About this Recording
8.570135 - GUERRA MANUSCRIPT (The), Vol. 1 (Monar, Vilas)
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The Guerra Manuscript, Volume 1
17th Century Secular Spanish Vocal Music


Under the catalogue number Ms 265, the General Library of the University of Compostela contains an important musical manuscript that we know today as the Guerra Manuscript, so named as a result of having been copied by José Miguel de Guerra (1646–1722), scribe of the Royal Chapel from 1677 to shortly after 1680. This important manuscript provides us with a fundamental and vitally important source of information about secular Spanish vocal music from the second half of the seventeenth century. This collection of tonadas (songs) was discovered just a few years ago by the musicologists Álvaro Torrente and Pablo Rodríguez, who published a magnificent article in 1998 in the Journal of the Musical Association in which they offered an exhaustive study of this manuscript.

The manuscript consists of 111 folios with a hundred anonymous pieces, all for a solo vocalist and continuo accompaniment, with the exception of two pieces for two voices. The copyist did not include the name of their composers; some of these pieces, however, are found in other manuscripts in which the name of the composer is included. As a result, based on these other sources, we can attribute some of these pieces to Juan Hidalgo, José Marín, Juan de Navas, Cristóbal Galán, Juan Del Vado and Matías Ruiz, meaning that this manuscript is an anthology of the finest works composed by the most renowned musicians in Spain in the second half of the seventeenth century.

Our manuscript lacks a date or dedication, making it difficult to date. On the first folio, however, we can read: Joseph Myguel de Gerrª . Escriptor de la R. Capillª de su majestad escrivio este libro, clearly indicating that it was copied in the years when José Miguel de Guerra worked as the musical copyist for the Royal Chapel. In attempting to date the manuscript more precisely, we see that it includes pieces from the zarzuela (light opera) Los celos hacen estrellas, first performed on 22 December 1672, and a pair of works from the then young harpist Juan de Navas, whose career began to flourish after the death of Juan Hidalgo in 1685, also a harpist and master of the Royal Chapel from 1645; this leads us to suppose that the manuscript could have been copied somewhere around 1680.

In the case of the biography and professional career of José Miguel de Guerra, we know that he came from a noble family, and that by the end of his life he had accumulated numerous titles, including Knight of the Order of St James, Chronicler of the Kingdom, King of Arms of the Spanish Monarchy and the Head Servant of the Queen’s Chamber. The first payments made to José Miguel de Guerra as an escriptor date from 1667, although he did not receive a permanent post in the Royal House until 1676. It is important to note that this post had been vacant since 1633 following the retirement of Claudio de la Sablonara, known today for also having been the copyist of one of the most outstanding collections of polyphonic works from the first half of the seventeenth century, the Cancionero de la Sablonara.

It is interesting and curious to note that this manuscript appeared in Santiago de Compostela. We know that in 1692, José Miguel de Guerra travelled through several cities in northern Spain for three months, including Santiago. We do not know anything about the reason for these journeys or his stay in Compostela, although it is quite tempting to think that he may have brought the manuscript with him. This said, we will perhaps never know why. The manuscript was donated to the University of Santiago de Compostela in 1880 by Miguel Marín Arén, of whom we know practically nothing; we presume that it would have belonged to his private library. What we do know, an interesting fact, is that some of the manuscripts donated by Marín Arén came from the Monastery of San Martiño Pinario in Santiago. This monastery had belonged to the Benedictine order, and the manuscript could have been taken when the monks were forced to abandon the monastery as a result of the seizure of church lands and property that occurred in 1830. It should not come as any surprise to us that an anthology of secular music should appear in religious surroundings: there are numerous cases of similar sources that appeared in monasteries and cathedrals. Even so, it is still curious that a manuscript of this importance should appear in Compostela.

The manuscript is beautiful, in good condition, exquisitely copied and on high-quality paper, as well as using parchment for some of its folios. Here we see differences with other known manuscripts in which, at times, the writing is quite shoddy, with numerous errors, sections that have been erased, a lack of clarity and low-quality ink and paper. Without doubt, the Guerra manuscript is closer to an anthology destined for high-ranking nobles or royalty.

As we have said, this is an anthology of the finest pieces that were heard in Madrid in the second half of the seventeenth century. Some of these tonadas or tonos were taken from theatrical works and zarzuelas such as Los celos hacen estrellas, by Hidalgo and Vélez de Guevara; El templo de Palas, by Hidalgo and Avellaneda; Los juegos olímpicos, by Hidalgo and Agustín Salazar; Lides de amor y desdén, by Cristóbal Galán and Diamante; Pico y Canente, by Hidalgo and Ulloa y Pereira, etc. Others, however, are vocal pieces based on previously existing poetical texts, or completely new pieces on general themes related to love, heartbreak, jealousy, envy or disdain. Nearly all of them have the structure of a chorus with several couplets; this is seen in all of the pieces presented on this recording, with the exception of the tono entitled “Si la gloria de adorar” which lacks a chorus, and the piece “Crédito es de mi decoro”, taken from the theatrical play Pico y Canente.

The manuscript does not provide us with any information about which instrument or instruments would have accompanied these pieces. We find some pieces which include chords for a guitar accompaniment; there can be no doubt, however, that any of the two essential instruments could have been used, according to the sources, to accompany these types of theatrical songs, the guitar or the cross-strung harp.

Manuel Vilas
English version: Francalingua

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