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The Portuguese Renaissance

This week, we’ll explore some of the finest composers of the Portuguese Renaissance. Plus, we’ll review from a recent recording by fortepianist Ira Braus.

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The Portuguese Renaissance produced a wealth of beautiful and fascinating music, though it is not heard very much today.  Yet we know there were many Portuguese composers whose works traveled from the Iberian Peninsula and from the New World, such as Manuel Cardoso, Gaspar Fernandes and Pedro de Escobar.

Gaspar Fernandes is recognized as a composer of exceptional ability.  He spent most of his working life in the New World as chapel master of the Cathedral in Puebla, Mexico.  One fortunate result of his long tenure is the amount of music he composed, especially when it came to the secular variety; he produced the largest surviving 17th-century collection found today in the New World.

Manuel Cardoso was a gifted composer who spent most of his life working in Portugal under the reign of King João IV.  His sacred works have been recorded by The Sixteen, directed by Harry Christophers, on the 1994 release from Collins Classics, Cardoso and Lobo, and by Gerard Lesne, alto, with Circa 1500 (Nancy Hadden, dir.) on the 1992 recording, O Lusitano: Portuguese vilancetes, cantigas, and romances.

While we have a significant amount of music by known composers, there is also a wealth of anonymous compositions.  One collection in particular is found today in Paris at the Bibliotèque des Beaux-Arts.  Entitled Chansonnier Masson 56, it contains some of the most beautiful and varied Portuguese music.

Selections from this collection are found on the 1994 recording by the Huelgas Ensemble, directed by Paul Van Nevel, Canções, Vilancicos e Motetes Portugueses.

Our new release of the week features the late piano music of Johannes Brahms.  A new recording on the Centaur label, Ira Braus performs on an 1871 J.B. Streicher piano.

Here’s a video Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI performing a 15th-century folia:


The music in this episode was performed by Camerata Renacentista de Caracas, Huelgas Ensemble, The Sixteen, and Circa 1500.

Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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