FERRERO: La nueva Espana

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Lorenzo Ferrero (b. 1951)

La Nueva Espana


The conquest of Mexico, once called New Spain (la NuevaEspana), was one of the most extraordinary episodes in the history of mankind:five hundred men, for the most part soldiers of fortune, conquered a large empirein just a few months. But it was also an immense tragedy, for an entire civilisation,with all its knowledge accumulated down the centuries, was destroyed by violence,prejudice and the desire for gold in order to finance other wars that weretaking place thousands of miles away.


Many books have been written on the subject, each ofwhich attempts, above all else, to explain how the attitude of the Aztecs inthe face of the Spanish invaders could have proved so submissive. The mostlikely explanation is one of cultural shock too deep to be quickly overcome.

The writer Italo Calvino attributed the following words to Montezuma II,Emperor, as we would say today, of the Aztecs. 'Kill them?. I wanted to dosomething even more important. I wanted to understand who they were.' Thecultural shock was no less severe for the Spanish. How could a civilization thatwas so advanced, so affluent, so ordered, engage in frequent human sacrifice?Whenever there are difficulties caused by mutual incomprehension, the preferredway out is one of destruction. It is happening still today and this took placewith unbelievable ferocity then, between 15]9 and 1521.


If each of us did not come face to face with diverse cultureson an almost daily basis, often difficult to understand, sometimes evenirritating, this story would have no significance other than that of anadventure. Instead, it is of great relevance and reminds us that culturaldiversity is a precious asset and must not be squandered, even using methodsseemingly less violent than they were then.


La Nueva Espana is a suite of six pieces, written between1991 and 1999 and dedicated to the memory of that ancient human tragedy. Youmay call them symphonic poems if you wish. The musical language owes verylittle to ethnic influences which, in any case, would be completely spuriousgiven the passage of time. If it is possible to identify the angle from which theywere written, one might describe it as cinematographic. Not, however, in thesense of a sound track for imaginary scenes, but taking on, so to speak, theperspective of a movie-camera which is able to show the different intensitiesof emotional involvement a long distance shot or one in close-up, or at asubjective level, through the eyes of a character. These may be the eyes of thecharacter who witnesses with a sad realisation, what is to be a journey of no returnin Memoria del Fuego, when Hernan Cortes, the captain of the Spanish - who,according to Lope de Vega, 'gave infinite souls to God' or, according to Heine,'was nothing more than a bandit leader' - decided on conquest, travelling morethan a thousand kilometres from the coast to the capital, Tenochtitlan and hadhis ships bummed for fear that his men might want to turn back. A similarfeeling of sad awareness is to be found in the finale of Noche Triste

when the Spanish are forced to abandon the capital which they have only justconquered and many of them drown under the weight of the gold they areattempting to carry away. But we know that the Aztec uprising will be short-livedand that the end of their civilisation is nigh. The few friars who attempt tocollect evidence will be persecuted as heretics. In Ruta de Cartes theperspective is more objective, widening progressively as the Spanish continuetheir march, until it reaches, through transformations in the theme, a verylong distance shot, when from the top of the present day Paso de Cortes, theysee the valley of Mexico and the great city appears to them, in the words ofthe eye-witness Bernal Diaz, as 'something of which they have neither heard nordreamed'. In La Matanza del Templo Mayor, the viewpoint alternatesrapidly between that of the 'subjective camera' as seen through the eyes of theSpanish and the Aztecs and the purely 'objective' view of the massacre.


The listener may also discover many points of contactwith the dramatic make up of the music, with the need to find for eachsituation a particular 'colour' (Verdi called it 'una tinta'), and a specificinternal rhythm, whilst at the same time providing unifying elements to thedifferent situations so as to make them appear part of a single subject matter.

It is not by accident that the structure of several of the pieces is based onthe continuous development of a theme while others are based on alternatingfragments which recall other parts in the same cycle; but the melodic-harmonic progressionof the finale of La Ruta de Cortes is present, albeit momentarily,throughout the work, The slow theme of Memoria del Fuego becomesferociously aggressive in La Matanza del Templo Mayor, as if the massacreof the Aztecs by the Spanish were the desperate psychological consequence ofthe burning of the ships. Thematic flashbacks are also to be heard between theend of Presagios, which takes as its starting point the confused visionof catastrophic events, floods, earthquakes, fires preceding the arrival of theSpanish and the beginning of El Encuentro, the complex ceremonial of themeeting when Montezuma lays down his power at the feet of Cortes who, in turn,declares that he has come in the name of a great king and of the only true God.


The cycle follows the chronological order of the historicalevents which I summarize as follows:


Presagios: the Aztec chronicles in the years precedingthe arrival of the Spanish tell of prophecies of disaster.


Memoria del Fuego: having laid anchor near to Veracruz,Cortes orders the bumming of his ships.


La ruta de Cortes: leaving the coast behind them, theSpanish set out across inaccessible mountains and, after the occasionalencounter with both friendly and enemy Aztec tribes, they reach the valley ofMexico.


El Encuentro: Montezuma and Cortes meet at thegates of the capital.


La Matanza del Templo Mayor: Taking advantage ofthe religious ceremonies devoted to the principal god of the Aztecs, theSpanish massacre more than twenty thousand people including friars, dignitariesand citizens.


La Noche Triste: the Aztecs revolt and drive outthe Spanish The rebellion is short-lived, Immediately afterwards, Montezurna'ssuccessor, Cuauhtemoc, is finally and completely defeated.


Lorenzo Ferrero

Translation: Peter Bromley




Item number 8555044
Barcode 747313504428
Release date 12/01/2000
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Composers Ferrero, Lorenzo
Ferrero, Lorenzo
Conductors Yuasa, Takuo
Yuasa, Takuo
Orchestras Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra
Ukraine National Symphony Orchestra
Disc: 1
La Nueva Espana
1 Presagios
2 Memoria del Fuego
3 La Ruta de Cortes
4 El Encuentro
5 La Matanza del Templo Mayor
6 La Noche Triste
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