Esperar, Sentir, Morir

Signum Classics SIGCD069

BBC Music Magazine

Performance: ★★★★★ [[outstanding]

Sound: ★★★★★ [outstanding]

Like buccaneers of old, scholars are now in the process of raiding the Spanish Main and returning loaded with musical treasure. Latin-American music of the Baroque era is essentially European in style but enriched with indigenous colours and infectious rhythms.

Kah-Ming Ng's booklet note, a model of scholarly clarity and information, describes Charivari Agreable's programme as 'a random sampling by... musicians gripped by the beauty and romance of Spanish baroque monody'. Their conviction shines through the performance, from a haunting opening duet over a sequence spiralling ever-downward, to a lively, if largely nonsensical, dialogue about building a road for the Magi at Epiphany.

But two numbers raise this disc way above others of the kind. They rediscover the performer's role in the compositional process, one a song-fragment, expanded and improvised upon by Sanabras and Ng, the other Ng's re-composition of a 'Canaries', a dance from the Canary islands. Both arise from such total immersion in and understanding of the style that we are transported across the centuries to 'new' music of the Spanish Baroque. The process is revelatory, as is the musical outcome.

George Pratt


Rating: ★★★★ [Very Good]

A magnificent recording. The sound is very subtle and there is much to be discovered: transparency, precision, good taste, artistry. Charivari Agréable's excellence is matched by the mastery of Clara Sanabras and Rodrigo del Pozo, who make expressiveness an ensign. Both have one thing in common: their ability to adapt to different vocal repertoires and their suitability for Spanish music. These are no ordinary singers, but artists who 'speak' music.

Ramón Andres

Bayerische Rundfunk

Traumhaft schöne Klänge aus Spanien - ein musikalischer Geniestreich

[trans. 'unimaginably beautiful sounds from Spain - a musical stroke of genius]

RTE Lyric FM (Ireland`s Music and Arts Station 96-99fm)

The Music Box: CD of the Week

The Times

Rating: ★★★★

A triumph. Sensuous entertainment from 17th-century Spain fills this exquisite CD. Most of this agreeable din is in easy, lilting three- time -- courtly love dances with the faint exotic whiff of Moorish Arabia. The music sighs with baroque affectation in hope or anguish for secular or sacred love. Two singers lead the gentle instruments -- Clara Sanabras has a most seductive voice, especially in the goldfinch song Gilguerillo , on which she soothes and caresses in pure falling phrases. Rodrigo del Pozo, meanwhile, has a soft poetic grace that pleads with appealing persistence on Hidalgo's Porque Mas . And there is even Pachelbel's famous bassline, dressed to kill. The singers perform a duet in charming lovers' thirds on Escalada's Canten , which sits alongside the comic dialogue of Barter's Hazo Anton , the light relief amid the steamy moments. Even the technicians join in with flamenco clapping on the final track...

Rick Jones

The Oxford Times, Friday 29.7.05

A delightful pot pourri of long forgotten gems.

Charivari Agréable's new CD, Esperar, Sentir, Morir is a collection of songs and dances from the Hispanic baroque era, with most of the pieces emerging from the courts of Philip III, Philip IV and Philip V. Everything Charivari touches turns to gold, and these dozen or so pieces were eloquently realized with a potent mix of exquisite musicianship, warm rapport and scholarly insight. Many of the songs dealt with the themes of solitude, unrequited love and melancholy -- such as Que se ausenta by Carmelite friar Francisco de Santiago, the anguished Filis, yo tengo by Clemente Imana and the title song of the concert and the CD, by prolific composer and royal harpist Juan Hidalgo. Kah Ming and Susanne underpinned proceedings with sensitivity, clarity and refinement. But the spotlight fell, perhaps inevitably, on the two singers. Clara Sanabras displayed a satisfying mix of technical assurance and tonal warmth, while Rodrigo del Pozo's alluringly sonorous tenor was the kind of voice I could listen to endlessly. Esperar, sentir, morir is a welcome addition to Charivari Agréable's already impressive discography, and a definite must-have for baroque enthusiasts.

Nicola Lisle

The baroque period is considered a rather poor one for the Spanish world after the cultural glories and prominence of their previous age. As well as the common difficulties - ranging from political and economic problems to plagues - musicians had to deal with a lack of specialist printers and publishers, as well as face the fact that the nobility was no longer interested in supporting music. Indeed, some so-called nobles even went so far as to exclude music from their homes. Patronage could therefore only come from church and king. All was not as dire as it could have been, however: the kings were fairly musical, and Philip III and Philip IV commissioned a fair amount for court occasions. It is more the case that much has been lost than little was written.

This disc presents a variety of songs and dances from this period, all beautifully performed by Charivari Agréable, directed by Kah-Ming Ng. The songs are mostly love songs, full of melancholy, yearning, desire and grief, while some manage to combine tremendous beauty with what can only be described as rather catchy tunes. The opening Esperar, sentir, morir is a good example of this. This is the only work on the disc by Juan Hidalgo - Philip IV's chief composer of secular songs, harpist of the royal chapel, director of the court chapel, composer of religious plays and operas, and the most influential and famous theatre composer of his time.

