Oy comamos y bebamos (“Eat, drink, and be merry”), the first of these three pieces from the Spanish Renaissance, is a joyful, extroverted drinking song in ternary rhythm (3/4); the tempo is allegro. The homophonic texture highlights the soprano and bass, which can be doubled by instruments such as the flageolet (small flute), strings and percussion. There are five refrains of three verses each (the last verse always has the same words) and four coplas of four verses each. Oy comamos is one of Juan del Encina’s best-known villancicos, the basic form of which consists of an opening refrain (estribillo) followed by one or more verses (coplas), which are themselves divided into two parts.
Triste España sin ventura (“Sad Spain, without joy”) is a lament which expresses the deep sadness and the insecurity that engulfed Spain in 1497 upon the death of the nineteen-year-old Crown Prince Juan, beloved son of the Catholic Monarchs. The Prince had married Margaret of Austria that same year, and del Encina had composed Triunfo de Amor (“Triumph of Love”) for their wedding.
The third piece, Teresica Hermana (“Sister Teresa”) is also a villancico, a term that comes from villanus, that is, a song popular with villagers, who were referred to as villanos. The secular subject of this piece describes the life of the young Teresa and her amorous adventures; this reflects the move from medieval mysticism to the humanistic vitality of the Renaissance. Composer Mateo Flecha, El Viejo (the Elder) was born in Prades in 1481 and died in Poblet in 1553. A Catalan composer of the Spanish Renaissance, Flecha worked as Maestro de Capilla in the cathedrals of Lerida, Guadalajara, Valencia, and Sigüenza. He is also well known for his villancicos and works called ensaladas (eleven in all, of which six survive complete).
Niño Dios de amor herido (“Child Jesus of wounded love”) belongs to the edition of Canciones y Villanescas of Francisco Guerrero, published in Venice in 1589 and dedicated to Cardinal Rodrigo de Castro. Guerrero made this selection of early works at the age of 62, before embarking on his trip to the Holy Land. The work is a type of Spiritual Villanescas—which have an AABCC structure—and were written for Christmas and Easter festivities featuring the extensive use of counterpoint. The texts of the Villanescas are usually a combination of metaphors that allude to human life, but refer to the holy people. In this particular Villanesca, baby Jesus is compared to a youngster who suffers from love.
translated by Joshua Habermann