. 1500 – ca. 1557) published in 1547 a collection of seven books of compositions for the vihuela, with the title Libro de musica de vihuela, intitulado Silva de Sirenas. An important part of these works are arrangements of works by other composers. His Assiste parata is a setting for two vihuelas of a five-part hymn by Nicholas Gombert (ca. 1495 – ca. 1560), a composer of Franco-Flemish origin and member of the Court Orchestra of Emperor Charles V.

The popularity of the vocal form of the villancico in a spiritual setting is evidenced by the work of Joan Cererols (1618-1680), a member of the Benedictine Order who also worked as a music teacher, composer and choirmaster in the mountain monastery of Monserrat. The Christmas villancico Serafín, que con dulce harmonia (Seraph, you who give tribute to new life, sing glory when viewing His suffering) is a demonstration of the further development of the genre and its enrichment through new compositional procedures: Cererols uses the polychoral technique that often is used in big cathedrals.

From Spain, we are once again moving to the territory of the New World, to the environment of the Spanish colonies in today’s Latin America. At the end of the 18th century, the Spanish prelate and bishop in the city of Truillo, Baltasar Jaime Martínez Compañón, traveled through the territory of northwestern Peru. During this time he mapped the lives of the local population. He later sent to the Spanish King a set of more than 1400 illustrations that were created during this trip, known as the Códice Martínez Compañón or the Códice Trujillo del Perú (ca. 1782 – 1785). This collection provides a detailed view of the everyday life of the local population, including folk culture and rituals. Some illustrations relate directly or indirectly to music, eighteen of them include scores of 20 musical works that are a significant source of the contemporary dance repertoire in Latin America. The Christmas Cachua a voz y bajo Al Nacimiento de Christo Nuestro Seňor with the text Dennos lecencia Señores (Grant us permission, Lord, when it is Christmas Eve, to sing and dance according to the customs of our country) and the instrumental dance Lanchas para baylar are evidence of the union of the European musical tradition with elements of the local musical culture.

Juan García de Zéspedes (1619–1678), a Mexican composer and singer working in the Puebla Cathedral, is the author of the Christmas villancico Convidando esta noche (Let us gather this night with lovely music for the Baby, to whom we sing), which combines European compositional techniques with multi-ethnic elements, typical of the New World music. The slow parts draw on European Baroque music, the fast ones are written in the form of a guaracho, a Spanish musical style popular in the overseas colonies.

Dana Toncrová

OctOpus Vocalis.
OctOpus Vocalis

OctOpus Vocalis

The ensemble OctOpus Vocalis consists of eight singers and the artistic director, who occasionally joins in the singing. The repertoire of the ensemble is not limited to any particular period or genre. Given the small number of singers, it often focuses on compositions from the Renaissance and Baroque or from the 20th and 21th centuries, but it also performs high-quality popular music and jazz.

Most of its members met for the first time in the children’s choir Kantiléna led by Ivan Sedláček. Since then, they have collaborated on many projects, be it in larger musical ensembles, chamber ensembles or as soloists. The idea to establish a chamber choir arose primarily from the desire to interpret interesting compositions from the national and international repertoires, together with the wish to experiment with compositions that were originally intended for a larger cast, yet in solo performances acquire some new dimensions and contexts.