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Cristobal de Morales: Sources, Influences, Reception.

Owen Rees and Bernadette Nelson, eds. Cristobal de Morales: Sources, Influences, Reception.

Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music 6. Rochester: Boydell & Brewer, Inc., 2007. lii + 426 pp. index. append. illus. tbls. bibl. $80. ISBN: 978-1-84383-311-6.

This volume of essays offers the fruit of an international colloquium held at All Souls College, Oxford, in September 2003 to mark the 450th anniversary of the death of Cristobal de Morales. Morales was Spain's leading light in musical composition during the first half of the sixteenth century. More than any of his Spanish predecessors, his influence was widespread throughout Europe and in the Americas. Yet, scholarship on Morales has lagged considerably.

Cristobal de Morales is a welcome assessment of Morales scholarship today. It reviews the work that has been done over the past fifty years, brings together important new essays, and sketches out promising new lines of research. The editors are to be commended for their overall selection and arrangement of the essays, which make the book perfectly suitable for an advanced seminar on the composer. Its rich bibliography and annotated "Worklist" of Morales's surviving compositions will help supplement the essays.

The aim of this book is "to broaden and deepen our understanding of Morales's music, and to encourage further work in the field" (xxiii). As such, there is no frivolous attempt at a final word here. Virtually every essay presents itself as a starting point for future work and the most successful ones concentrate on limited case studies that model useful methods, approaches, and ideas that can be applied elsewhere. The list of contributors is a veritable honor roll of scholars who have devoted their careers to advancing our knowledge of music in the Hispanic world, including Robert Stevenson (to whom the volume is dedicated), Tess Knighton, Owen Rees, Bernadette Nelson, Michael Noone, Kenneth Kreitner, Grayson Wagstaff, Alison McFarland, and Emilio Ros-Fabregas. Their essays are valuable lessons from some of the most experienced and insightful scholars in the field.

Following Rees's helpful introduction and Robert Stevenson's encyclopedic survey and assessment of landmark contributions in print and recordings, thirteen essays are structured across five thematic areas: "Spanish Sources and Traditions," "Style, Technique, and Networks of Influence," "Transmission and Reception," "Historiographical and Editorial Issues," and "Works and Sources." These reflect a broad coverage of topics, making the deliberate omission of a biographical sketch somewhat puzzling. Rees notes that "it seemed unnecessary to provide a conventional biography of the composer here, given the excellent and detailed accounts" elsewhere (xxviii). These are dutifully cited. But given that Morales is not yet as mainstream as one would hope and, furthermore, that this volume is such an excellent and otherwise convenient teaching tool, even a couple of paragraphs would have been useful.

Rees and Nelson, respected scholars themselves, have sharp eyes for strong work and every essay shimmers in its own light. It is impossible here to survey the entire collection, but several deserve special mention. Michael No one and Graeme Skinner present a model for reconstructing an original work by a composer of liturgical music in "The Nuevo rezado, Music Scribes, and the Restoration of Morales's Toledo Lamentation." Grayson Wagstaff's "Morales, Spanish Traditions, Liturgical Works, and the Problem of Style," presents an interesting study of the relationship between Morales's Roman and Spanish settings of chant-based liturgical texts. Tess Knighton's "Morales in Print: Distribution and Ownership in Renaissance Spain" offers a marvelous example of detective work as she sifts through inventories and material evidence to reconstruct patterns for the dissemination and acquisition of Morales's published editions on the Iberian Perninsula. Finally, Emilio Ros-Fabregas's "Cristobal de Morales: a Problem of Musical Mysticism and National Identity in the Historiography of the Renaissance" transcends the boundaries of Morales scholarship and should be required reading for every serious student of Renaissance music. It is an excellent companion piece for Jessie Ann Owen's important article "Music Hisoriography and the Definition of 'Renaissance'" in Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 47, no. 2 (1990): 305-30.

In sum, this is a collection that deserves a place on the bookshelf of every scholar of Renaissance music and it is indispensible for specialists in the music of Spain and the Spanish Americas. It is still too early to tell where this book will rank in the overall scheme of Morales studies. But I can foresee an entire generation of scholars looking back on this volume as a landmark contribution in its own right. It is the best starting point for the much-needed work that remains to be done on this important Spanish composer.


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Author:Candelaria, Lorenzo
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2008
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