D - 2023

Music from Josep Pons.
Girona 1770 - València 1818



Introducció instrumental



Kyrie eleison



Christe eleison



Kyrie eleison


Gloria in excelsis Deo 1'07"
Et in terra pax hominibus 4’25”
Laudamus te 8'22"
Domine Deus, rex coelestis 7'06"

Qui tollis peccata mundi 4'09"
Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris 3'54"

Quoniam tu solus sanctus



Cum Sancto Spiritu










Agnus Dei
15. Agnus Dei

10% from each piece

Mass of Sant Narcís

Devotion to Saint Narcissus reached its peak in the city of Girona in 1792 with the consecration of his chapel within the basilica of St. Felix. Behind this devotion lies a long story beginning in the year 1000. Before this time most Girona people venerated Saint Felix, a Roman soldier who was martyred in the IV century where his basilica now stands. The city’s growth in the X and XI centuries transformed it into the capital of Catalunya Vella (Old Catalonia). The primitive cathedral dedicated to Saint Felix, situated outside the city walls, was moved to the new romanesque construction inside the walls in the same place where a Roman temple had been situated. This building expansion was one of the consequences derived from the supply of gold in 1010 brought by the Girona mercenaries, who, lead by their bishop, went to Cordoba to fight alongside the Berbers against the Arabs. From the new cathedral and also the new convent of Saint Daniel both the new liturgy and the new Roman mentality were spread, gradually replacing the traditional mozarabic liturgy and mentality, which had predominated owing to the Arabic conquest of the Peninsula. The increasing importance of the city culminated with the celebration of two regional councils in the new cathedral in 1066 and 1078 with Rome choosing Girona to celebrate them rather than Narbonne or Barcelona. At the same time, the gradual implantation of feudalism accompanied these important social changes.
The second period to see an increase in the worship of Saint Narcissus came in 1285 with the French conquest of the city. The king of France, Philip the Bold, aided by the Pope, tried to supplant Peter the Great as king of Catalonia. After invading the Roussillon he conquered Girona with some barbarian soldiers who raided the basilica of Saint Felix and destroyed its interior. It was actually Saint Narcissus’s tomb that suffered the most from the assault, we do not know why, since it was less important than Saint Felix’s. Several days before the city’s surrender, Roger de Llúria annihilated the French float that provided supplies for their soldiers. The consequent famine plus lack of hygiene, made obvious by the flies attacking them and their horses, caused them to retreat. Upon which, they were defeated by Peter the Great’s soldiers. The people of Girona attributed these victories to Saint Narcissus’s intervention as punishment for the profaning of his tomb.
  Very soon a fraternity dedicated to the saint was created. Its members decided to build a new tomb that would substitute the one that had been profaned by the French. The new tomb was commissioned to the stained glass artist, Joan de Tournai, who carried out a magnificent work situated very close to the presbytery of Saint Felix’s basilica, where it remains to this day. The tradition of considering Saint Narcissus a bishop (as was the original saint in Jerusalem) and Saint Felix (a Roman soldier) a deacon, may have originated in this context.
The third period of increased devotion to Saint Felix was brought on by the intense christian renovation resulting from the Council of Trent at the end of the XVI century: a strongly polarized hierarchy was created within the Church, popular devotion became more controlled and religious practices were purified. The Trent liturgy was very rigid, being the same everywhere, and with Latin exclusively used as the language of public prayers. In addition, pews became commonplace in churches so that the faithful could follow the mass and services although they probably understood very little. These restrictions were off set by certain counterparts such as a notable impulse regarding music in churches and the creation of music chapels. New string instruments were introduced, essentially violins. New religious orders appeared too, the main ones in Girona being Carmelites, Jesuits and Capuchins. In addition, devotion to saints received a boost. It was this intellectual framework that saw the flourishing of popular couplets in praise of saints. New books narrating their lives appeared too. In Girona scholarly books were published narrating Saint Narcissus’s life with varying doses of imagination. At the same time the sieges imposed on the city by Louis XIV, who was determined to increase his territory towards the south, offered new occasions for the saint being credited with protection in the face of the French attacks. Thus, as the French armies repeatedly attacked Girona, devotion to Saint Narcissus increased whereas Saint Felix’s gradually diminished. It is in this context that the couplets dedicated to the saint appeared, first in Catalan, to be later replaced by polyphonic villancicos in Spanish and finally to return to the original Catalan towards 1780.
This third devotional period culminated with the building of a chapel within the basilica of saint Felix where the saint’s sepulchre could be installed with the utmost dignity. It was the canons of saint Felix’s who promoted this and who made a first effort to carry it out in 1638 when they asked the bishop Gregori Parcero for permission to build it. The Guerra dels Segadors (the war of the reapers 1640-1659), which began shortly afterwards, prevented it however. Some 150 years later it was again proposed to the bishop of that time, Tomàs de Lorenzana. Although he initially opposed the project, sometime later he changed his mind and not only promoted its building but also invited the congregation to contribute to it in a famous sermon. In this way 80.000 pounds were raised from a variety of different sources ranging from royal donations to private citizens of Girona. It was an incredible amount for a city of around 8000 inhabitants.
The chapel took ten years to build and in order to obtain enough space the medieval cloister of the basilica and a neighbouring house had to be demolished. The work was commissioned to a famous architect, Buenaventura Rodríguez, who built it in the architectural style of the time: two consecutive oval spaces covered by a barrel vault followed by an altar. The altar has a canopy that is held up by two columns of Italian marble. At the back is a circular space the cupola of which is decorated with paintings of the Saint. These were done by Manel Tramulles. The chapel eventually became a church within another church.
The consecration of this new space culminated with the transfer of Saint Narcissus’s body to the new sepulchre situated underneath the altar dedicated to the saint. This most solemn act took place on the evening of September 2nd 1792 and the following day an important mass was celebrated to conclude this consecration. The score of this mass, composed for this occasion by the chapel master Josep Pons, still remains. The mass is based on the hymn Deus tuorum militum and is one of lengthy proportions, in keeping with the solemnity of this consecration. This solemnity, however, caused a rekindling of the latent tensions between the canons of Saint Felix and those of the cathedral on the one hand and those of the Saint Felix chapter and the city council on the other. In both cases it was about questions of protocol. These problems caused the consecration to be postponed for months and this delay was most probably reflected in the score that has been preserved. In fact it seems clear that the score is a work that was elaborated in two different moments, if the year of the date on several particellas is to be credited. The whole is a mass of great dimensions, unsuitable for amateurs. It shows the musical possibilities of Girona at that time. Pons combines martial rhythms with pastoral rhythms, displays sound contrasts with the alternation of solos and tutti, plays with tonality changes and achieves a remarkable compenetration between voices and instruments, all at the service of an intense religious expression.
The present edition does not include the Creed for technical reasons. Also omitted are the short viola and flute compasses in the debut which would be played by a violinist and an oboe player respectively.


