Alfonso the Wise,
and by Victoria -
'... clear and expressive ...'
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.
Copyright © 25 May 2005
Robert Anderson, London UK