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Josep PLA (1728-1762)
Stabat mater in E flat (VI-1) [19:11]
Manuel (?) PLA (c1725-1766)
Pedro, cuánto has dejado por seguir a tu maestro, aria (VII-3) [7:30]
Manuel PLA
Salve Regina in g minor (VI-2) [18:30]
Manuel (?) PLA
Regocijese el alma venturosa, cantata (VII-1) [5:05]
Es tan sumo el amor de tu grandeza, cantata (VII-2) [9:19]
Manuel PLA
La lepra de Constantino, acte sagramental (X-1): Tres coronas admite de nuestro celo, seguidilles [3:00]
Raquel Andueza (soprano)*, Pau Bordas (bass)**
Orquestra Barroca Catalana/Olivia Centurioni
rec. March 2011, Centre d'Arts Escèniques, Osona (l'Atlàntida), Spain. DDD
LA MÀ DE GUIDO LMG 2106 [62:56]

Pla is the family name of a Catalan family of oboists and composers. In the mid-18th century the three brothers Manuel, Joan Baptista and Josep were active as performing musicians and composers. The latter two travelled across Europe as oboe virtuosos, performing at various courts and concert halls. They made their appearance in the Concerts Spirituels in Paris where their playing was received with great enthusiasm. Manuel never left Spain and worked in Madrid as a military musician and composer of theatre music. He also left a considerable amount of religious music. It is not easy to establish the authorship of their compositions, as in most cases only their family name was mentioned on the manuscripts. It is likely that most vocal works are from the pen of Manuel; in some cases he is specifically mentioned as the composer, for instance of the Salve Regina in g minor.
 
The programme begins with a setting of the Stabat mater which mentions 'Juseppe Pla' as its composer. We also know that it was performed in 1756 at the Marian Sanctuary of Aranzazu in Basque Country. As with so many settings of this text it shows the influence of the famous work by Pergolesi. However, it has several features of its own, for instance the inclusion of two horns in the scoring, even though their role is limited. Two sections are written in the form of an accompanied recitative. The opening section includes some modulations. The solo part is demanding and requires a wide tessitura. Raquel Andueza delivers an impressive performance of this fine piece which deserves to be part of the standard repertoire and is an interesting alternative to Pergolesi's setting.
 
The other main work is a setting of the Salve Regina. Here the composer is also specified as 'Manl. Pla'. It has survived in two manuscripts, also in Aranzazu. One of these belonged to Antonio García del Rio, who was first bass of the Capilla Real in Madrid. It is an expressive composition with contrasting sections. The opening section is rather intimate and its music returns in the closing section, 'O clemens'. The second section has an operatic character, with extended coloraturas on "clamamus". In "Ad te suspiramus" the strings play pizzicato; it ends with a cadenza. 'Eja ergo' is fugal, and 'Et Jesum benedictum' ends again with a cadenza. Pau Bordas has a beautiful voice and effectively explores the expressive and dramatic traits of this piece.
 
It is likely that Manuel Pla also is the composer of the aria and the two cantatas in the programme. The aria Pedro, cuánto has dejado por seguir a tu maestro has been preserved in Guatemala in Mexico, proving the exchange of music between the Old and the New World. This dacapo aria would not be misplaced in an opera seria of the time. The two cantatas are both written for the Holy Sacrament (Corpus Christi), and comprise a secco recitative and a dacapo aria. The arias are again operatic in character. In both the trumpet has an obbligato part; the aria 'Tanta fineza' (Es tan sumo) includes some passages in which it acts as the echo of the singer.
 
The disc ends with a rather curious piece, a seguidilla - a song in the form of a dance - from a 'eucharistic play', La lepra de Constantino. The text is from the pen of the playwright Calderón de la Barca and was written between 1660 and 1663. Manuel Pla contributed 14 musical numbers in 1757. The text of the seguidilla Tres coronas admite de nuestro celo does not appear in Calderón's play and was probably added during some performances in the 18th century. Despite the sacred subject the music has a clearly theatrical character. The scoring includes a guitar and castanets and could easily be taken for an aria from a zarzuela.
 
In these rather extroverted pieces Raquel Andueza seems to feel like a fish in water. Their quite virtuosic traits come off impressively. To what extent she pays attention to the text is hard to say, as the booklet includes the lyrics, but no translations. Even so, her singing is admirable and enjoyable, and she again proves to be one of the bright stars of the early music scene today.
 
All in all this is a most interesting and musically captivating production. Chamber music of the two younger Pla brothers has been recorded before, for instance by the ensemble Rossini Piceno (review), but little attention has been paid to the oeuvre of Manuel. With the exception of the seguidilla all these pieces have been recorded here for the first time. That makes this disc an important contribution to our knowledge of Spanish music of the 18th century. Considering the quality of the music and the performances this disc should not be missed.
 
Johan van Veen
http://www.musica-dei-donum.org
https://twitter.com/johanvanveen
 

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