My tireless colleague and friend, the concert producer Francisco “Paco” Quirce, formerly of Aeterna Musica, has baptized a new music series in Madrid called “El canto de Polifemo” (The song of Polifemus). The event took place in the magical church of Iglesia de las Mercedarias Gongoras in the Chueca neighborhood. With a Homeric title that breathes of ancient Greek allusions, the series kicked off with the early music ensemble “Aquel Trovar”, in a concert entitled “Songs of Old Europe”. The ensemble was composed by Antonio Torralba (flutes); Josè Ignacio Fernández (renaissance guitar and bandurria); Daniel Sáez Conde, bass rabel and “colascione”; and well known soprano and early music specialist Delia Angúndez.
The church is part of a cloistered convent that opens to the general public for mass only a few days a week. An intact late baroque structure, with its original tapestries and altar as well as neoclassical style cupola, it is a true insiders visit. I saw various painted relic keepers that were done in a naive style, which were quite charming.
Paco Quirce in his opening speech did a recitation of a poem by the Spanish Golden Age poet Luis de Gongora, after which the concert began. Without fanfare the group began with the beautiful and well known Spanish renaissance tune “Pámpano verde” by Francisco de la Torre (1460-1504). In a program which was Pan European in conception, we heard songs from early to mid renaissance that spanned Spain, France, Germany, Poland and England. Exhibiting the cultivation of troubador culture and aesthetics, the musical selections of the evening showed both differences and common ground of profane song in Europe of the time. With only two brief instrumental pieces, the evening exhibited songs of all affects, with Delia Agúndez luminous and pure soprano (showed off to great advantage in the acoustic of the Iglesia de las Mercedarias) in a variety of moods and languages, some done with great theatrical flare, such as the song “Es hett ein bidermann ein Weib” by Ludwig Senfl (1468-1542). The program included songs that recalled the Merry England of H.R. H Elizabeth I with the “Robyn, gentle Robnyn” by William Cornysh (1465-1523) and the jocund “Three ravens” by Thomas Ravenscroft (1582-1633). Her colleagues hailed from Cordoba (Spain), and played with great virtuosity at times; string player Sáez Conde showed the rarely heard and seen instruments such as the bass rabel, a stringed instrument that is native of Spain.
The program, because of its charm, variety and accessibility was attractive and enjoyable. Over 180 persons filled La iglesia de las Mercedarias and the concert was met with full approval, and the beckoning of two separate encores to cap off the success of the evening.
The new disc release of “Aquel Trovar” which showcases the repertoire of the concert has been recently released, and can be heard on all the digital platforms, as well as purchased on iTunes and Amazon.