• Estevan Daça


    El Cortesano, José Hernandez Pastor, Ariel Abramovich

    E L PARNASSO M. D. LXXVI 1 cd A 316

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EL CORTESANO is the title of a book published  in Valencia in 1561 by Luys Milán, who was  clearly inspired by Castiglione’s work, which  defined the Italian model of the refined ‘courtier’  and expert musician that was gradually  going to impose itself in all of Europe. Aesthetically,  this title is essentially linked to vihuela  music – as soloist or accompanying the voice.  The vihuela is a somewhat mysterious Iberian  instrument that, in Spain and Portugal, took the  place of the lute, differing from the latter with its  flat shape and slight inward curve at the waist. 

Today, EL CORTESANO is the concept made  up by the performers of the present CD, representing  an attempt to reveal the rich, varied  repertoire of the Iberian Peninsula during the  Renaissance. In no way tied down to a set formation,  EL CORTESANO’s mission is to become  a flexible ensemble, with the fields of research  determining the group’s size, and spirit  prevailing over form. This approach obviously  lies within the entente of the finest Spanish  musicians who, over the past three decades,  have successfully carried out a reappraisal of  the music composed in the peninsula. 

It is indeed curious that musicologists who,  since the beginning of the 20th century, have  devoted their efforts to the music of the 15th  and 16th centuries, have greatly underestimated  the contribution of the Peninsula, relegating  it to a marginal, not to say exotic or even simplistic  role. While fervently endeavouring to  prove the supremacy of the Franco-Flemish  and their influence on the art of France, Italy  and England, they have forgotten, perhaps a bit  deliberately, that Spain was one of the rich centres  of art and culture of the period. Politically,it was the master of the Netherlands, this doubtless  explaining that, while Spanish music is  sometimes marked by the Flemish contribution,  it retained a unique richness, variety and originality.  Its influence spread as far as the New  World, whose rhythms and forms it adopted,  later integrating them into the European current  that would, in turn, transform them (examples  : the sarabande, passacaglia and chaconne,  originally fast, lascivious dances that  underwent a profound mutation, becoming, in  the 17th century, serious, majestic French dances  that would endure through Bach’s music). 

Chronologically, vihuela music, with or without  voice, dates from between 1536 – Luys Milán’s  El Maestro – and 1576 – Esteban Daça’s  El Parnasso. Forty years for five composers to  bequeath pieces of great refinement to the ages,  linked to highly elaborate poetry that is most  often melancholy. It is a courtly art, in the spirit  of Castiglione, but with a specificity that is to  be found nowhere else – an art that is occasionally  haughty but next to which certain other  music of the time might seem light or superficial. 

This is JOSÉ HERNÁNDEZ PASTOR’s first disc  – or at least the first that is devoted entirely to  him, for he has recorded with various ensembles,  notably those of Jordi Savall. Still  quite young, this student of Andreas Scholl  demonstrates surprising maturity in the way  in which he intends to conduct his career :  no ‘star system’ for him, but rather an approach  based on research, reconstruction, poetic expression  and the links between text and music.  With ARIEL ABRAMOVICH, a sensitive, subtle  Argentine lutenist who shares his ideals, he  forms an uncompromising team from whom  we may expect a great deal: a new generation  of pure, noble artists.

MICHEL BERNSTEIN  Translated by John Tyler-Tuttle