1 Allegro con Brio [Instrumental] A lengthy instrumental introduction in D major as is characteristic of the Viennese school, and in it the different instruments dialogue with each other: the horns, with their sonorous power, start the movement, followed by the violins with a more lyrical and less strong melody answered by the horns and the oboes. This scheme is repeated with different variants, with short fragments where all the instruments act or in others where oboes and violins act alone.

2 Kyrie eleison. this is a slow movement of supplication where the different voices create as dissonances that hint at a liturgical prayer. The rhythm becomes faster halfway through the movement, later adopting a tone that is more similar to a prayer with all the voices together. The end part is suspended in the air and introduces the following movement.

3 Christe eleison. this is a more joyful and dynamic movement starting with the violins that accompany the displaced beginning of the soloists to end with a fugue passage of highly intense sonority aided by the orchestra. After this there is a short instrumental dialogue of a lyrical nature between the violins and the soloists, which leads to the repetition of the fugue passage.

4 Kyrie eleison. it continues with the same melody as the two previous numbers. There is a final chord, accompanied by an instrumental solo, that returns to the deprecation of the first Kyrie.


5 Gloria in excelsis Deo. lacking the usual Gregorian beginning, the movement starts with a brilliant and short soprano duo.

6 Et in terra pax hominibus. this is one of the principal movements of the work and is most probably related to the presence in the city of 150 French clerics who had fled the violence of the revolution. Beginning with a bass solo that is answered by the two sopranos and completed by the tutti to be later joined by the different instruments while alternating short solos that emphasise the words “bonae voluntatis” and also “et in terra pax hominibus”, insistently repeated in different ways. This passage quite clearly relates to the French revolution.

