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  • La música en el siglo XVIIed. by Álvaro Torrente
  • Paul R. Laird
La música en el siglo XVII. Edited by Álvaro Torrente. ( Historia de la música en España e Hispanoamérica, vol. 3.) Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2016. [ 786 p. ISBN 9788437507545 (cloth), price varies.] Musical examples, bibliographies, index.

Large, multi-volume series on the music history of one country appear rarely and, when accomplished with care, they serve as a measure of the breadth and quality of current musicological scholarship on that topic. The history of music in Spain and its empire has not been subject of as many studies as one finds on music in Germany, France, England, or Italy; one reason for this was the slow development of musicology in Spain and its former colonies. The establishment of doctoral programs in musicology in Spain has occurred mostly since the 1980s. The Spanish musicologists who began the field in the decades following World War II—largely clerics—were the primary authors of the most recent multivolume national music history, Historia de la música española, published in Madrid by Alianza Editorial in the 1970s and 1980s and edited by Pablo López de Osaba. The volume on the seventeenth century (1983) was by José López-Calo, a Jesuit scholar who earned his doctorate in Rome and published prodigiously during his career. His volume on Siglo XVIIin López de Osaba's series reflected its time, with good coverage of religious polyphony (mostly Latin works) and organ music, far less coverage of the fascinating villancicos, and inadequate coverage of theater music and other secular genres. Since that book appeared, there has been extensive research on Spanish music of the seventeenth century, helping to make this impressive volume by Álvaro Torrente and five other scholars possible. Indeed, for anyone with interest in the period who reads Spanish, this volume is a basic source. With ninety-five music examples and sixty illustrations, it was produced with an eye towards encouraging a reader's understanding. The bibliographies that follow each chapter, some of them annotated, are extensive and include material in several languages.

Torrente, one of the leading Spanish musicologists and professor at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, edited the book and wrote four chapters. He earned his doctorate at Cambridge University in 1997 and is active in the international musicological scene. In his introductory essay, "Al lector," Torrente admits that the volume cannot be exhaustive because of the size of the Spanish Empire and the frenetic level of musical activity in the seventeenth century. He notes that the book's main purpose is to "try to clarify some of the fundamental keys of music" ("tratar de clarificar algunas de las claves fundamentales de la música," p. 26) and admits that models for the volume were Lorenzo Bianconi's excellent El siglo XVII, vol. 5 in the series [End Page 644] Historia de la Música(Madrid: Turner, 1986) and The Cambridge History of Seventeenth-Century Musicby Tim Carter and John Butt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Torrente's first chapter, "Música de plata en un siglo de oro" ("Music of Silver in an Age of Gold"), derives its title from the fact that silver brought from its American colonies largely funded Spain's economy. Yet during this "golden age," which featured creators such as Diego Velázquez and Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, music was less highly regarded than the arts of painting and literature. Torrente identifies the book's main tasks: to consider great works that make for a canon (which some would see as an antiquated goal, but probably still important for lesser-known repertories), provide biographical material on principal composers, analyze styles and main genres, and describe sociological factors related to musical production, consumption, and function. He states that the tome's geographical reach is mostly limited to Spain and Spanish America, despite the Empire's presence elsewhere. Major topics about which Torrente provides necessary background information include institutions, music printing, networks of composers, and Baroque musical style in the Spanish Empire.

Religious music in the Spanish Empire during the seventeenth century is an...


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