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Great cheer

Music for
Alfonso the Wise,
and by Victoria -
reviewed by

'... clear and expressive ...'

Music for Alfonso the Wise - The Dufay Collective. © 2005 harmonia mundi usa

Alfonso the Wise (reigned 1252-84) probably had less wisdom on horseback than when seated in his palace at home. But who could resist the miniature of him on the cover of this CD, forging ahead with his lance poised ready, castles and lions on the quartering of his shield proclaiming him king of Castile and León, as does the caparison of his charger? Pope Alexander IV was one of those barring his way, notably when he vainly spent a fortune trying to become Holy Roman Emperor. For his kingdom he provided shrewd laws and established Spain as a notable cultural centre, favourable equally to Jews, Christians and Moslems.

The first eleven tracks are devoted to tunes from the Cantigas di Santa Maria, planned by Alfonso as four hundred tributes to the Virgin in poetry, music and miniature painting. Whatever the situation, Jew hoarding, doctor amputating, criminal hanged, widow fornicating with a son and disposing of the child down the loo, nun eloping with her seducing knight, the Virgin will intervene in the nick of time. Alfonso provided a chair of music at the University of Salamanca; miniatures show him seated amid scribes and players of various instruments, certainly supervising the compilation. Whether he composed some tunes or wrote texts is an open question.

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Copyright © 25 May 2005 Robert Anderson, London UK


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