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21.6.06

Don Quixote and Music, Part 2

Available at Amazon:
available at Amazon
Don Quixote, new translation by Edith Grossman (released on October 21, 2003)


Don Quixote (online version, English translation)

Don Quijote (online version, Spanish original)

Ruta de Don Quijote (pilgrimage route following Don Quixote around Spain)

available at Amazon
Don Quijote de La Mancha: Romances y Músicas, Montserrat Figueras, Hespèrion XXI, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Jordi Savall (released on January 10, 2006)
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

In 2005, Miguel de Cervantes's superlative novel Don Quixote was 400 years old. Later the same year, I took note (Jordi Savall and Cervantes, December 8, 2005) of a recording project undertaken by Jordi Savall with his performing groups, Hespèrion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya, to recreate the "soundtrack" of Don Quixote. Every time that Cervantes mentions music being performed, which is quite often, Savall and friends tried to find the actual piece referenced by Cervantes or, when that was not possible, to find something from the period that was appropriate for what is described in the novel. Now that a copy of that 2-CD set has come into my hands, I am rereading Don Quixote and examining the sounds of the recording in conjunction with that reading. Readers are invited to join the Ionarts Book Club and make comments based on their own reading.

Don Quixote is a country gentleman, and the landscape that he sets out across in the next section (Part 2, First sallies) is agrarian and rustic. The second reading is intoned over a beautiful setting of a popular tune, Guardame las Vacas (Watch my cows, four diferencias by Luys de Narváez), played on vihuela. It's an example of the musical fabric of the novel that this recording supplies, in this case, not something even specifically mentioned by Cervantes. It is a hot July day, and the livestock are in the broad fields:
Donning all his armor, mounting Rocinante, adjusting his ill-contrived helmet, bracing his shield on his arm, and taking up his lance, he sallied forth by the back gate of his stable yard into the open countryside. It was with great contentment and joy that he saw how easily he had made a beginning toward the fulfillment of his desire. (Part I, Chapter 2)
We are soon introduced to the habit of el ingenioso hidalgo to quote or paraphrase from his extensive reading of chivalric romances. Often, Quixote cites a few lines of a ballad, and in this chapter, he does so first to the innkeeper, saying, "Arms are my only ornament, / My only rest the fight." These are lines from the words of the Moor in the Ballad of Moriana: With a start the Moor awoke, an anonymous text which Savall has provided in the setting by Luys Milán. The innkeeper, who Cervantes tells us has seen something of the world, recognizes the text and answers with the next two lines, changing the text so that he addresses Don Quixote, "Your bed will be the solid rock, / Your sleep, to watch all night."

The next reading on the CD relates Don Quixote's recitation of the Ancient Ballad of Lancelot (Nunca fuera caballero de damas tan bien servido), as he speaks to the two prostitutes at the gate of the inn (mentioned in the first part of this series):
Original Text:

For never was there any knight
so served by damsel or dame,
as brave Sir Lancelot du Lac,
when he from Brittany came:
damsels ministered to him;
His horse was tended by dames.
Don Quixote:

Never was knight
so honored by ladies
as Don Quixote
when he rode forth from his town:
damsels ministered unto him;
and princesses took charge of his steed.
Savall gives us a beautiful arrangment of this Sephardic ballad, with his wife, Montserrat Figueras, and daughter singing. The way that this CD vividly recreates the sonic life of Don Quixote is extraordinary.

To be continued.

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