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CD - 2017
    
CD 1
01.
(Introducción) Coro. Tiple I - II, alto, tenor. Coro I - II
10:30
02.
Recitado. Tenor
1:03
03.
Aria. Tiple I
11:20
04.
Recitado. Tenor
0:30
05.
Aria. Tenor
7:47
06.
Coro. Coro I - II
4:23
07.
Recitado. Alto, bajo
2:25
08.
Aria. Bajo / Recitado. Alto
9:54
 
CD 2
01.
Aria. Alto
8:20
02.
Recitado a 3. Tiple I, alto, tenor
1:28
03.
Dúo. Tiple, tenor
5:07
04.
Coro. Coro I - II - coplas: alto, tenor
Recitado y coro: alto, bajo, coro I - II
7:00
05.
Recitado. Tenor
1:13
06.
Coro. Coro I - II
Coplas: tenor, tiple I - II
6:27
07.
Recitado. Tiple I, alto, tenor, bajo
1:28
08.
Coro. Alto, coro I - II
3:10
09.
Recitado. Tenor
1:28
10.

Coro final. Coro I - II

1:48
11. Goigs de Sant Narcís
Tornada i cobles: Tiple I – II, alto, tenor, baix, cor I – II
13:07


Jaume Balius i Vila
The Oratory of St. Thomas of Aquino 1783

Jaume Balius i Vila is an important chapel master of Girona cathedral. Christened in the Sta. Maria del Mar parish in Barcelona on 15th November 1750, he studied music as a choirboy in Montserrat. He later became chapel master at the Seu d'Urgell in 1778. Ordained as a priest in 1780, he obtained the post of as chapel master in Girona in 1781 by means of eliminatory exams. There he succeeded Francesc Juncà as chapel master and remained until 1785, when he left for Cordoba where he was paid a splendid salary. He stayed in Cordoba until his death except for the years 1787-89 when he was named chapel master of the Incarnation convent in Madrid by royal command. He died in Cordoba, his adoptive home, on 3rd November 1822. His testament is that of a successful musician, very hard-working, methodical and generous to his relatives and assistants. He has left us a legacy of more than 900 musical scores, 21 of which are to be found in the chapter house archives of Girona.
     Girona at that time was a growing city of 8000 inhabitants. Its population had doubled shortly before that time without there being important changes in its social structure. The bishop, Tomàs de Lorenzana (1727-96), an enlightened prelate of royal designation, who came with a will to reform society from above, held a prominent position. For this reason, encouraged by an agreement with the city council, he created new literary and technical schools and also completed the Orphanage and the Hospice (now a cultural centre). The city's cultural standards were acceptable; proof of this are the activities promoted by the council, the convents and certain small enlightened groups of French origin.
     Cultured music in the Girona of that time depended almost exclusively on the cathedral chapel master. He was the only one who had the economic and artistic resources in order to offer contemporary music of any quality. Not only did he compose for liturgical events in the cathedral, but also received requests from the Council, the city's convents, the army and private individuals. The city's musical standards were quite acceptable: besides the 21 members of the music chapel, who could frequently play more than one instrument, there were four choir boys who stayed on until their voices changed and even longer in some cases. Moreover, several convents also had their own interpreters. Such a large number of interpreters can only be explained by the existence of high musical standards, as is also evident in the high technical level of the major musical scores that have been left us.
     In this milieu, oratories were the most important musical expression in the city, although it did lack an operatic theatre. Between 1757 and 1793, there are documents referring to the performances of at least 25 oratories in the city. These were always promoted by the convents, either of the Dominicans, Jesuits, Servites (the Congregation of the Virgin of Sorrows) or Benedictines, never by the cathedral. The performances would be held in the churches of the respective convents, becoming important events for each congregation, and in some cases, an admission fee was charged. This would explain the fact that booklets containing the lyrics, the benefactors' names as well as those of the order's leaders were distributed among the audience. A few of these booklets have been preserved allowing us a precise vision of the religious rhetoric characteristic of those times.
