New light on the Las Huelgas Codex
Canto Coronato, David Catalunya
David Catalunya, artistic director of the ensemble Canto Coronato and core member of Tasto Solo,
has done years of research into the Las Huelgas Codex,
one of the most important European manuscripts of late mediaeval polyphonic music.
This is the first time that he will present his research to the general public.
The sounding results you can hear during the concert of Canto Coronato on 22 August 2016 at 8.00 p.m.
1. Kyrie. Rex virginum [4:50] Hu 1
2. Gloria. Spiritus et alme [3:42] Hu 6
3. Credo [3:55] Hu 176
4. Claustrum pudicicie / Virgo viget / Flos filius [3:13] Hu 126
5. Fa fa mi fa / Ut re mi ut / [Tenor] [2:20] Hu 177
6. Ave Maria – Amen [3:20] Hu 156
7. O gloriosa Dei genitrix [3:38] Hu 151
8. Mater Patris et filia [4:14] Hu 154
Flavit auster Hu 58
Benedicamus. Hec est mater Hu 42
Salve virgo / Ave gloriosa / [Domino] Hu 101
10. Ad honorem virginis [2:42]
11. Ex illustri / Ex illustri [2:42] Hu 132
– 12. Amen ‘hoquetato’ [1:24]
13. Catolicorum concio [2:54] Hu 31
14. Benedicamus Domino [4:38] Hu 144
recorded: August 22, 2016, Sint-Pauluskerk, Antwerp
[Laus Polyphoniae 2016]
David Catalunya, artistieke leiding
Barbara Zanichelli, Candice Carmalt, Lisa De Rijcke — zang
Eloïse Mabille, Kristien Nijs, Stéphanie Révillion — zang
Albert Riéra, Raffaele Giordani, Ozan Karagöz — zang
Salah Eddin Maraqa, psalterium
Pau Marcos, vedel
Guillermo Pérez, orgel & organetto
Las Huelgas Codex and Newly Discovered Sources
“They freely divide tones into semitones with a sweet-sounding
throat, and semitones into indivisible microtones, rejoicing in an
indescribable melody that one would deem angelic rather than human. So
it is that these women – goddesses or, indeed, earthly Sirens
– enchant the bewitched ears of their listeners and steal away
The Las Huelgas Codex is one of the best-known and most important European sources of late mediaeval polyphonic music that remains to us today. The manuscript brings together the motets, conductus, cantilenas and polyphonic settings of mass ordinary used at the Royal Monastery of Las Huelgas in Burgos in the 13th and 14th centuries. Musicologists have tended to date the manuscript to roughly 1300-1325. However, a recent study by David Catalunya has shown that the document was probably made in about 1340 and was still in use even at the beginning of the 15th century. This new dating is a major step forward in our understanding of the manuscript’s history and provides a new chronological framework for the performance of the works. Likewise, the discovery of new correspondences with fragmentary codices preserved in France and Germany has made it possible to reconstruct various pieces that were left incomplete in the Las Huelgas Codex.
Finally, the discovery of a few folios belonging to lost codices of medieval polyphony from the cathedrals of Sigüenza and Seville has led to a better understanding of musical life in 14th century Castile. These folios provide us with new elements that enable us to contextualize the music of the Las Huelgas Codex within a wider Iberian panorama of sources.
David Catalunya will present his new interpretation of the codex for the first time, including several works he has reconstructed on the basis of the fragmentary correspondences, such as Fa fa mi fa / Ut re mi ut; Ave Maria – Amen; Ex illustri / Ex illustri – Amen ‘hoquetato’, a spectacular four-part composition. The male and female voices simulate the choirs of nuns and clerics who lived in the Royal Monastery. The nuns’ singing was so virtuoso, with microtonal subtleties, that the 14th-century theorist Arnulf of St Ghislain compared it to the beautiful and captivating song of the sirens. (Curiously, the current choir stalls at Las Huelgas display siren figures holding the arms of Castile and León.) The instrumental setting includes two different types of Gothic organs (whose documentation in Burgos dates back to the 1220s), two carillons – very popular instruments in the Castilian music tradition – with seven Pythagorean bells each (these are bells in a tuning that includes pure perfect fourths and fifths), a vielle and a plucked psaltery, an instrument that medieval iconography frequently shows in the hands of nuns.