7 Laudamus te. the instruments introduce an outstanding soprano solo followed by various solos. The dialogue of these voices is continued by the other solo voices in a most virtuoso way. Each one of them repeats the liturgical text several times, at certain moments as a solo and at others mingling and overlapping it to form a kind of vocal plait. The “gratias agimus tibi” has a first passage where the choir dialogues with the soloists while following the previous rhythm, a passage that is repeated twice. In a second part the rhythm accelerates and a short vocal duo introduces the tutti highlighting the text “propter magnam gloriam tuam”.

8 Domine Deus, rex coelestis. (Quintet) - it begins with an introduction where the violins expound the theme and engage in a dialogue with the oboes and horns. The vocal soloists take up the same melody adding colour and nuances of their own thus enriching the liturgical text. At the end of their performance all the voices perform the text once more but now with a successful mixture reminiscent of central baroque music. The elaboration of this part is an example of Pons’s skill.

9 Qui tollis. here the instruments begin a slow melody of a penitential nature that the soprano takes up with the “miserere nobis” text, an imploring melody and prayer which is first answered by the instruments and then by the other voices in a deprecatory way, alternating vocal solos with tutti. They all beg for mercy accompanied by the rhythmic support of the instruments. The soprano’s prayer in the “suscipe” follows the same pattern, insinuating a notable dread by means of the insistent rhythm of the instruments.

10 Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris. the melody of this vigorous bass solo contains a contrast between the musical representation of divine majesty with the plea for mercy that follows. This contrast is repeated several times with a varied instrumental accompaniment.

11 Quoniam tu solus. whereas the previous paragraph was a solo, this one is a duo, a dialogue between the wind and the string instruments that begins the movement. A soprano solo follows repeating the melody of the violins, to which the tenor answers with the same text but in a slightly different tone. Thus starts a vocal duet that continues throughout the movement. The paragraph “Tu solus dominus” has certain precious vocalizations that depict the attributes of holy and almighty Lord God proclaimed by the Latin text.

12 Cum Sancto Spiritu. this movement is the most remarkable of all. The choir of soloists begins slowly and is answered by the tutti.
This smooth melody is repeated by different soloists. Once the theme has been exposed, a strong rhythmic contrast with a fugue movement follows in which everyone participates: soloists, tutti and instruments. The paragraph ends with several vocal dissonances that lead to a new fugue paragraph with the final amen. Here the soloists sing “cum sancto spiritu” and the tutti repeat the amen until they reach a brief instrumental interval, after which the fugue movement returns. The final amen is taken up in its totality in the fugatto ending. The splendour of this movement would indicate a concluding composition without a continuation.


13 Sanctus. here we enter in a musical world that is rather different from the previous one. The extension of the movement is rather shorter and its rhythm contrasts with the hosanna that follows. The movement begins with a brief treble duo followed by the tutti that brings out the power of the Deus Sabaot or God of the heavenly armies. The same vocal pattern is repeated in the hosanna with a fugue.

14 Benedictus. this paragraph is similar to a pastoral being based on a vocal soloists’ trio. It begins with the violins that present the melody which is taken up by the countertenor, the tenor and finally the bass. The end of this movement contrasts with the end of the Gloria in its abrupt ending without further development.

Agnus Dei

15 Agnus Dei. in this final movement the first verse overlaps with the beginning of the second one. It begins with a short duo of sopranos, followed by the tutti chorus with a pleasing melody. Following this comes the introduction of the second verse, slower, more expressive and with notable vocal dissonances. With the third verse, the rhythm changes radically and becomes joyful: the soloists, tutti and instruments engage in a dialogue with the words “dona nobis pacem”, which are repeated several times. 

Technical information of the CD


soprano I:  
Laia Frigolé counter tenor:  
Hugo Bolívar
soprano II:  
Lorena Garcia tenor:  
Ferran Mitjans
soprano III:  
Laura Martínez bass:  
Oriol Mallart

Alba Bosch
Natàlia Diez

Gemma Horta

Montse Girbal

Laia Requesens

Ariadna Olivé

Míriam Trias

Berta Sitjas
Bernat Cabrera
Eduard Nadal

Aníbal Climent

Ernest Pons

Sadurní Martí

Jordi Serra

Jaume Tió

Joan Vila

violin I:  
Adriana Alcaide

violin II:  
Maria Gomis
French horn II:  
Renske Wijma
oboe I:  
Laura Diaz
Dani Regincós
oboe II:  
Jordi Argelaga
double bass:  
Oriol Casadevall
French horn I:  
Pepe Reche
Jordi Reguant

Conductor: Pere Lluís Biosca

Web site: Jesús del Oso