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The world’s best performers of polyphony pay homage to Vivanco’s superb music  

Dámaso y Dirk In memoriam Dámaso García Fraile (1936- 2021) and Dirk Snellings (1959- 2014)

During the months of November and December 2002, the wonderful vocal ensemble Capilla Flamenca joined forces with the cornets and sackbuts ensemble Oltremontano in the Irish College Chapel of Lovaine to record a selection of motets of the Ávila composer Sebastián de Vivanco. The choice of Capilla Flamenca and Oltremontano to perform these extraordinary works was not accidental. Musically, few artists could be better entitled than these two universally acclaimed ensembles to revive these beautiful motets. Besides, it was also Artus Taberniel, the Antwerp printer, based in Salamanca, who published three of Vivanco's books of polyphony that have reached us. And no more appropriate than the Capilla Flamenca, whose name was taken from the famous chapel formed by Charles I of Spain, who after leaving the Netherlands in 1517, chose some of his best musicians there to join him on his trip to Spain.

When Dirk Snellings, founder and director of Capilla Flamenca, contacted José Carlos Cabello, the artistic director of Cantus, to ask him to coordinate some aspects of the overall production of the recording and the eventual publication of the resulting CD, between them arose a friendship that lasted until Snellings died in 2014. The original edition of the CD, which uses the transcription of Dámaso García Fraile (2001) was published by the Foundation Las Edades del Hombre in 2003 to accompany the exhibition The Tree of Life, held in Segovia (in whose cathedral also served Vivanco) that very year. It was never marketed or distributed regularly. At the beginning of his illness, Dirk Snellings asked José Carlos Cabello to prepare a reissue of this album for Cantus, as beautiful and complete as the music of Vivanco and the performances of Capilla Flamenca and Oltremontano deserved. Dr. Javier Marín (of University of Jaén), a specialist in Vivanco music, was commissioned to write and coordinate new program notes. The dazzling result is now finally available worldwide as a tribute to Sebastián de Vivanco and of course to Dirk Snellings as well, who as a conductor of his Capilla Flameca recorded almost 40 absolutely essential albums (this Vivanco was, indeed, his only recording of the music of a single Spanish composer).

Although musicologists have always recognized the quality of the music of Vivanco, only recently theyhave deepened in his life and work, mostly thanks to scholars like Bruno Turner, Dean Neuernberger, Dámaso García Fraile, Jorge Martín, Javier Marín and Ana Sabe. Vivanco apparently was born in Ávila, coinciding with Victoria as a choirboy in the cathedral. Comparing the work of each other is always tempting, but Vivanco, who always remained in Spain, must be placed in relation to other composers such as Alonso Lobo, Juan Esquivel or Alonso de Tejeda. Despite not having traveled to Italy, Vivanco exhibits a good knowledge of the most cutting-edge trends of his time adapted to the Castilian tradition and his motets provide a good insight into the changes in the Spanish music with the turn of the century.

The readings proposed by Capilla Flamenca and Oltremontano are extraordinary. Both in the most intimate motets and in the most exultant pieces, they explore all the expressive and technical possibilities of the works. Accordingly, they highlight the daring harmonies that include increased intervals, underlining the sudden changes of rhythm so typical of the seconda prattica, and give great clarity in the imitative passages of the incipits of each phrase ... Alternating purely a capella performances of some motets with instrumental versions, or seeking to blend voices and instruments, they are capable to obtain really fascinating colors. Surely, performances of the highest stature for a music of great finesse and quality, which reconciles modernity and tradition in an era of profound transformations.

Sebastián de Vivanco: Motecta

  • Capilla Flamenca artistic director: Dirk Snellings

Marnix de Cat, Gunther Vandeven, countertenors

Jan Caals, tenor

Lieven Termont, baritone

Dirk Snellings, bass

Oltremontano (Wim Becu, director):

Wim Becu, Simen Van Mechelen, sackbuts

Fiona Russel, cornet

Wouter Verschuren, dulzian

Aditional information

  • Total time total 54:12

    with a newly-written article by Dr. Javier Marín, Universidad de Jaén

    Recording place Irish College Chapel, Leuwen (BE), 2002

    Engineering and digital edition Jo Cops

    Production Paul Belaerts

    Executive production Las Edades del Hombre, Capilla Flamenca & José Carlos Cabello

    Design and booklet cordination José Carlos Cabello

    Cover Alejandro de Loarte, "El milagro de San Bernardo" (ca. 1620), Museo del Prado, Madrid. All rights reserved.
    ✋ Please adjust first the VOLUME control on the SPEAKER ⇓ before playing ▶

    Quae est ista, a 5 (Capilla Flamenca)
    Elegit Dominus, a 5 (Capilla Flamenca & Oltremontano)
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