Salir el Amor del mundo
Sebastián Durón

ensemble “El Mundo”, d. Richard Savino

Salir el Amor del mundo (Cañizares/Durón), plus works by Hidalgo, Marín, Santiago de Murcia et. al. Cast: Jennifer Ellys Campani (soprano, Amor); Karen Clark (soprano, Diana, Morfeo); Nell Snaidas (soprano, Júpiter); Ann Moss (soprano, Apolo, Zagala); Erica Schuller (soprano, Marte), ensemble “El Mundo”, d. Richard Savino

Dorian Recordings DSL-92107 [TT=62:27]

Reviving Sebastián Durón

The slim and scattered nature of Spain’s 17th c. musical heritage means the publication of recordings is good news. Here we have Salir el Amor del mundo (“Love Leaves the World”) by Sebastian Durón (1660-1716). Born in Brihuega, Guadalajara, this composer-priest reached the position of Maestro de Capilla (and probably Director of Theatre) at the court of Carlos II. Durón received and assimilated influences from the Italian style tracing back to the theatrical writing of the early 17th c. almost like a native; and he died in exile, as Kapellmeister for Carlos II’s widow Mariana of Neuburg, in Cambo-les-Bains (Basque France) – coincidentally the same town where Isaac Albéniz was also to die.

Salir el Amor del mundo, to a text by José de Cañizares, appeared in 1696. It was preceded at the Madrid court by a similarly titled work, Venir el Amor al mundo (“Love Comes to the World”) with a text by Melchor Fernández de León and music by Juan de Navas, which had been performed in 1679 or 1680. The plots are parallel, seemingly responding to the dictates of the Court, which at that time was interested in mythological, escapist entertainments, with little ethical or doctrinal content – quite oblivious to the didactic manner (though not the form) inherited from Calderón de la Barca. In fact we know that the pair were performed as a “double bill” (de León and Navas’s work is in one act) during the Royal Visit to Toledo in 1698.

This disc also has a second aim, allowing us to sample interpretations of 17th c. solo music (the tono). In the context of the lyric drama these were the equivalent to arias, and due to their general popularity they could be found extracted from the original works, in published collections for voice and continuo. Thus we have here not only music by Durón, but also by his predecessors creating the Hispanic style earlier in the Century such as Juan Hidalgo and José Marín. In this sense Richard Savino and his team continue the work of Raquel Andueza and Manuel Vilas in their disc of tonadas, which Naxos released in 2007.

Savino also has the dubious honour of being the first to include a medley of three fandangos (by Santiago de Murcia, Padre Soler and an anonymous one linking the two), which the director refers to in his notes as a “jam session”. I’m not at all sure what these fandangos are doing here, let alone the point of Soler being played on the violin as if it were Balkan folk music – accompanied, of course, by castanets.

Richard SavinoIt should be remarked that Savino’s notes also report that he has cut the loa [Prologue in praise of the King] and a couple of transiciones (music played between scenes, similar to the intermedios of romantic zarzuela) which he considers weaken the drama. Given all this, I must surely modify the “good news” I referred to above. Not least because the cast is outstanding above all for their poor diction, with very strong American accents which at least could have been smoothed out by the language coaches who exist for this purpose – if only the director would have them.

Along with this, Savino has jumped onto the bandwagon which several groups have been rolling for some years, to give our Spanish Baroque – including Court music – a popular, folkloric air. Thus the singers abuse chest register and guttural effects, patent caricaturing in some cases the recordings of Dolores Pérez (not to say those of Lola Flores), both in expression and phrasing, whilst the accompanist strums the guitar as if this were flamenco, accompanied by tambourines and castanets whenever the tempo exceeds andante. One especially obvious case is the exaggerated interpretation of the Zagala (Gypsy girl) by Ann Moss, but its presence throughout points the finger of blame at the Director himself.

Since apparently for some Spain is still a different world, let it be said clearly: whether or not it has a folk basis, or simply a popular one (they are not the same), the music written for the court is just that – music written for the court, not tavern or laundry songs. This is what comes across when the well-known (and beautiful) “¡Ay, que sí, ay, que no!” is sung with nasal posturing here, there and everywhere, plus a few portamenti and French trills lacking any sense – all, of course, seasoned with tambourine and castanets to the point of dullness. If you are interested in the music you are doing, why cover it in a syrup of effects that add nothing?

Yes, I can praise the first section of “Sosieguen, sosieguen” in which Jennifer Ellys Campani seems to be enjoying the music for itself; until with a sudden change of tempo with the intervention of guitars and castanets, back she goes to abuse of the chest voice and that nasal emission, with expressive exaggerations typical of a flamenco show – which certainly stems the American accent of the singing, but completely disconnects it from the previous section. The contrast is such that it nullifies the comparison between the two parts, and so enjoyment turned to anger. This led me to long for the calm but by no means inexpressive tone of Andueza’s disc with Vilas, where the spare sound suits the character of every one of the texts, perfectly pronounced and well sung by this renowned soprano.

Savino’s notes are written without reference to dates, which means that the court of Philip IV (which apparently came with no transition after the defeat of the Armada) is apparently described in the works of Cervantes. And they then jump to an overview of what happened at Court after the arrival of Elizabeth Farnese after the change of dynasty. The limited information the notes provide on context is evident in details such as the surprising information that “Morpheus is crowned with opium and is bearing poppies, a scene right out of the Wizard of Oz!”

Overall it is good news that Spanish baroque theatre music is beginning to interest the international music industry – even if it is to be done with such limited resources and, above all, limited thought.

© Gerardo Fernández San Emeterio 2011
tr. © Christopher Webber

 en español
 cd magazine

12 April 2011