El cant de la Sibilla: Sacred Music from medieval Catalunya

Artist Ensemble San Felice guitar
Federico Bardazzi conductor
Format 1 CD
Cat. number 95481
EAN code 5028421954813
Release March 2017

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About this release

Who were the pilgrims who climbed the treacherously steep mountain to the monastery of Montserrat in northern Spain? And what kind of music would have accompanied their journey? This release imagines Christmas Eve in medieval Catalonia, built around the 'song of the Sibyl'. The tradition of the singing Sibyl was not unique to Montserrat, but it was covertly practiced there long after it had been outlawed by the Council of Trent in 1575. The Sibyl was a pre-Christian woman who prophesied the coming of Christ; during the Middle Ages, a boy would dress up as the Sibyl and, blindfolded, sing the famous verses, normally in the third nocturn of the Christmas Day matins service. This recording uses the Catalan version of the Sibyl's song found in the archives of Barcelona Cathedral. Another Catalan book from the same period, the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, also informs much of this programme. It would have provided pilgrims with suitably religious music to sing on their approach to the cathedral, rather than secular songs and dances. The additional use of Gregorian chant sets the Cant de la Sibil·la in its original context of the early morning matins, before these were standardised into the Office of Readings. Finally, the addition of a traditional secular Catalan song – which tells the story of the doomed Count Arnau – marks the period in the night when the pious pilgrims, eagerly awaiting the opening of the monastery, would give the floor over to storytellers.

This CD is the result of a unique project involving professional and amateur artists. The project was premiered as the first concert of a new annual festival in Florence run by Federico Bardazzi and Alessandra Montali, 'InCanto Armonico'. Established group Ensemble San Felice, who, under Bardazzi's direction, have previously made several successful CDs, were paired with the children's choir of the Cathedral of Sarzana, Pueri Cantores, who make up the 'voci bianche'. Featuring young soprano soloist Chiara Galioto, and performed on period instruments, this recording provides the listener with an enchanting aural portrayal of medieval Catalonia.

This fascinating programme attempts to depict an imaginary coming together of pilgrims from various countries on their way to celebrate Christmas Mass at the Catalan monastery of Montserrat, one of the strongest bastions of Christianity in the middle ages. During the Matins on Christmas day a boy dressed up as the Sybil blindfoldedly sang the famous verses from pagan times predicting the coming of Christ and the end of the world (this practice was later forbidden by the Council of Trent).
This liturgical drama includes music from the famous Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, Gregorian Chant and the 14th century Barcelona Lectionary.
Federico Bardazzi and his vocal and instrumental group use copies of original instruments (based on detailed research). For the vocal parts they use a form of improvisation and ornamentation based on Christian, Arab and Jewish tradition, as was in the culture of the Iberian Peninsula in the middle ages.

Recorded in Sarzana, Italy, in April 2016.
Contains excellent and scholarly liner notes written by the artists.
Sung texts available at our website www.brilliantclassics.com.


Track list

Disk 1

  1. Anonymous: Polorum Regina
  2. Anonymous: Los set goyts
  3. Anonymous: Maria Matrem Virginem
  4. Anonymous: Stella splendens
  5. Anonymous: Imperayritz de la ciudad joyosa
  6. Anonymous: El comte Arnau
  7. Anonymous: Ad mortem festinamus
  8. Anonymous: Laudemus Virginem – Splendens ceptigera
  9. Anonymous: Antiphona: Christus natus est nobis – Psalmus 94/95 (Invitatory): Venite exultemus Domino
  10. Anonymous: Benedictio – Lectio – De homilia Sancti Augustini
  11. Anonymous: Responsorium: Verbum caro factum est
  12. Anonymous: Benedictio – Lectio – Sermo Sancti Augustini in die Natalis Domini
  13. Anonymous: El cant de la Sibilla
  14. Anonymous: O Virgo splendens
  15. Anonymous: Cuncti simus concanentes
  16. Anonymous: Ave maris stella