Milán & Narváez: Spanish Renaissance Music
Label: BRILLIANT CLASSICS
Format: COMPACT DISC
In 2020, Giuseppe Chiaramonte starred in a SKY TV documentary about the solo-guitar fantasias of the 19th-century Hungarian composer Johann Kaspar Mertz. These pieces formed the subject of his debut in Brilliant Classics (95722), for an album which won acclaim in the specialist-guitar press for the warmth of Chiaramonte’s sound, the palette of his tonal colors and his adventurousness in reviving the music of a composer deservedly once known as the ‘Liszt of the guitar’. Mertz’s 16th-century equivalent was undoubtedly Luys Milán (1500-1560), who referred to himself without false modesty as ‘El Maestro’ and a second Orpheus. Published under his name in 1536, El maestro is the first printed collection of music for the vihuela; the earliest Spanish collection of solo instrumental music and accompanied songs; and the first printed example of guitar tablature in Spain. The six pavans in Milán’s collection resemble the dances of the same name from further north in Europe, though less afflicted by melancholy. They illuminate in turn the more intricate polyphony of the fantasias and tientos composed by a shorter-lived contemporary, Luys de Narváez, who died in 1550, barely into his mid-20s. Thus deprived of further experience, Narváez was still writing in a more restrained idiom than Milán, though no less affecting in its way. It was largely thanks to these two composers that the vihuela attained such popularity in 16th-century Spain, and modern audiences may appreciate the poetry of their music once more thanks to the inspired advocacy of Giuseppe Chiaramonte, who introduces the life and work of both composers in a detailed booklet essay accompanying the album.