ROMINA BASSO: Mezzo
ALBERTO MESIRCA: Classical and Baroque guitars
VITTORIA GIACOBAZZI: Second voice on “Lloren mis ojos”
NAĞME YARKIN: Kemençe
MURAT AYDEMIR: Tanbur
ENVER METE ASLAN: Ud
VOLKAN YILMAZ: Ney
FAHRETTİN YARKIN: Percussion
ŞEHVAR BEŞIROĞLU: Kanun
Brilliant Classics 2016
Recorded in Istanbul, Turkey, and at the Carceri Abbey, Padova
This record project was principally generated from an idea, consequent to the special meeting with Romina Basso, which happened in July 2014 for a concert dedicated to Lamenti and held in Kuhmo, Finland, to commit us to a programme which would have been based on Spain, focusing principally on an ancient repertoire or music from
Destiny wanted that the job I managed to complete at the Musical Archive of the National Library in Istanbul (as you know, Constantinople was one of the main places of migration for the Hispanic Jews after the persecutions) could permit us to have access to a huge repertoire of Sephardic songs, and with the help of my wonderful friend Aron Saltiel I could extract very peculiar lyrics and melodies.
The three songs which we decided to choose are the heart wrenching Nani, El rey de muncho madruga and finally El Romance del Conde Niño.
Nani is a lullaby from Turkey, which has the same narrative theme as the traditional Spanish song Me casó mi madre; it’s interesting, as Saltiel says, seeing how there are other romances with this very melody, but with a different text, as in the case of Maio, maio. El rey de muncho madruga is a Hispanic romance, of which there are other versions under the name Andarletto. Saltiel collected this composition in Bat-Yam, Israel, as sung by an old woman who migrated from Turkey, and published it in “The Sephardic Songbook” (C. F. Peters, 2001, in collaboration with Joshua Horowitz). El Conde Niño, known in other versions under the name El Condelino, is not truly a Sephardic song, but a Hispanic romance, which nevertheless managed to survive principally thanks to the oral transmission in the Sephardic communities. In the case of many traditional melodies, as there were no scores nor audio recordings, the original versions soon disappeared, however many versions of the same compositions remained (with a similar or identical text, but with different melodies, conforming to the place in which the communities settled down, and to the consequent influence of the local musical tradition).
The consecutive idea, after this research, was to try to put in practice (in this case, in music) the cultural travel which the Sephardic Jews hat to make, migrating to Constantinople, and the resulting cultural inter-exchange: how would these melodies sound, with the musical instruments that the Jews found in Turkey, the Ney, the Percussions, the Tanbur, the Arab Lute? And, as there was a wonderful and flourished Ottoman Baroque repertoire, how would the works by Juan Hidalgo de Polanco or the Tonos Humanos like Lloren mis ojos sound with a basso continuo which is performed by oriental instruments, which are mainly structured on micro-tonal scales?
This is the challenge of the project, that we decided to call Voces de Sefarad as a homage to the Spanish Jews who migrated to Oriental lands, as a homage to the Spanish traditional repertoire (Sefarad is the term used by the Jews to name Spain), and to the wonderful and deep treasure of Tonos Humanos (thanks to the precious help of the great vihuela player and musicologist John Griffiths, who opened to us many ways to our research), which found in Juan Hidalgo de Polanco and José Marin two of its most illustrious representatives. The Tonos Humanos are musical compositions in Romance language, characterized by a profane theme, which were popular in Spain during the 17th Century, and which are juxtaposed to the tonos a lo divino, characterized by religious themes. Their peculiarity, as in the major part of the traditional and popular musical repertoire of the time, is the structure, which is divided into refrains (estribillos) and verses (coplas). During the first half of the 17th Century the principal Tonos were characterized by a polyphonic structure, as we can see in the Opus of Mateo Romero and Juan Blas Castro; however, from the second half of the same Century, a new compositional method for the Tonos became quite popular, characterized by monody and a basso continuo accompaniment, whose best examples are to be found in the work of Marin and Hidalgo. This new compositional method for the Tonos was then substituted just at the beginning of the 18th Century, by the increasing popularity of the so-called cantada profana.
Our musical travel was furthermore enriched by instrumental interludes, performed by the excellent musicians who accompanied us during this recording, and guided by the great Maestro of the Percussions Fahrettin Yarkin. We asked them to perform improvisations (taksims) on the scales (makams) and modes which could come as close as possible to the scales and tonalities of the pieces we chose for the project.