About this Recording
CD-16279 - Vocal Music (16th-17th Centuries) - ORTIZ, D. / CABEZON, A. de / ATTAINGNANT, P. / VALDERRABANO, E. de (Yr A Oydo) (More Hispano)
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La terçera [manera] es sallir dela composition y yr a oydo, o a poco más o menos, no llevando certindad delo que se haze.
(Modo de glosar sobre el libro,
D. Ortiz, Trattado de Glosas…1553)

Yr a oydo is an old Spanish expression for ‘going by heart’. It rethinks the role of a performer of early music today, who instead of only playing what is written in the music follows his or her own creative process.

Improvisation was more than a common practice in daily music-making during the Renaissance. Spanish musicians of the time provide a brilliant example of this practice. Regardless of the type of publication, whether it was theoretical like Tomás de Sancta María’s Arte de tañer fantasía (Valladolid 1565) or Francisco Salinas’ De Musica libri septem (Salamanca, 1577), or it was pedagogic like e.g. Diego Ortiz’s Trattado de Glosas…(Roma, 1553) or it was one of the various practical music editions—all of them can be seen as a written reflection of the improvisational practice and demonstrate great excellence and a good deal of inventiveness.

A glance at any of the copious performing directions of these books and nearly any 16th century music book as well as a superficial analysis of almost any publication by such eminent musicians like Cabezón or any of the vihuelists, will immediately reveal an active approach to repertory and music making.

It shows us, that the composers invite the musicians to develop the pieces with all kind of manipulations, from the simplest embellished versions to the most thoughtful reworking, including the addition of extra lines or the alteration of the original structure of the pieces.

So it doesn’t mean the performers took the liberty of manipulating, but the composers explicitly asked for the involvement of the playing musicians in every aspect of the creative techniques mentioned above. This active approach leads us to consider many of these musicians as composers rather than just performers and that during the Renaissance the division between these two roles was often unclear. So many of the crafts we normally associate exclusively with the composer’s work were indeed common tools for most 16th century professional performers.

More Hispano presents with Yr a oydo an active approach, taking care not to just play the written notes of the pieces but adding another dimension to the interpretation as early performers did. Instead of being passive readers, we play the same game using their same tools and resources, and thus creating new melodic phrases, improvised solos, nuances and agogics, never planned in advance. We spontaneously create a way of punctuating the musicians’ dialogue on stage, playing with open structures that will resolve unpredictably during the course of the performance on stage or during the recording, taking us on new and unsuspected paths. We express our approach to Renaissance music in a fully improvised performance of virtually all the pieces included in our programs.

One of our aims is to show that this creative aspect, at least in the repertoire of the Renaissance and Baroque, is not only a possibility or a permission, but almost always an inescapable duty of the professional performer. It is expected of him, distinguishes him and endows him with a clear and marked individuality that makes his interpretations unique while allowing him to develop his own personal non-transferable language. This is exactly what we find in the many ornamental treatises of the 16th and 17th century but what is often lacking in today’s interpretations of this repertoire.

Nowadays historical repertoires are mostly approached from a present-day point of view. These tendencies try to modernise the historical repertoire by only adding current musical elements, but contrary to this More Hispano suggests something different. We opt for a perhaps more arduous task: to recover the art of improvisation by basing it only on the encoded material in the numerous early publications.

It is difficult to say if this process can be considered early or modern, since the material being used is definitely old, but everything that we now believe is inherently modern, by definition. So it is probably worth taking into account that the so called early music wasn’t early at the time of its creation.

Yr a oydo is our second recording after eleven years of recording silence. Eleven years of unceasing concert activity in which we have experimented, matured and put into practice ideas, concepts and all the experiences and reflection absorbed during these years. So we consider the change of direction we did with regard to the first album, to be significant. The repertoire has not been chosen according to any composer, style, period or country, nor according to the interpreters themselves, but according to what we wanted to show.

It is in this context that improvisation comes into play. In this recording we have at times, freely and consciously, given up one of the parameters of current recording practice: the perfection of each and every note. But we have gained elsewhere: Improvisation brings a range of ingredients to the musical performance—among others a free expression, an amazing ability to communicate with the audience, the underlying risk of creating, but even more importantly an opportunity of arising something new.

Once the musician tries it out, it can get a little addictive because of the great possibilities and sensations he gets to experience. Also the listener can sense all these elements and as a result it arouses the joy and desire for listening to this kind of interpretation.

In this way, through improvisation, the performer creates and decides what to play, providing the music with full significance and fluency—barely to be sensed when the interpretation is made exclusively from the written text. With the spiritedness of the so newly obtained possibility for unpredictable decision and ability to communicate directly with the listener, the improvisation becomes the perfect vehicle for the performer’s expressiveness. At the same time improvisation enables something vital for any artist, that connects the musician with his or her own period of time and that is nowadays in the field of classical music exclusively reserved for composers: creation.


Vicente Parrilla


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