Ensaladas by Mateo Flecha ‘El viejo’

Ambronay AMY 315

We have to thank the Eeemerging programme for introducing the vocal quartet Cantoría to a wider audience, and on the basis of this excitingly dynamic selection of ensaladas by the 16th-century Spanish composer Mateo Flecha ‘the elder’ they are a group deserving of exposure. Eleven ensaladas by Flecha survive of which we have seven here. These extended episodic songs in four and five parts, offer graphic depictions of a wide variety of situations and events, and were hugely popular throughout Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries in the hands of the likes of Clément Janequin, Adriano Banchieri and Orlando Gibbons. While Flecha probably also wrote church music, it is his Ensaladas that have survived and which have established his reputation. With its restlessly changing tempi and harmonies, this is demanding music to perform successfully, and Cantoría find the perfect combination of vocal blend and solistic characterisation, while maintaining an engaging impression of spontaneity. Particularly impressive is their account of La Guerra, a hectic sound-picture of a Renaissance battle complete with sound effects, battle cries and shouts of victory. The war movie of its time, the battle chanson was a way for Renaissance aristocrats to relive their battlefield successes and for their courtiers and partners to share in their experiences. The Joust provides another fine opportunity for a vivid sound representation of more organised combat, and again Cantoría rise to the challenge with some wonderfully powerful fanfaring and some entertainingly jazzy galloping.

D. James Ross

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