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  • The Royal Chapel in the Time of the Habsburgs: Music and Court Ceremony in Early Modern Europe
  • Alexander J. Fisher
The Royal Chapel in the Time of the Habsburgs: Music and Court Ceremony in Early Modern Europe. Edited by Juan José Carreras and Bernardo García. (Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music.) Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2005. [viii, 402 p. ISBN 1-84383-139-2. $190.] Music examples, illustrations, bibliography, index.

Spanish music, particularly that of the siglo d'oro, is finally beginning to receive serious attention by an international community of scholars and performers. For non-Spanish musicologists, the tenth Baroque Biennial Conference at the Universidad de la Rioja in summer 2002 was a critical opportunity for the exchange of ideas and symbolized the deepening integration of scholarship on Iberian music with broader musicological concerns. The present volume, originally published as La capilla real de los Austrias (Madrid: Fundacíon Carlos de Amberes, 2001) and now translated into English by Yolanda Acker and edited by Tess Knighton, is another crucial step in this direction, making a body of significant essays accessible to a broader audience. For readers more accustomed to scholarship on the Austrian branch of the Habsburgs the title may be misleading at first glance, but the crucial distinction of "royal chapel" versus "imperial chapel" makes plain the Spanish focus. Collected and edited by Juan José Carreras and Bernardo García, these essays now comprise the third installment of Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Music, and form a welcome companion to another collection of essays in the same series, Church Music of Fifteenth-Century Spain, edited by Kenneth Kreitner (Rochester, NY: Boydell Press, 2004).

The present volume's methodological focus on the "chapel" as a comprehensive institution of worship and ceremony ensures its relevance well beyond the immediate interests of musicology or Spanish studies. As Andrew Wathey writes in his essay on the English royal chapel, a contextual view of chapels reminds us that while we may mine archival sources for evidence of composers' biographies or repertorial chronology, due attention to institutional structures, material perspectives (for example, the spatial geography of chapels), and politics may offer a richer outlook (pp. 25–27). Chapels [End Page 345] shaped the behavior of those attending them through force of tradition and decorum; they represented the virtue of the monarch; and they could serve, at times, as platforms for political opposition (p. 246). While chapelmasters are naturally of great interest from a musical standpoint, it is worth remembering that the court preacher was often a far more pivotal figure. Francis Cerdán insists that preachers, in their role as transmitters and interpreters of the divine Word, could play powerful roles in the political intrigues of the court; their sermons, furthermore, not only exalted royalty but also could mediate between the concerns of the ruling class and those of the masses (pp. 224–28).

Placing chapels in a diachronic context reveals a fundamental, if uneven, transition from the itinerant chapel of the late Middle Ages to the fully institutional chapel of the early modern era. The court of Burgundy was largely responsible for the rise of a chapel featuring musicians in relatively stable roles in the fifteenth century; yet chapels were inherently volatile organizations, even into the early modern era (pp. 14–16). Herbert Seifert's essay illustrates the changing fortunes of the Austrian imperial chapel—note especially the radical reorganization and Italianization of the chapel under emperor Ferdinand II in 1619 (pp. 43–44)—while the pay records studied by Juan A. Sánchez Belén show that the Spanish royal chapel, the target of numerous reform measures in the late seventeenth century, was not on a stable financial footing until the reign of Philip V (Bourbon, 1700–1746; pp. 300– 27). Nevertheless, the Burgundian example of a large and relatively well-endowed body of musicians exerted great influence throughout the period, particularly those rulers most immediately under the Burgundian spell like Charles V (1526–1566) and Philip II (1566–1598).

On the whole, The Royal Chapel in the Time of the Habsburgs successfully navigates between the contributions of foreign and native cultures, dividing neatly into sections on "European models...


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