We are in the middle of the Spanish golden century, throughout the permanence of the Habsburg dynasty in Spain, from Philip II to Charles II. The destiny of Catalonia is linked to that of the Hispanic crown since the union between Aragon and Castile with Isabella and Ferdinand, the Catholic kings. It will bear the full influence of the court – the search for pageantry and magnificence – the expansive prestige of Castilian, which would become the language of culture until the 19th century, and Not without difficulties, the Castilian policy with imperial aims. In music, its future is like that of the whole of Spain: great influence of the spirit of the Counter-Reformation, following the Council of Trent, which puts art at the service of religious propaganda. It is the time of the great Spanish polychorality and musical chapels.
Often associated with its country of origin, Italy, and more particularly in Venice, where the famous “chori spezzati” (broken choirs), polychorality is a technique of composition that exploits the resources of acoustic space and whose effects are masterful.
The Venetian form had the particularity of being symmetrical: two similar choirs respond and intersect. Hispanic is more baroque: no symmetry here but several choirs, two or more, that converse in contrast, one high with solo functions (sometimes reduced to one or two singers), and the other or the others more serious and more provided. The sound is spectacular because their conversation, from the point of view of the listener, occupies all the acoustic space, with a sound that comes from everywhere at the same time. The liturgical text is more theatrical and magnified.
Famous for centuries, the musical chapel of the abbey of Montserrat has a prominent place in 17th century Catalan music production, and its most prominent representative is probably Joan Cererols (1618-1680), trained since his childhood in the famous “escolania” of children singers, then became monk and composer in the service of said abbey. His Missa pro Defunctis was composed during the great plague that ravaged Barcelona in 1650, his Missa de Batalla celebrates the conquest of the kingdom of Naples in February 1648. As for the song Ay, qué dolor, it is quite simply the theme that Bach will use in the initial choir of the Passion according to St Matthew 60 years later!
The common practice of a colla parte (the instruments double the voices) and the specificity of the instrumentarium used in Spain led us to have some instruments rebuilt in order to use them in this program. In addition to a consort of rebirth violets, we ordered a complete consort of bajoncillos (Hispanic bassonnets) on the models of the Capella Reial manufacturer, Melchor Rodríguez (El Escorial, 1669).
It is thus a real research work that we have engaged to find the resplendent sounds proper to these musics, still too little played.
¡Ay, qué dolor!
Missa pro Defunctis
Serafín, que con dulce harmonía
Missa de Batalla
Viola Blache, soprano II
Robert Getchell, tenor
Josep Cabré, bass
La Chapelle Harmonique (choir & orchestra)
Valentin Tournet, conductor
Thursday July 4th, 2019, 9 p.m.
Friday July 5th, 2019, 8 p.m.
Chapelle Royale de Versailles
With the support of the Region Ile-de-France