Vandalia & Ars Atlántica
Among the Spanish sources from the first third of the seventeenth century, the Cancionero de la Sablonara holds a very special place. It was prepared between 1625 and 1626 for a German noble, Wolfang Wilhelm, who held, among other titles of nobility, those of count palatine and duke of Neoburg and who had visited the court in Madrid between October 1624 and May 1625. This aristocratic music lover showed enthusiasm for the secular vocal music he heard at the court and, at the end of his trip, requested an anthology for his personal pleasure; it was compiled and copied with great care and beautiful calligraphy by Claudio de la Sablonara, main scriptor—copyist—of the Royal Chapel. The collection contains seventy-five pieces, including “the best songs that are sung in this court,” according to the compiler. This important source, preserved at Munich’s Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, features poems in Spanish and Italian metric forms.
Transcending all that metric and musical variety, we can see a repertoire that joins the excellence of poetry with that of music: poetry for singing. For that excellence to manifest itself, however, an equally excellent performance is necessary. The two ensembles featured in this double CD, Vandalia and Ars Atlántica, more than achieve this objective. The care in the layout and pronunciation of the poetry is extraordinary, and the poems’ stanzas are always sung in their totality, which allows the listener to understand the little story that they often tell. The sum of these qualities—and it pains me to say it—is very uncommon in Spanish music performances. The instrumental section supports the voice masterfully, discretely, and effectively; the harmonies and the intonation are perfect; and the tempo of each piece is spot on. These qualities are enhanced by excellent recording. For all these reasons, this record will undoubtedly contribute to the knowledge and enjoyment of extraordinary works composed during an outstanding period of Spanish culture. (Gerardo Arriaga)
This project resumes the collaboration between Vandalia y Ars Atlántica, which began in 2017 with the CD Hirviendo el mar (Ibs Classical). The partnership aims to publicize seventeenth-century Spanish polyphonic songs, a repertoire that is little-known and largely unrecorded despite its unquestionable musical, literary, and historical significance. Consequently, Manuel Vilas and I decided to join forces with our respective ensembles to record a selection of pieces for 3 and 4 voices from the Libro de tonos humanos (M. 1262 Biblioteca Nacional de España, 1656). That satisfying experience motivated us to continue this line of work by tackling another of the repertoire’s essential sources, the Cancionero de la Sablonara. In June 2018, we were very pleased by a decisive endorsement: I received a prestigious Leonardo Grant for Researchers and Cultural Creators from the BBVA Foundation to finance the project. In this regard, we would like to thank Jordi Savall and Carlos Mena for their generous support of our proposal; it honored and inspired us. We are equally indebted to Álvaro Torrente and the Complutense Institute of Musical Sciences for their help making a concert dedicated to the Cancionero de la Sablonara at the Prado Museum possible. We also thank the University of Sevilla for institutional assistance with financial and managerial tasks, Jesús de Frutos and Paloma Domínguez for their habitual logistic support, and all the people who encourage us to embark on new adventures. We humbly and lovingly offer this fruit of our labors, trusting it may contribute, even if just a little, to making this fascinating artistic patrimony better known.