     The oratory of 1783 was commissioned by the Dominicans of Girona to celebrate the feast day of Saint Thomas of Aquino, a Dominican philosopher and theologian of the XIII century, one of the most outstanding intellectuals of the Middle Ages. The great convent of the Dominicans in Girona (at present this building is the Faculty of Arts of Girona University) must have had around 40 monks at that time. Their income was high enough to be able to afford fairly expensive commissions like the present work and also to repeat them every year. Although we do not know the name of the author of the lyrics, certain clues point to the Dominican monk from Girona, Benet Llobressols, the former papal legate in Beijing and a specialist in the Pentateuch as possibly being the author. The plot is based on an incident in the history of ancient Israel (Numbers chs. 16 and 26) when the Jews, led by Moses, leave Egypt in XIII B.C. to cross the Sinai wilderness. The 12 tribes of Israel are not completely organized and Moses and Aaron's clan try to carry out this task to their own advantage by naming Aaron high priest. Certain clans, however, oppose this situation to the point that Korah's clan and that of his two friends, Dathan and Abiron organize a rebellion. In order to determine who is right they agree to set up two altars, one for each side, where they were to celebrate sacrifices at the same time. The direction taken by the smoke was to indicate which one of them was chosen by God, Aaron or Korah. God clearly favours Moses's clan and sends a fire - a storm according to Balius- that eliminates their opponents and their families who were near the altar. Thus Aaron is consolidated as High Priest and his descendants were to succeed him. Only at the end of the oratory do we discover how this historic example is related to the Dominicans: in the same way that God in ancient times revealed by means of fire who the enemies of his people were, at that time the Church, God's chosen people, had managed to defeat their enemies thanks to the writings of the Dominican Thomas of Aquino. Although these enemies are not named in the work, the context indicates that they were either the protestants of former years or the enlightened French authors of that time some of whose works were present in Girona.
     The musical classicism of the viennese school is quite visible in this oratory, as Balius's musical style is the closest to Haydn's that we can find in Girona. The maestro creates attractive melodies and elaborates them following the viennese models by enveloping them in a harmonious base with a light rhythm, a far cry from any resort to counterpoint resources. This artifice produces compositions that can easily be followed and constitute the basis of the pleasure obtained by listening to his music. Balius presents his musical themes with both violins and oboes, his main instruments, together with the voices. All of these components hold a dialogue with each other allocating a prominent role to the solo voices, the difficulty of which is surprising in a secondary provincial capital like Girona, where the belcanto was not unknown. As tradition did not allow female voices in religious singing and given the technical difficulty of the voices in the present work, especially that of the soprano, one wonders if at the debut this part would be sung by a castrato or a falsetto. In the performances of this oratory between 1813-1816 these parts were sung by falsettos, but we do not know whether this was the solution used at the first performance.
     The couplets in honour of Saint Narcissus are the first ones of the XVIII century to be written in Catalan among those conserved in the chapter house archives. The same text as in the 1689 ones is used but with a different melody. Their singularity lies in the fact that between 1660 and 1760 approximately the couplets in Catalan in Girona were eclipsed and substituted by villancicos of Castilian tradition, but towards 1760 couplets began to come back accompanied by the villancicos in the chapter house archives, thus couplets can found in Castilian and Catalan. They are works that were commissioned by one of the city's 14 convents. This one dedicated to Saint Narcissus must have been commissioned by what was then the abbey of Saint Felix, now a parish church, or maybe by the cathedral chapter house itself. This surprising evolution deserves to be studied in more depth. The music of the work appears to have popular influences - we do not know whether it was finally sung by the people at a time when the congregation's role in the liturgy was completely passive- but its accompaniment shows the maestro's skill at dignifying popular melodies. The text follows the traditional legend of Saint Narcissus which probably conceals unknown historical events.


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