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  • Los libros de polifonía de la Catedral de México. Estúdio y catálogo crítico by Javier Marín López
  • Robert L. Kendrick
Los libros de polifonía de la Catedral de México. Estúdio y catálogo crítico. By Javier Marín López. (Publicaciones de la Sociedad Española de Musicología, sección B: Catálogos y documentación, 14–15.) Jaén: Universidad de Jaén, 2012. 2 vols. [xxiv, 1279 p. ISBN 9788484396321. €70.] Music examples, illustrations, bibliography, index.

Many sources for the sacred music of New Spain—colonial Mexico/Guatemala—have been generally known ever since the work of Robert Stevenson and Steven [End Page 98] Barwick, now several generations ago. More recently, a group of largely (but not entirely) Mexican scholars began the online MUSICAT project (, accessed 15 March 2013) at the Universidad Autónoma Nacional de México, which will provide digital images of the most important polyphonic sources at the cathedrals of Mexico City, Puebla, and Guadalajara; the results to date from this project have been very helpful to scholars. The surviving polyphonic repertory of Mexico City, ranging from the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries, figures in the eight choirbooks still kept in the cathedral.

These codices are known to those who have worked in the cathedral archives, or from the microfilms made of this collection. They are the starting point—but by no means the limit—of Marín López’s extensive and very detailed catalog, which includes and expands upon his doctoral dissertation (Universidad de Granada, 2007). The present two-volume work updates his earlier study in several important ways, both in terms of the catalog’s contents and the important 153-page introduction that the author provides to the listings. In addition to the books in the cathedral archive, Marín has gathered and inventoried all the other surviving codices that can be traced to the cathedral (the book does not include the papeles sueltos, i.e. the independent scores and parts, of somewhat later repertory). This includes some twelve now in the Museo Nacional del Virreinato in Tepotzotlán, and one in Madrid’s Biblioteca Nacional.

As is well known, some of this music dates back to the late sixteenth-century cathedral repertory (including liturgical pieces by Hernando Franco), while the rest was composed over the following century. Much of the copying was done by eighteenth-century scribes, who seem to have faithfully transmitted a long span of the institution’s liturgical items, as a kind of musical institutional memory or heritage.

Although the introductory material is quite important, the actual cataloging is also extremely thorough and helpful to future researchers. For each book, Marín provides a general bibliographic description (the first part of which is based on the standard format of Herbert Kellman and Charles Hamm’s Census-Catalog of Renaissance Music Manuscripts [Neuhausen-Stuttgart: Hänssler, 1982–88]), plus water-marks, illuminations, copyists, dating, presence in the eighteenth-century cathedral inventories of music, and secondary literature/call numbers. Over time, there have been various call numbers for the books in the cathedral archives, and Marín gives what will henceforth be the standard numeration.

The level of cataloging of each piece is quite high, with mensural incipits for all voices, concordances, textual/liturgical sources, pre-existing chant if present, and commentaries on the concordances or, in the case of alternatim items, the text set. (There is also a discography for those works that have appeared on CD.) Perhaps to make things easier on readers who do not have access to early Spanish breviaries or antiphoners, Marín gives modern chant-book assignments (e.g. the Liber usualis) for texts and melodies, the only slightly anachronistic note in the catalog. Far more importantly, he seems to have looked at the music for every single piece in the catalog, and this has two helpful results: first, the ascription of pieces which are anonymous in the Mexico City sources (e.g., the hymns by Francisco Guerrero and others to be found in the cathedral’s book 4), and second, the actual...


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