Milán & Narváez: Spanish Renaissance Music / Chiaramonte

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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.


This CD concentrates...on music for the vihuela and the good news is that, while the music is played on the modern guitar (common, though not universal, practice today), it is played with real insight and sympathy. The programme is made up of pieces by two major composers for (and players of) the vihuela. Indeed, the contents are taken from the first two books of music for the vihuela to be printed in Spain: Milán’s Libro de música de vilhuela de mano intitulado El Maestro, printed in Valencia in 1536 and Narváez’s Los seys libros de Délphin de música de cifras para tañer vihuela, published in Valladolid in 1538.

Part of the appeal of this new CD is that we are able to hear a substantial number of pieces by both composers (18 by Milán and 9 by Narváez), enough to get a fuller idea of each composer and, perhaps to make a preliminary comparison of the two.

[Chiaramonte] is clearly a guitarist with the ability to produce fine (in some ways revelatory) performances of music well beyond the usual guitar repertoire, with intelligence, perception and skill – which is not to say that he cannot play the instrument’s ‘mainstream’ repertoire to a very high standard too. I look forward to hearing more of his work.

--MusicWeb International (Glyn Pursglove)

Product Description:

  • Release Date: June 24, 2022

  • Catalog Number: BRI96217

  • UPC: 5028421962177

  • Label: Brilliant Classics

  • Number of Discs: 1