The voice of Clara Sanabras is perfect for this repertoire – clear, slightly astringent and robust. The tenor, Rodrigo del Pozo, seems equally at home with the songs, and impresses with his vocal range – some of the pieces - the charming Canten dos jilguerillos and Corazon, causeteneis, for instance - are for a fairly high tenor. The latter song (track 4), by Sebastian Duron - who had to flee as an exile to France after supporting the wrong side in the Spanish war of succession! - contains some fine word-painting, as on the word "suspirais" ("sigh").

The instrumental dances are often appealingly lilting and light-hearted, such as de Ribayaz's Espanoletas, and the anonymous Differenzias sobre la Gayta. All are brilliantly played, with graceful embellishments and excellent understanding and communication.

One work of note is Barter's Hazo, Anton – a comical nativity “Villancico", in which the composer exploits contemporary stereotypes such as mayors and country bumpkins in the guise of a devotional piece of music – great fun! I loved also the glorious polyphony of Solo, triste y ausente (again, anonymous), the gentle Que se ausenta by the Carmelite friar Francisco de Santiago, and the inclusion on the disc of the composer Francese Valls – who was infamous for the scandal he caused by his use of an unprepared dissonance in a mass!

Given the improvisatory nature of this music, it falls to the musicians to interpret and expand, not just perform the works. Taking this a step further, Kah-Ming Ng has included two works of his own; one a version of a popular theatre song, the other a canarios - dance from the Canary Islands, with tunes by contemporary Spanish composers. These works make a nice addition to the “original” pieces. This is delightful music, well performed, and the disc comes well-recommended. Em Marshall

Lute News vol. lxxvi

The 17th-century Spanish repertoire has attracted less attention than that of earlier periods, possibly because the original sources are less accessible, but also perhaps because even the secular vocal pieces are often introspective with a tendency to express religious conceits which do not have the same resonance for us today as they did at the time. Charivari Agréable have unearthed some fascinating rarities—only a handful of pieces on the disc were already familiar to me.

There seem to be two schools of thought when it comes to performing Spanish music: those who try with varying degrees of success to re-create performances in the manner appropriate to the period and those who see the music as a jumping off point for their own extravaganzas. Charivari Agréable fall somewhere in the middle between these two poles. Whilst not averse to

bringing their own creativity to bear on the music, they avoid most of the excesses of some other groups, particularly in matters of instrumentation. The result is a pleasant, and at times very moving sequence of solo songs and duets interspersed with instrumental pieces. Both singers are excellent in their different ways. Rodrigo del Pozo is secure and technically accomplished; Sanabras has a pure, unaffected voice. She was at her best in 'Quiero, y no saben que quiero' for which she seems to have written most of the lyrics and possibly the music as well, although the notes were not entirely clear on this point. With its Moorish overtones, and exploiting her mezzo register to the full, the disc is worth hearing for this alone. The distinctive styles of the two singers blended very well in the duets.

The usual line-up of Charivari Agreable seems to vary slightly on an ad hoc basis, with Kah-Ming Ng at the keyboard and Susanne Heinrich playing viols forming the nucleus, supplemented by other instruments ad libitum—in this instance, harp, various lutes and guitars. The choice of harp, viola da gamba and organ or harpsichord to accompany most of the vocal pieces seemed

to work reasonably well although I wonder whether the organ is really appropriate for a repertoire which was probably intended for primarily domestic performance. The purely instrumental pieces, realized by various combinations make for pleasant listening, even if they indulge in some rather 17th-century effects—such as the tremolo background to 'San Juan de Lima', and the intermittent tapping in the (otherwise) harp solo 'Espanoletas'. Monica Hall



Clara Sanabras, soprano

Rodrigo del Pozo, tenor

Susanne Heinrich, treble & bass viols

Richard Sweeney, lute, guitar & theorbo

Kah-Ming Ng, harpsichord & chamber organ

Constance Allanic, triple harp

Juan Barter (c.1648-1706), ¡Hazo, Antón!

Anonymous, !Ay, mi Dios! ¿Qué fuera de mí sin vos?

Clemente Imaña (fl. 17C), Filis yo tengo

Francisco de Santiago (1578-1644), Que se ausenta

Anonymous, Solo, triste y ausente

Francisco Escalada, Canten dos jilguerillos

Francesc Valls (c.1671-1747), Gilguerillo que el ayre

Sebastián Durón (1660-1716), Tonada sola con flautas: Corazón, causatenéis

Anonymous/K-M Ng, The Charivari Canarios

Anonymous, Chacona

Anon. (K-M Ng/C. Sanabras), Quiero, y no saben que quiero

Juan Hidalgo (c.1612-1685)/ arr. K-M Ng, Esperar, sentir, morir

Anonymous, Tarambote

Anonymous, San Juan de Lima

Ruiz de Ribayaz/Allanic , Spagnoleta

E Mn M.1357 pp. 219-22 (c.1706), Differenzias sobre la Gayta