Gold from the new world was not the only glittering commodity of Philip II’s Spain. Now at the height of its colonial power, the country also boasted spectacular music and art. Here Harry Christophers has harvested the choicest fruits of Francisco Guerrero and Alonso Lobo. These composers, master and disciple, were both in turn maestro di capilla of Seville Cathedral, then one of the grandest Christian structures in Europe.
Amongst the highlights is Lobo’s monumental motet Versa est in luctum, written for the funeral rites of King Philip himself. The singers reveal the plangent glories, singing with a wonderful mixture of imposing calm and expertly focused dissonance. Another funeral setting, Libera me, a Kyrie and two Marian motets attest to Lobo’s polyphonic mastery.
Guerrero, Lobo’s teacher and himself a student of Cristóbal de Morales, was an intrepid character, having made a Holy Land pilgrimage during which he was twice captured by pirates! He was later briefly in debtors’ prison having spent too much publishing his music and memoirs. A 12-voice Duo seraphim, an eight-voice Laudate Dominum and the Credo from his Missa de la Batalla Escoutez stand out as examples of artistry.
The Sixteen once again demonstrate their profound empathy with this school of Spanish polyphony. Like an El Greco painting, their mixture of vivid colour with no small amount of darkness does indeed make for artistic gold.