M&A CD Reviews


  • Antologia del cant valenciŕ d'estil (1915-1996) 
    Fonoteca de Materials, vols. 15-16. Edited by Conselleria de Cultura, Educació i Cičncia of the autonomous Government of Valencia. 702-703 CD. Valčncia 1997.
  • Algemesí. Danses de la processó. 
    Fonoteca de Materials, vol. 8. Edited by Conselleria de Cultura, Educació i Cičncia of the autonomous Government of Valencia. 792 CD. Valčncia 1999. 
The Antologia del cant valenciŕ d'estil (1915-1996) is without any doubt one of the best volumes edited within the collection Fonoteca de Materials of Valencian music, directed by Vicent Torrent. This antologia includes two CDs which together have 59 different pieces and last a combined total of 147'.  The Valencian cant d'estil is an interesting vocal genre which can be found in the central part of the region of Valencia from at least the mid-nineteenth century and which is still very alive today.

This musical genre is transmitted orally and performed by semiprofessionals, men and women. The songs are especially ornamented and melismatic and they are performed in a particular virtuoso vocal style. The melodies are built in the E-mode and developed in a harmonic frame which alternates tonic and dominant chords. The cant d'estil is performed in a ternary rhythm with a characteristic feature in the fact that the vocal part shows a certain rhythmic freedom in relation to the instrumental accompaniment. The improvisation plays an important role in this genre. The instruments used in the cant d'estil can be quite varied, but very often, as the records of the Antologia show, the singers are accompanied by brass band and plucking stringed instruments. A very usual combination for today is clarinet, trumpet, trombone, one or two guitars and a guitarró, a widely used instrument in Valencia smaller than the guitar and with only five strings. 

In the two CDs of the collection are represented five different generations of singers who perform the distinct modalities of the cant d'estil: L'ú, L'ú i dos, L'ú i dotze and Albaes

L'ú, performed by Jacinta Bartolomé, recorded in 1929
L'ú i dos, performed by Pilareta, recorded in 1990
L'ú i dotze, performed by Paquito el Tremendo, recorded in 1973
Albaes, performed by Anatoli Tormos and Pepico Marza

The first volume contains 29 recordings recovered from old slate records of 78 rpm which were released by the Company Emi-Odeón between 1915 and 1947. The sound quality is obviously limited by this circumstance, but this fact does not diminish the interest of the recording: 

L'ú, performed by Sabatereta and Xiquet de Pdralba, recorded in 1921

The second CD shows 30 pieces performed by 29 different singers which were recorded mostly in live performances (23 pieces) and also in studio (7 pieces), like the following L'ú

L'ú, performed by Xiquet de Mislata, recorded in 1986

In this manner, the two CDs together give an interesting diachronic view of the cant d'estil and also show some differences in the performance, according to whether the songs are thought to be edited in commercial records - such as the examples contained in the first CD - or simply performed live in their natural context.

The CDs are accompaniend by an extensive booklet with historical pictures. It also includes a useful "Musicological Analysis" of the cant d'estil elaborated by Jordi Reig (in Catalan, Spanish and English) as well two additional studies in Catalan with the titles "The cant valenciŕ d'estil: Notes for a conceptual and historical study" (Carles Pitarch) and "The cant d'estil today" (Josep Antoni Collado). The interested reader can also consult the article of Carles Pitarch which deals with this topic as well, En torno al "Cant valenciŕ d'estil": Investigaciones y proyectos, published in Transiberia 1, 1997.

Algemesí. Danses de la processó is a reedition of an LP of the same title recorded in 1987 by Vicent Torrent and Josemi Sánchez. It contains the dance music which is played on the occasion of the "Festes de la Mare de Déu de la Salut", the main festivity of the village of Algemesí near the Mediterranean Coast, in the Spanish region of Valencia. The origins of this festivity can be traced back to the 13th century, but its main characteristics gained form throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

The CD contains a collection of 34 musical pieces and lasts 35:15.

The majority of these pieces (from numbers 1 to 27) are performed on the dolçaina (a folk instrument of the oboe family) and the drum. It is, in fact, a very habitual instrumental combination in the Iberian peninsula. These pieces have a very simple melodic design and are performed to accompany different dances which are grouped under the names of Moixeranga (three different pieces), Bastonets (18 pieces), La Carxofa, Els Arquets and Els Pastorets (4 pieces). 

La Moixeranga: El florete
Bastonets: La de planxa
Els Pastorets

The items numbered 28 to 32 are boleros which are performed during the procession of the festivity. The music is played, in this case, by an amateur brass band of the same village and is also accompanied by the sound of castagnettes which in the festivity are played by dancers. 

Bolero Valčncia

The two last pieces (33-34) correspond to Els Tornejants, a warlike dance which is accompanied only by drum. 

Els Tornejants: El paje

The recordings are made in a studio. While this allows for a better sound quality than if the pieces had been recorded directly during the festival, on the other hand, the characteristic sound elements which accompany the performance of these musics during the celebration are missing. I'm referring here not only to the always interesting soundscape of every festival but also to the distinctive sound of the different stickdances (Bastonets), produced by the dancers themselves by striking the sticks and little metal shields which they wear. 

The CD is accompanied by a booklet in Catalan, Spanish and English, which describes the different dances and also shows some interesting historical photographical examples. By contrast, references in the text to the musical characteristics of the pieces are very scarce. 

Josep Martí
Conseil Superior d'Investigations Scientifiques - Barcelona

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(updated 1 Sept 2000)