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8.555907 - SALAZAR: Complete Vespers of Our Lady
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Juan García de Salazar (1639-1710)
Complete Vespers of Our Lady

Juan García de Salazar was born in Tuesta, a village in the Basque province of Álava, in 1639. Known to have been working in Burgos Cathedral at the age of nineteen, he may have received his musical training at the collegiate church of Valpuesta. He was employed as maestro de capilla in Toro and El Burgo de Osma before taking on the same post at Zamora Cathedral and serving there until his death in 1710. He is one of Spain’s most significant composers of Baroque religious music; some of his works were still being performed in Spanish churches well into the nineteenth century. Most of his works are held in the cathedral archives in Zamora, although he remained in contact with the churches in El Burgo de Osma and Burgos, sending them copies of some of his compositions.

Under the title Complete Vespers for Our Lady the Zamora catalogue groups the polyphonic music Salazar wrote for three of the five psalms sung during that office (Psalms 109, Dixit Dominus, 121, Laetatus sum, and 147, Lauda Jerusalem) together with the Magnificat. It was usual at the time for these psalms to be set polyphonically but for the two remaining psalms (Psalms 112, Laudate pueri, and 126, Nisi Dominus) and the various antiphons, invitatories, responsories and prayers to be sung in plainchant. The music in a Vespers service was not however limited to these sung sections: the hymn Ave maris stella and motets whose texts related to the feast-day in question would often be included as well. Instrumental music was sometimes provided between vocal sections by the organist and any other musicians involved in the ceremony. It was also common practice for the organ to alternate with the singers in intoning the psalms so that some were sung in plainchant, while others were replaced by organ music, often improvised, although some composed pieces have survived.

These are the guidelines we have used to establish a coherent musical programme for a Vespers service, without attempting an exact liturgical reconstruction. Our aim in shaping this programme was to use appropriate material; as far as music by García de Salazar himself is concerned therefore, our first concern was to select works setting Marian texts and, where possible, forming part of the Vespers office; secondly, we looked for pieces written for more than four voices as the psalms and Magnificat are composed for eight.

Although a reasonable number of García de Salazar’s works are extant, the catalogue does not provide enough material for the full service. There are no instrumental works for example, and none written in Castilian other than two Salves [a form of antiphon] and one tono humano [a secular song]. We therefore decided to transcribe some of his motets for instrumental performance. Then we looked to works by his contemporaries working in more or less the same region of Spain — the organ verses are by Martín García de Olagüe (fl. seventeenth/eighteenth century), probably from Navarre, while the Batalla, also for the organ, is by the Aragonese José Ximénez (Saragossa, 1601–72), who was the organist at Saragossa Cathedral during García de Salazar’s years in Zamora.

It only remains to say that the plainchant included in these Vespers is taken from a choirbook dated 1692 and originally used in the Franciscan convent of Vitoria-Gasteiz (Álava). The convent was demolished some time ago and the book is currently held in the city’s San Vicente parish church.

Manuel Sagastume Arregi

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