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Los libros de polifonia de la Catedral de Mexico. Estudio y catalogo critico.

Los libros de polifonia de la Catedral de Mexico. Estudio y catalogo critico. By Javier Marin Lopez. (Publicaciones de la Sociedad Espanola de Musicologia, seccion B: Catalogos y documentacion, 14-15.) Jaen: Universidad de Jaen, 2012. 2 vols. [xxiv, 1279 p. ISBN 9788484396321. [euro]70.] Music examples, illustrations, bibliography, index.

Many sources for the sacred music of have been generally known ever since the New Spain--colonial Mexico/Guatemala--work of Robert Stevenson and Steven Barwick, now several generations ago. More recently, a group of largely (but not entirely) Mexican scholars began the online MUSICAT project (, accessed 15 March 2013) at the Universidad Autonoma Nacional de Mexico, which will provide digital images of the most important polyphonic sources at the cathedrals of Mexico City, Puebla, and Guadalajara; the results to date from this project have been very helpful to scholars. The surviving polyphonic repertory of Mexico City, ranging from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries, figures in the eight choirbooks still kept in the cathedral.

These codices are known to those who have worked in the cathedral archives, or from the microfilms made of this collection. They are the starting point--but by no means the limit--of Marin Lopez's extensive and very detailed catalog, which includes and expands upon his doctoral dissertation (Universidad de Granada, 2007). The present two-volume work updates his earlier study in several important ways, both in terms of the catalog's contents and the important 153-page introduction that the author provides to the listings. In addition to the books in the cathedral archive, Marin has gathered and inventoried all the other surviving codices that can be traced to the cathedral (the book does not include the papeles sueltos, i.e. the independent scores and parts, of somewhat later repertory). This includes some twelve now in the Museo Nacional del Virreinato in Tepotzotlan, and one in Madrid's Biblioteca Nacional.

As is well known, some of this music dates back to the late sixteenth-century cathedral repertory (including liturgical pieces by Hernando Franco), while the rest was composed over the following century. Much of the copying was done by eighteenth-century scribes, who seem to have faithfully transmitted a long span of the institution's liturgical items, as a kind of musical institutional memory or heritage.

Although the introductory material is quite important, the actual cataloging is also extremely thorough and helpful to future researchers. For each book, Marin provides a general bibliographic description (the first part of which is based on the standard format of Herbert Kellman and Charles Hamm's Census-Catalog of Renaissance Music Manuscripts [Neuhausen-Stuttgart: Hanssler, 1982-88]), plus watermarks, illuminations, copyists, dating, presence in the eighteenth-century cathedral inventories of music, and secondary literature/call numbers. Over time, there have been various call numbers for the books in the cathedral archives, and Marin gives what will henceforth be the standard numeration.

The level of cataloging of each piece is quite high, with mensural incipits for all voices, concordances, textual/liturgical sources, pre-existing chant if present, and commentaries on the concordances or, in the case of alternatim items, the text set. (There is also a discography for those works that have appeared on CD.) Perhaps to make things easier on readers who do not have access to early Spanish breviaries or antiphoners, Marin gives modern chant-book assignments (e.g. the Liber usualis) for texts and melodies, the only slightly anachronistic note in the catalog. Far more importantly, he seems to have looked at the music for every single piece in the catalog, and this has two helpful results: first, the ascription of pieces which are anonymous in the Mexico City sources (e.g., the hymns by Francisco Guerrero and others to be found in the cathedral's book 4), and second, the actual chant tradition for those items (hymns, Passions, Lamentations) using pre-existing material. Here Marin is often able to distinguish between pieces from Toledan repertories and those from Andalucian traditions. Again, this is an enormous help for scholars trying to ascertain the liturgical-musical models for cathedral practice, and his efforts give an example of how to do so. This includes those printed choirbooks of the collection, for instance a hitherto unrecorded 1614 collection of motets (book 13) by Sebastian de Vivanco.

For all that the catalog itself is an exemplary work, Matin's introduction is even more useful (and an easier read). This treats the role of polyphony in the church and its liturgical year; the general features (including a chronology) of the codices, which can thus be divided (pp. 30-33) into six diachronically organized groups; issues of attribution; the production and paratexts/illumination of the books; and identification of copyists present. This is followed by a general study of the cathedral's repertory, not only the surviving works but also those recorded in an inventory of 1589 and the eighteenth-century lists. The discussion of genres thus leads to Mufti's identification of local polyphonic tradition, especially in the Holy Week items, the Office of the Dead, and Vespers psalms. His characterization of the Mass, Magnificat, hymn, and motet repertories as being partially international (essentially sixteenth-century Spanish) and partially local seems absolutely accurate. One case study of local reception and creation is a discussion of Francisco Lopez Capillas' imitadon Masses (on his own and others' works) with their odd Latin inscriptions.

In any early modern cathedral, the corpus of Vespers items (Magnificats and hymns) is obviously important, and Marin goes to some pains to discuss this repertory in its relationship to the printed cycles by Morales, Guerrero, Sebastian Aguilera de Heredia (a copy of which is book 6 in the Museo Nacional del Virreinato collection), and Duarte Lobo, along with a host of Spanish cathedral manuscripts. There is a similar treatment of the hymns, another genre that reflects both local taste and international models, and the introduction finishes with a list of occasions for polyphony in the church in the eighteenth century, and a complete transcription of four music inventories, one from 1589 and the others more than a century later.

Because the author has thought carefully and logically about polyphony's role in the cathedral's ritual life, the book is thus clearly much more than just a catalog. Scholars have approached New Spain's repertory in a number of ways, and this publication will be helpful to all of them. But it also sheds light on the transmission and use of music by some very important composers working in Europe, from Morales to Victoria. In the largest sense, it is a local study in the best sense of the term, analyzing the choices made in acquisition, copying, and performance by a series of chapel masters and musicians in one of the most important cathedrals of "global" Spain. Thus it is an important contribution to the study of early modern sacred music (and the extreme conservatism of repertorial choices into the eighteenth century justifies the use of this term, far more than "Renaissance"). This book should be on the shelves of any institution with graduate instruction in music before 1800, and also on those of any center dealing with Latin American music.


University of Chicago

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Author:Kendrick, Robert L.
Article Type:Book review
Date:Aug 30, 2013
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