Concert venue

Conversion of St. Paul Church

ul. Stradomska 6, Kraków

Concert date

October 5, 2020; 8pm

Admission free

Vuestra canción, mi sentir…The Palacio Songbook adrift

In 1870, historian and journalist Gregorio Cruzada Villamil gave notice to the eminent musicologist and composer Francisco Barbieri of the discovery of a codex, found at the Library of the Royal Palace in Madrid. This precious book was full of what seemed to be very old Spanish vocal music. Barbieri indeed confirmed that the book – bound in modern covers, with gilt irons and a simple label which read ‘Libro de Cantos’, roughly translated as ‘Songbook’ – contained a great number of villancicos, romances and songs from the generation of Juan del Encina, which were at that time completely unknown.
The first modern edition of the manuscript – appropriately called “Palace Songbook” – was published by Barbieri himself in 1890, immediately becoming a cornerstone of Spanish historical musicology. The now legendary edition by Higinio Anglés, published in 1947, contributed to establish the stature of the Cancionero de Palacio as a true monument of Iberian music, triggering a long standing performance tradition – for professionals and amateurs alike – all across the Spanish-speaking world.
This perception of the source as monumental turned perhaps too quickly to monolithic, leading many musicians and audiences to consider its contents as a well defined and self-enclosed cultural artifact, independent from European contemporary practice, or rather linked to it by merely biographic, circumstantial connections.
By contrast, we propose to show the foundational period of modern Spanish polyphony from the mid 15th century and beginning of the 16th, as it was: a true esthetic revolution, signed by constant ruptures and assimilations between local and foreign musical traditions. It was a process that laid the foundations of what would be considered – and is still considered – as the Spanish Renaissance, even today.
Taking the most recent studies on the subject as a point of departure, and reading directly from the original sources, we propose a more nuanced vision of the rich musical panorama of the time. Through the confrontation of our Cancionero with other codices containing related repertoire, we aim to showcase how local preferences were developing infused with ages old musical and poetic traditions cultivated at the courts all over Europe. We travel from the ancient, iridescent layer of French and Burgundian songs found in the Neapolitan-Aragonese song collections, to the music kept in the first indigenous Spanish ‘cancioneros’ – somewhere in between Flemish chansons and Italian frottole – without overlooking later Portuguese and Italian collections in which Hispanic songs are preserved
The Palacio Songbook will be revealed to us, then, not as a monolithic milestone, but as a fascinating snapshot of an ever-changing time; a unique period in which patrons, composers, copyists and musicians, all sought to develop distinct and unique music which reflect the local ways, yet inevitably connected to the artistic panorama of the surrounding nations and communities.