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David Denton
David's Review Corner, September 2019

This is the Fifth Volume in the complete songs collected together by Jose Miguel de Guerra y Villegas who then created one of the finest volumes of 17th century songs. He was a scribe working in Madrid’s Royal Chapel at the time, but it is unclear whether he undertook this task for his own pleasure, or was charged to do so as part of his duties? The only thing that is clear is the high quality of his beautifully annotated book. That poses the question, who notated the works by the unknown composers, and if it was Guerra, then he must also have been a musician of high standing who could take down the songs sung to him. Whatever the answer to these questions, Spanish music is incredibly indebted to him, particularly in this volume where those of anonymous origin are far greater than those of known origin. The texts express a whole gambit of emotions within a secular world, from vistas, as in ‘Those snow-capped mountains’ , and from sadness to love expressed in ‘Since the sweet enhancement’, and from peace to vivacity. They are all performed by the outstanding baritone, Jose Antonio Lopez, a much travelled singer who divides his career between the opera house and concert halls. Characterising each song perfectly, his voice in quiet passages is a mark of his high quality. Some songs have the harpsichord of Bruno Forst as accompaniment, but most come from the traditional Spanish harp played with considerable dexterity by Manuel Vilas who is directing the whole project. There are large jolts in the ambience of these ‘live’ recordings that took place over three days, though the balance between singer and accompaniment is exemplary throughout. If you have been collecting the series, this is certainly the jewel thus far, with one more instalment still left to go. © 2019 David’s Review Corner

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