Recording the “Seis libros del Delphín” has been a long-held wish of the Argentine guitarist Pablo Márquez, who came to Europe almost twenty years ago to study renaissance repertoire and to delve into contemporary treatises on performance practice. “Troughout my artistic development, Luys de Narváez has remained a passion of mine, never failing to move me with the mystical nature of his music and the crystal clarity of his discourse”, he writes in his performer’s note to the present album which marks his debut on ECM New Series.
Today Márquez is one of the most accomplished and versatile virtuosi of his instrument, an outstanding interpreter of contemporary music who collaborates regularly with groups such as the Ensemble Intercontemporain, and is equally at home in the Argentine traditional music he has studied in depth with his mentor and fellow countryman Dino Saluzzi. It was through Dino that ECM producer Manfred Eicher met Márquez and offered him the opportunity to present his selection of 17 out of the more than forty pieces included in the “Seys libros”.
Like many historically informed performers today, Márquez has long learned that “authentic” instruments don’t provide a guarantee for insightful and adequate interpretations. Just the contrary: “My main goal with this album is to show that you can play this renaissance music convincingly even if you don’t use the original vihuela. There is a considerable performance history, especially with some of the more popular pieces out of this compendium such as the ‘Mille Regretz’, but most often the tempi have been much too slow, so that the ornamentation tended to become too heavy and demonstrative and couldn’t be discerned from the pure vocal line any more. That’s why it is so important to understand the grammar of these compositions, a grammar which reveals many parallels with contemporary vocal polyphony.”
Luys de Narváez lived in the age of Josquin and Nicolas Gombert, whose music he arranged for the vihuela. Born in Granada in about 1500, he served the Commander de León (the dedicatee of the “Seys Libros”) as a musician before transferring to the service of the future king Philip II with whom he travelled extensively between Flanders and Italy. As an outstanding improviser on the vihuela – a predecessor of the modern guitar – he was famed for his extemporization of complicated polyphonic structures in a style often reminiscent of Josquin Desprez. In his “Seys Libros”, his most important work which was first published in Valladolid in 1538 and subsequently widely reprinted in Europe, Narváez assembles fantasias, pieces based on vocal settings by contemporary composers, music for voice and vihuela and, historically most important, two groups of “Diferencias” which are the first printed sets of variations in European music.
Although Pablo Márquez’ carefully composed programme covers less than half of the pieces contained in the “Seys Libros”, his selection offers a representative overview of the compendium as a whole. “It was most important to me to include all the highly-accomplished fantasias in the eight different modes from the first book. They have never been a central component of the guitarist’s repertoire, that’s why I wanted to show how rewarding they can be if you find the right style even on the modern instrument. The main challenge for the modern interpreter with this music is creating the natural flow and a clear design of the polyphony, allowing the listener to follow all the parts. Obviously, another important aspect is the ornamentation. You have to add things, as any graphic symbol meant extra work and extra expenses when these extremely costly tablatures were prepared. There is an aspect of freedom and improvisation even in this carefully notated music.”
Pablo Márquez was born in the northwest of Argentina in 1967 and studied guitar with Jorge Martinez Zaráte and Eduardo Fernández before training in Early Music with Javier Hinojosa in Europe. After early successes in several important music competitions (Radio France, Villa-Lobos in Brazil, Geneva and Munich), Márquez embarked on a free-lance career that led to encounters with several remarkable musicians. Important influences on his subsequent artistic formation were the teachings of Hungarian pianist György Sebök and the contact with Dino Saluzzi whom Márquez approached to rediscover his own roots in Argentine music. “What I learned from Dino was much more than the musical language of my native country; it was a sense of total artistic integrity and a consciousness that there is nothing mechanical in music as every note has its meaning and purpose.” Among Márquez’ musical partners are bandoneonist Dino Saluzzi and his family group, cellist Anja Lechner, with whom he’s been playing duos since 2005, the Rosamunde Quartett and the Ensemble Alma Viva which champions new works from South America. His continuous commitment to contemporary music has led to several first performances and to close collaborations with composers such as Luciano Berio, György Kurtág and Maurizio Kagel. Pablo Márquez is currently teaching guitar at the Basle Musik-Akademie and lives in Strasbourg.
CD package includes 28-page booklet with texts by Pablo Márquez and Thierry Rougier in English, French and Spanish