By Manuel Vilas
The musical journey in which we are going to embark on the present concert begins in the beautiful city of Seville (Spain) and ends in the not less spectacular city of Oaxaca (Mexico). We are at the beginning of the Spanish conquest in America, at the beginning of the 16th century, where there are vast and extensive territories discovered and to be discovered, which the Spaniards wish to explore, exploit and evangelize. In Seville the Casa de Contratación was installed in 1503, specifically in its Reales Alcázares, with the mission of controlling every passenger, ship, transport, merchandise or movement that was made between Spain and the Indies. Nobody or anything could be embarked without the permission of the House of Contract. This exclusivity in terms of communication and round trip is itself very decisive and will mark a great influence in various areas of the new territory conquered. The populous and cosmopolitan Seville will leave a deep imprint in the Indian territories, without forgetting that from its port the ships left for the New World.
With regard to music, which is what concerns us, the cathedral of Seville will set the guidelines and code to follow in terms of liturgy and musical practice for all American cathedrals. Throughout the sixteenth century, each step, each change, each movement that takes place in any cathedral of the viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru will try to achieve, often with obvious success, the splendor of the cathedral of Seville. Therefore, it is easy to reach the conclusion that both the pedagogical methods to train singers and musicians and the repertoires were also taken from the Sevillian model.
It is not very usual to perform concerts focused exclusively on sixteenth-century Spanish-American music. We consider not only American polyphony the work of Creole authors or born in American territory, but also that of peninsular composers and even foreigners who exert so much influence on American soil. In this sense it would be an unforgivable mistake not to start with one of the great authors of the Andalusian school of polyphony: Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), who was a role model for all the American polyphonists and whose music was felt in both viceroyalties, as evidenced by copies of his existing works in the cathedrals of Mexico and Lima.
Before leaving Spain for America in our musical itinerary, we did not want to forget the important musical activity of the Kingdom of Naples, also under the rule of the Hispanic Monarchy, and that in the sixteenth century was ruled by Spanish viceroys. A good example is the work of the Toledo Diego Ortiz, master of the viceroy's chapel, a famous performer at the viola da gamba, of whom we will listen to a couple of his little-known sacred works in four voices.
We continue our musical journey through the Viceroyalty of Peru. At this point we want to highlight a block of pieces of plain (Gregorian) song but translated and adapted to one of the vernacular languages of Peru: Quechua. Franciscan Fathers, Augustinians, Dominicans, etc., used a powerful weapon for their evangelizing purposes: music. What better way to teach the natives the great songs of the Catholic liturgy than to adapt these Latin melodies and texts to their own language? Perhaps this block of the concert is the most novel part of the whole program: the recovery of famous Latin chants in its Quechua version. The Franciscan Jerónimo de Oré (1554-1629) speaks of this practice in his book "Symbolo Catholico Indiano". We have followed closely the indications of Jerónimo de Oré to recover these old songs that the Franciscans taught the natives: We can assure you that such famous hymns throughout the Christian world as the Te Deum translated from its original Latin version to its adaptation for the Quechua population will be really striking.
And to conclude it could not miss what is perhaps the most famous piece of the entire program: the famous hymn to four voices in Quechua "Hanacpachap cussicuinin", the first polyphonic piece printed in the New World. It is included in an extensive book called "Ritual form and institution of cures", published in Lima in 1631. Its author, Juan Pérez Bocanegra (c 1560-1654), spent 40 years in Cuzco and surrounding areas in apostolic work and evangelizing Indians. However, Vandalia wants to take a step further with the execution of this work; we will interpret it, making again a nod to Seville and the Andalusian school of polyphony, preceded by a really popular profane melody in this era that served as model for the present hymn: the song "Con qué la lavaré" in the famous Spanish author's version Juan Vázquez, (first half of the 16th century), another prominent author of the Andalusian polyphonic school.
The last block is dedicated to the most prominent viceroyalty of the Catholic Monarchy, New Spain, where again we meet with Francisco Guerrero, of which we again highlight its importance in America with this Salve Regina from one of the polyphony books of the Cathedral from Mexico, the capital city to which the exhibition "The City of Mexico in art. A journey of eight centuries" in whose frame they are these two concerts contextualized. In this same institution we find a great author, Hernando Franco (1532-1585), born in metropolitan Spain but who developed almost his entire career in New Spain and in the General Captaincy of Guatemala. From him we will listen to instrumental adaptations for harp of one of his “Magnificat”.
Neither could miss the great organist Antonio de Cabezón (1510-1566), whose works were compiled by his son Hernando and published in Madrid in 1578 with the title of "Music Works." The author affirms that these works can be played indistinctly in any instrument of key as in harp or vihuela. Here we will hear three kyries of this important author alternating organ and harp, an instrument that will become fundamental and essential within the Indian cultural heritage. If we decide to include music by Cabezón, it is for one reason: we keep a copy of that collection in the city of Puebla, and we know that there were submissions of this publication to Mexico City from Seville.
We continue with pieces from the Convent of Carmen in this Mexico City, and to conclude the block dedicated to the Viceroyalty of New Spain we go to the wonderful city of Antequera de Oaxaca, where, from its cathedral stands out Gaspar Fernández (1566-1629). From him we will hear pieces written in Castilian language dedicated to certain festivities such as Christmas, Asunción and Corpus. His African guineos and mestizo rhythms make his music develop a really surprising syncretism.
As you can see, no matter how many laps we give, the melodies and customs are back and forth, some influence the others, they all receive and contribute. The fusion is fascinating: Can you imagine mixing the strict European sacred polyphony, the Gregorian chant, the mestizo rhythms, the indigenous melodies and languages, the profane madrigals without forgetting the important African presence with their guineos or black dances? For this is what we humbly intend to show, give a quick review of the complex pan-Hispanic musical practice of the sixteenth century. We wish you to enjoy it.