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¡Ay, Dulce Pena! - Tonos humanos del Barroco español
Juan del VADO (c.1625-1691)
A Pascal no le puede [4:58]
Juan HIDALGO (1614-1685)
¡Ay de mi dolor! [7:47]
José Martínez de ARCE (c.1660-1721)
¿Para qué son las iras? [3:26] ANONYMOUS
¿A quién me quejaré [6:04] ANONYMOUS
¿Qué quiere amor? [4:06]
Juan HIDALGO (1614-1685)
¡Ay amor, ay ausencia! [6:15] ANONYMOUS
Sobre las ramas de un sauce [3:51]
Juan del VADO (c.1625-1691)
Las campanas [10:34]
Juan HIDALGO (1614-1685)
Con tanto respeto adoran [5:37]
¡Ay, corazón amante! [7:34] ANONYMOUS
Sarao de la minué francés [3:13]
Marta Almajano (soprano), Juan Carlos Rivera (archlute, baroque guitar), Mike Fentross (baroque guitar), Ventura Rico (viola da gamba), Pedro Estevan (percussion)
rec.11-13 February 2001, Church of Sant Corneli, de Collbató (Barcelona).
HARMONIA MUNDI HMA 1957028 [63:05]


This is a delicious recital of relatively unfamiliar music.

A ‘tono humano’ is a Spanish song, usually for solo voice, setting a secular text, unlike its sacred counterpart, the ‘tono divino’. It effectively came into existence in the seventeenth century, and its emergence and flourishing seem largely to have been associated with courtly life in Madrid. Many of the ‘tonos humanos’ seem to have been adapted from theatrical performances; most are made up of a series of verses (coplas) with a repeated refrain (estribillo).

Marta Almajano has a rich voice, full yet flexible, and she uses it with great musical intelligence, always clarifying the meaning of the texts she sings, while producing sounds of ravishing loveliness.  There is both passion and precision in the work of Almajano and her accompanists, not least Juan Carlos Rivera whose work on archlute and baroque guitar is a joy in itself.

The songs range from the plaintive to the stately, their rhythms informed at times by the dance, at others by a peculiarly Spanish melancholy. Most of the texts are love songs and there is, indeed, much of that “sweet pain” which the CD’s title promises. There are many impressive pieces, including Juan Hidalgo’s ‘¡Ay de mi dolor!’, with Ventura Rico’s viola da gamba contributing movingly to its instrumental introduction and Almajano’s expressive singing a thing of rare power; the anonymous ‘Sobra las ramas de un sauce’ in which the unhappy lover listens to the ‘duet’ of stream and nightingale, with singer and instrumentalists alike wonderfully responsive to the text; the anonymous ‘Sarao de la minué francés’, a colourful, symbolic poem, gorgeously sung to an accompaniment in which Pedro Estevan’s subtle percussion is heard at its best. Or, indeed, one of the non-amatory pieces, Juan del Vado’s ‘Las campanas’, written on the occasion of the death of King Philip IV in 1665, more than ten minutes of sustained intensity, with singing of great beauty from Almanajo.

But, in truth, there isn’t a dull track to be found on the CD. Whether for the fascinating repertoire, for Almanajo’s voice - like a rich (but not heavy!) red wine - for the skill of the instrumentalists, or for all of these things, this is a CD which no one with an interest in seventeenth-century music should miss, now that it has been reissued (it was formerly Harmonia Mundi 987028). The booklet notes, by Cristina Diego Pacheco, are very helpful and full texts and translations are provided.

Glyn Pursglove


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