ANDALUSIAN MUSIC AND THE CANTIGAS DE SANTA MARIA
Ferreira, Manuel Pedro
Cobras e Son: Papers on the Text, Music and Manuscripts of the ‘Cantigas de Santa Maria’
Edited by Stephen Parkinson (Oxford, 2000)
When the question of the relationship between the Cantigas de Santa Maria and Medieval Hispano-arabic music is raised, the shadow of Julián Ribera’s partial musical edition of the Cantigas , published in 1922, cannot be avoided. In Ribera’s edition, the Alfonsine songs are presented as derivatives of classical Arab music, and transcribed according to what Ribera thought was typically Arab; as a consequence, their original notation was often disregarded. Ribera’s approach came under heavy criticism from professional musicologists, amongst them Higinio Anglés, who in his monumental work of 1943-58 buried &endash; seemingly for good &endash; the scholarly pretensions to read Arab music into the Cantigas.
In the past half-century (1943-1993), the pro-Arab stance has therefore been confined to the performing domain as a kind of colouristic exoticism, of doubtful historical seriousness, which is sometimes made vaguely respectable through mention of the Islamic instruments depicted in one of the manuscript sources of the Cantigas. This tendency to value instrumental colour can be explained not only on the basis of Ribera’s claim that the repertory has an “orchestral” character, but also in relation to the history of the modern “early music” movement; in actual practice, instrumental colour has been served as a kind of dressing added to Anglés’s transcriptions, which have been generally accepted by the performers.