Posts Tagged ‘cantigas’

Cantigas de Santa Maria

December 13, 2019

In recent days I have been obsessing about the Cantigas de Santa Maria a bit, so here’s a copy of a blog post I made on my personal blog (I’m more likely to keep it up to date there than here, as I log on to blogspot every day):

The Cantigas de Santa Maria – 420 songs in mediaeval Galician (aka Galician-Portuguese) collected by Alfonso X. in the 13th century – are an important foundation of Galician culture, and one or two of them have been played (as instrumental tunes) at our Galician sessions as well. However, our harper who plays them from memory, had learned them without numbers or titles, so they were almost impossible to find.



I recently attended a seminar on the cantigas (the relevant paper is here), where I learned lots of things about their structures and storytelling. Also about the fundamentals – for instance, the images of musicians, like the ones above, appear only in one of the four known manuscripts. Two others include illustrations relating to the stories of miracles told in nine out of every ten cantigas.

The seminar inspired me to look at the mystery of our harper’s cantiga again and I discovered that the lovely database Cantigas de Santa Maria for singers has a forward arrow on the pages displaying the modern notation for each cantiga. Until now I had assumed that I had to access each one separately with several clicks each time, but in fact I can just flick through them. Which I did, and starting at number one, I found that the cantiga we play most often is actually number seven. Quick and easy – not sure if I’d have had the stamina to find it if it had been number 407.

So it’s called

Santa Maria amar devemos

and here is a lovely version with karaoke text lines, so you can sing along (and unlike some other versions I found, the melody sticks very close to the version we play):

In other CSM news, I just acquired a big book of solo pieces for alto recorder (Altblockflötensolobuch by Barbara Hintermeier and Birgit Baude, Schott 2014), and that also contains two of the cantigas, namely

No. 353 Quen a omagen da virgen (lyrics video here)
No. 166 Como Poden

I really like the 353 as a recorder piece, haven’t quite gotten my head round the 166 yet.

Our gaiteiro, David Carril says he can play No. 100, Santa Maria strela do dia, so I will learn that one as well. Stop press – here’s a video where you can read the manuscript while listening to the music.

In terms of recordings, there are lots of them on YouTube, obviously. This channel has so many, it may well be all of them, but they are in no particular order and mixed with videos of other early music, so it’s hard to tell. The ones I checked usually had the lyrics displayed in some form.

This video: Fiesta en el corte de Alfonso el Sabio combines recordings of some 14 cantigas by different artists with a large number of the musicians miniatures from the manuscript.

I have a CD by Ensemble Alcatraz, called Vision and Miracles (1988) which includes CSM 103, 333, 117, 34, and 42 along with an instrumental suite using several cantigas and some other medieval pieces.

The Dufay Collective has recorded a CD full of cantigas, which is called Miracles.

Estampie have recorded a few. No. 120 Quantos me creveren (the numbers ending in 0 are songs of praise as opposed to stories of miracles) is included in their “Best Of” CD (2007) and a few more are on their album Signum (2004) including Non e gran cousa (26), Non devemos (27) and Quen na virgen (this could be 186, 256, or possibly 59, 103, or 276 – I don’t have this CD).

La Capella Reial de Catalunya have recorded a dozen cantigas with Hesperion XX and Jordi Savall, available on CD as “Cantigas de Santa Maria – strela do dia”. I’m a bit confused as Amazon seems to think it dates from 2017, but since the millennium the ensemble has been known as Hesperion XXI, so I suspect it may be a re-release of a 1990s recording. Oh, and somebody posted it on Youtube in 2013.