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Say Who? Tomàs Milans I Godayol

A 2012 Musièpoca recording of religious music of Tomàs Milans i Godayol, performed by the ensemble La Xantria, directed by Pere Lluis Biosca.

Cathedral in Girona, view from Montjuïc

Photo: wikipedia

The Cathedral in Girona where Milans remained until his retirement in 1735.

Composer Tomàs Milans I Godayol, as far as we can tell, isn’t even in Oxford Music Dictionary Online so that brands him “Very Obscure Indeed” in our estimation!

La Xantria

A 2012 Musièpoca recording of religious music of Tomàs Milans i Godayol, is performed by the ensemble La Xantria, directed by Pere Lluis Biosca. The Catalan word spelled x-a-n-t-r-e, (pronounced something like shon-te), used to refer to the singers in the chapel, though today it indicates the clergyman who directs the chant of the cathedral choir. Putting aside its spelling, hearing the word xantre might bring to mind the French word for singer (chanteur) and with good reason!


Catalonia is  close to France geographically in the northeastern part of what is now Spain. It all seems relatively simple until you consider that Catalonia has the official status of a nationality. It has a complicated history but suffice it to say that during our composer’s lifetime, which was the late 17th- and early 18th-centuries, Catalonia lost its autonomy in the War of the Spanish Succession. Regardless, it is still, to many of its citizens, a completely separate entity from Spain.

Tomàs Milans I Godayol

Milans’ father sent him to study in Barcelona, and he became a choirboy at two cathedrals and one of the most prestigious chapels there. The War of the Spanish Succession caused significant upheaval in that chapel, and Milans was transferred to the cathedral in Girona, where he remained until his retirement in 1735, and where a certain amount of his music still resides.

Barcelona was an important center for music, and among the many things that wars do, they advance the migration of cultures. The war introduced some of the most modern musical influences of the time, including Johann Joseph Fux and Antonio Caldara. Listeners who are familiar with some of their works may be intrigued to compare them with what they hear on this CD.

Tr.2, Salve Regina; Tr. 4, Magnificat; Tr. 10, Hala, zagalas
La Xantria — Tomàs Milans I Godayol: Musica religiosa (Musiepoca, 2012)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Tr.2, Salve Regina; Tr. 4, Magnificat; Tr. 10, Hala, zagalas
La Xantria — Tomàs Milans I Godayol: Musica religiosa (Musiepoca, 2012)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Wendy Gillespie

Wendy Gillespie is Professor of Music, teaching early bowed strings and performance studies, at the Early Music Institute of the Jacobs School of Music, Bloomington, IN and President of the VdGSA. As a viola da gamba player, she has made more than 80 CDs and performed on five continents.

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  • Carlos B

    Dear Wendy, I am quite surprised about the political comments in this podcast. Not only that but I challenge you to show us where it says that Cataluña was independent until 1714. Cataluña was part of King Fernando “El Católico” kingdom (Aragón) and with Queen Juana and her son, Carlos I (Charles V) both Castilla and Cataluña merged in España. But, tell me, what has this to see with this fantastic music? Why you are surprised they sing in Spanish? What a pity…

  • Beth Richard

    During the Magnificat, Janelle indicated she thought she heard a wire strung harp. As a wire strung harper, myself, I found this surprising. Based on the attack I’m hearing as the stings are struck, I believe fingernail technique was heard in the piece (which is common in wire strung harp technique), but the tone colour and sustain of the instrument suggested more the Spanish Arpa Doppia style harp than a wire harp. Was wire mentioned in the liner notes?

    Love your show! Thank you!

  • Harmonia Early Music

    Dear Beth-
    Looking through the liner note, I believe the only reference is to “arpa.” I’m afraid harp isn’t my area of expertise, but I’m always grateful to learn! Thanks for leaving your comment. By the way, here’s a youtube link for the documentary clip that accompanied the CD. You can catch a glimpse of the harp near the beginning of it.

  • Harmonia Early Music

    Dear Carlos,

    Many thanks for your message, it is great to know that someone out there actually hears what we say! Many apologies for any inaccuracies about Catalonian history. As you obviously are aware, it is very complicated and heaven knows I do not pretend to be an expert. Your message has emphasized to me (once again – I do need regular reminding, I’m afraid) that I should speak with care. Here’s hoping this does not put you off our podcast, or early music, or music in general, though I do not think there is much danger there -


  • Carlos B

    Dear Wendy,

    No worries! I love this podcast. Who says that music is not related to its environment, to real life? :-) All is part of our common passion, so just wanted to share my opinion. Best. Carlos

  • Beth Richard

    Yes! 0:22-0:28 into that video is the place where we see the harpist on the left of the screen – it’s a Spanish Arpa Doppia. And 0:28-0:32 the camera pans along behind the harpist looking through the strings – even rarer, it’s a Cross Strung harp! There are some great shots from 0:50-0:55 and 1:38-1:42 showing the fingernail plucking technique that gives the harp that sound that was identified as wire.

    Great Stuff! Thanks!

  • Harmonia Early Music

    Very cool! Thanks, Beth!

    Quoting Disqus :

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