Santiago de Murcia - William Carter - Spanish Society Quarterly Review

This album earned an Editor's Choice spot in the August issue of Gramophone magazine. The piece speaks of Murcia as the "last, and possibly greatest Spanish exponent of the five-course Baroque guitar" in the review's opening lines. Great as the composer undoubtedly was, there is in fact much confusion about his life. But it seems he had many very powerful patrons, including Felipe V, possibly because the man mostly likely to have been his father was the Royal Guitar Maker. The fact that some of his music turned up in Mexico has led musicologists to believe he died in Mexico, probably around 1740. It is surmised that he was born in Madrid in 1682.

The guitar and Spain are often mentioned in the same breath. This album tells us, if we need to be told, that the guitar had come to Spain before Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez captured the public imagination. The longer pieces on this album are the Passacalles, which were included in a collection of his works published in 1732. My favourite pieces however are tracks 5, 6 and 9.

Track five is a beautiful piece called just Suite - after Gaspar Sanz, another well-known guitarist of Murcia's time, who wielded tremendous influence in the world of guitar-playing. This piece repays a number of listens and is guaranteed to grow on you.

Track 6 is even more beautiful. This one is a dance and is an example of the musical influences to which Spain was becoming subject following the discovery of the New World and its associated Empire building. Zarembeques, o Muecas is a dance tune and demonstrates African-Latin American influences, the precursor of the tangos and the salsas we all know today, one supposes. Track 9, entitled Cumbee is another example of the West African influence which found its way into Europe as a result of the New World Discoveries. Such influences were not always universally welcome and the notes make reference to the outrage expressed in Church circles at what they described as the "scandalous" nature of some of the music and its associated dancing. An Inquisition document is quoted banning many of these dances because they gave great movements of the body associated with these tunes it appears gave some people of the time even more cause for concern. This was over two hundred years before Elvis came on the scene!

Spanish Society Quarterly Review
01 December 2007