Music of the Spanish Renaissance (Christopher Wilson/ Shirley Rumsey) (Naxos: 8.550614)
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Music of the Spanish Renaissance
Shirley Rumsey - Voice, Vihuelas, Lute & Renaissance guitar
'But go, fetch my vihuela
perhaps I will sing a song
so wrapped up in my passion
that everyone will feel pity.'
(Bartolome de Torres Naharro, Comedia Ymenea, 1517)
The long reigns of King Charles V and King Philip II in 16thcentury Spain gave rise to a flowering of native culture both artistically and musically.
Music reached the highest level of perfection and there were many musicians of excellentquality. Amongst these, some of the most important were the seven vihuelistas; Milan,Narvaez, Mudarra, Valderrabano, Pisador, Fuenllana and Daza. All players of the vihuela,a guitar shaped instrument tuned and played like the lute, they published their individualbooks of compositions for this instrument during the period 1536 - 1576.
The instrumental repertoire in these seven books for solovihuela consists mostly of fantasias which, according to Milan, are so named because'they proceed solely from the author's fancy', and therefore are not subject to a specificform. Another favoured genre was the diferencia, or variation, usually based upon aharmonic sequence or the melody of popular songs such as Guardame las vacas or Conde Claros. Smaller pieces such as the tiento,which may be likened to a prelude, or the soneto, a little piece probably derived from apopular son or tune, also appear frequently. There are fewer manuscript sources thanprinted ones, but some, such as the Simancas fragments, include a few rare examples ofdance music such as the Pavanilla and La moreda.
The guitar was a popular instrument and frequently used toaccompany both love songs and the long epic ballads called romances. The two romancesincluded on this recording; La manana de San Juan
and De Antequera sale el moro, bothcommemorate the heroic deeds of battle between Moors and Christians that took place beforethe final expulsion of the Moors in 1492. Initially songs in the aural tradition they cameto be written down and continued to be performed long after the events they describe,hence their inclusion in the vihuela books.
Although these publications are described as being for thevihuela we have both written and iconographical evidence that the lute was played in Spainthroughout the 16th century particularly in aristocratic circles. The vihuela, lute andguitar all share an ability to deliver simultaneously the various voices of a polyphoniccomposition and consequently are particularly suited to accompanying the voice. Examplesof songs with vihuela accompaniment appear in all seven books, as well as in severalmanuscripts. The way of annotating these songs was particularly unique to the vihuelistsas the voice part is generally shown as part of the tablature, picked out either in redcyphers or with a little dash to distinguish it from the rest of the notes therebysuggesting that the player and singer were one and the same.
Many of the songs were not actually composed by the vihuelistresponsible for the publication, but arrangements of polyphonic pieces by other composersadapted for a single voice with accompaniment. The normal procedure was to single out onevoice from the original while the remaining were played on the instrument. In the same wayit is possible to augment the existing repertoire by adapting the anonymous compositionsfrom the "Cancionero de Uppsala" included on this recording, whilst at the sametime remaining within the boundaries of the purest Renaissance tradition.
Shirley Rumsey studied lute and singing at The Royal College ofMusic in London where she became interested in the enormous repertoire for lute and voiceand began to combine the two. She now gives recitals, singing and accompanying herself onthe lute, vihuela, viola da mano, renaissance and baroque guitar; selecting music from thesolo lute and lute song repertoire of renaissance Europe. She has performed extensivelythroughout Europe and Scandinavia, taken part in numerous festivals, appeared a number oftimes on television, made frequent recordings for BBC Radio 3 and broadcast on manyEuropean networks.