The Forty Hours of Music in XVII and XVIII century Girona
This form of worship appears to have arrived to Castille during the first
half of the XVII century. It was Philip IV who encouraged it at the court
in Madrid around 1650 at the time of the dynastic wars between the houses
of Austria and Bourbon and at the centre of a serious political crisis.
It was very important until the second Vatican Concilium when its popularity
began to decline as Rome conceded more importance to the official cult
- the Mass - than to particular forms of worship.
The couplets in works 2, 3 and 4 will not be sung in their entirety for lack of space.
1- That Magnificent Flower (Esa flor lucida). This is a short anonymous villancico from around 1720 in the form of a small cantata with a recitative and and an aria. Both the music and the lyrics remind us of Gaz's later works with its sudden contrasts and its cultivated vocabulary. The text makes a very baroque comparison between the Host, depicted as a magnificent, sweet smelling and, referring to the monstrance, colourful flower on the one hand with three more different flowers and a star on the other. Thus we have a marked contrast between certain beings that differ greatly. This contrast is then applied to the consecrated Host and also includes a number of opposites. The choir at the end clarifies the meaning of the text: our mouth cannot express so many contradictions at the same time as our senses and our intelligence. The music opposes the vocal complications of the initial and final parts in which the tutti imitate the soloist's voice while the three central parts, solos, are of a refined,melodic line.
2- Fire Fire, Sailors (Fuego fuego marineros). This is a short villancico in the classic style characteristic of Gaz's first phase. The text is very descriptive showing both a variety of literary and musical resources. The original is at present in the central library of Catalonia (Biblioteca de Catalunya) and most probably belongs to a set of musical scores from Girona cathedral that were secretly sold by the chapel master, Carreras Dagas, at the end of the 19th century. Despite the music's lively rhythm, the text has a penitential content, which is probably inspired by the Jesuit tradition that gave a penitential slant to the 40 Hours. Sea water, according to tradition, cannot put a ship's candles out because it makes them burn more fiercely. It is thus compared to the sorry penitent's tears whose sorrowful tears cause God's love to grow. The rest of the imagery is equally captivating and brimming with daring puns and wordplay that make the text difficult to understand. One example, impossible to convey in translation, is the play on ... throw them in the sea (... arrójenlas a la mar) and from love the waters (que del amar las aguas...). By using musical imitation as a resource, the choir voices follow the various soloists in a very well planned movement.
3-According to Faith (Dice la fe). This is a short villancico of classic structure, without arias or recitatives. The text is rich in Gaz's characteristic baroque contrasts, used in a very descriptive way with figures taken from nature that are easy for the listener to understand. Although there are a few allusions to Castilian mysticism, the descriptions of nature would suggest the Jesuit school of thought with the contrast between what the eyes see and what faith contemplates. The imitative baroque musical style, used so often by Gaz, plays an important role here.
4- May Pain Inspire (Aliente el dolor). This work may belong to the year 1711 the year that the French conquered Girona, plundering it to the point that the cathedral was so devoid of resources that there was not even money for a carriage to receive the bishop in Bascara. He was a Bourbon supporter during the war of succession and had been living in Perpignan under Louis XIV's protection after fleeing from Girona, where the house of Austria was favoured. These circumstances could explain both the form of the vocal solo and the minimal accompaniment with a strong penitential component in the contents of the text, suitable for the atmosphere of a conquered city. Repentance is able to morally regenerate people, whereby the defeat of Girona by the French could perhaps have a moral cause and repentance could be a way to recover freedom. As regards the music, the style shows the transition from the Iberian to Neapolitan style there being a very simple and short musical motif that is repeated in several different ways.
5- Winged Spirits (Espíritus alados). This is a work that enjoyed huge success and was used for many years as indicated by the choirboys' scribbled notes on the backs of their music sheets. Gònima brings together here different elements characteristic of baroque music -the fugue and the imitative elements- with an abstract text, more typical of the scholastic tradition and very different from Castilian mysticism. The text presents the angels singing before God and describes His greatness, theological themes that are not common in the works of his former phase. The presence of an aria and a recitative show that it is a transitional work. The chorus begins as a solo wiith the choir reinforcing its affirmations shortly afterwards. There is a noteworthy rhythmic contrast between the couplets and the chorus.
6- You lovers (Vos amantes).This is a penitential composition
from the time of the arrival of new Neapolitan influences and clearly
influenced by Castilian carmelite mysticism, where the relationship between
a believer and the Host is described using the classic, refined vocabulary
of love mentioning Cupid's arrow and the perfume of a rose, for example.
The image of Christ as a skilled hunter is also of carmelite origin. By
contrast, the use of abstractions such as deity or bread of charity are
unknown in the baroque period. The alternance of couplets a solo and a
tutti is a noteworthy innovation yet the resort to fugato techniques is
the usual baroque ending.
8- He who found no place (Pues quien no cabía).This is
the latest work in the programme of this concert. The instrumental introduction
would appear to call for a separate musical sheet for the cello that must
have been lost. The contradiction between the small size of the Host and
God's greatness is its subject matter. This theme is common at the time
of the Illustration and rationalism, but Juncà does not forget
the themes of Castilian mysticism and personalises them as well. The fugue
is not used here and is replaced by duos, more to the liking of the bourgeoisie
that was beginning to predominate in Girona at that time.
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