Maestros del Siglo de Oro (3SACD)Alia Vox
- Current Stock:
- Jordi Savall
This Super Audio remastering groups three discs of major works originally reviewed when they were new: Morales (16:4), Guerrero (16:4), and Victoria (16:5), all made for the Columbus quincentenary and issued as Astrée E 8765, 8766, and 8767, respectively. The Guerrero disc was the most important, for the composer had been poorly represented on disc before it arrived, while we have had a steady stream of his works since then. The notes repeat the point first refuted in the original review that the texts of the motets “were never the object of any monophonic setting.” Not only were they found in familiar chant antiphons, but Guerrero also quoted the chants in his settings. Guerrero spent his entire career at the Seville cathedral, the most important church post in Spain. I originally cited a preference for two pieces as sung by the Westminster Cathedral Choir, but that minimized the importance of this collection, which remains a monument to the composer even after his representation on disc has grown.
The Morales disc was a first recording of two complementary works, a Mass for the Dead and an Office of the Dead, the latter consisting of Matins only. The original issue provided only the Latin texts, oddly enough, while this set has six sets of translations, as it does for all three discs. Morales served in Rome before ending his days at the Toledo cathedral. The Mass has since been recorded by Paul McCreesh (22:2) and others, but this may appeal to some listeners more than McCreesh’s liturgical reconstruction.
The Victoria disc combined familiar and unfamiliar motets and other short works, half of them accompanied. It is unfortunate that Savall did not choose more works of the same nature, for the disc runs less than an hour. Still, it is a useful cross section of Victoria’s smaller forms. He, too, returned from Rome to spend his last years as a convent chaplain. Spanning three generations and more than a century (the 16th), these three composers are beyond doubt the leading lights of Spain at the time. The three discs belong together, just as they were created together.
The Super Audio sound opens up the space of the Cardona church, Savall’s favorite recording venue, where all three discs were made. While the original discs sound good on a surround system, the music is more open and transparent on these discs. The digipack package is lavish, with a 210-page book that can be slipped out of the pocket that holds it by the back page. There is also a lot of color, both paintings of the period and photos of the ensemble. Priced around three-for-two, this is a good buy for anyone who was not around in the beginning. It also makes a beautiful gift.
- J.F. Weber, Fanfare