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27.7.06

Don Quixote and Music, Part 6

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)
In honor of the 400th anniversary of Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote and the release of an exceptional Cervantes recording by Jordi Savall, the Ionarts Book Club is reading the novel. Readers are welcome to make comments based on their own reading.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

When Don Quixote and Sancho enter El Toboso, on an ill-destined search for Dulcinea, they cross the path of a peasant going to his field early in the morning. He is singing the Romance de Guarinos, which Cervantes cites by its opening line ("Mala la vistes, franceses, en esa de Roncesvalles"). The point of both ballads, which Sancho seems to miss, is that they are about doomed military campaigns. Roncesvalles (Roncesvaux) is the name of a pass in the Basque country, known as Orreaga in Basque, where Charlemagne suffered a rare defeat. As he retreated from his Spanish campaign, he left a rear guard at this pass, men who were all killed by the Saracens. In this ballad, one of Charlemagne's officers, Guarinos, is captured in this battle and held prisoner by the Moors. In another famous account, the Chanson de Roland (in English translation), the great knight Roland dies at Roncesvaux, sounding the great horn given to him by Charlemagne too late for the Frankish king to offer his men any help.

The knight perceives hearing the ballad as a bad omen, but Sancho replies that Roncesvalles has nothing more to do with their present situation than another ballad, the Romance del Moro Calaynos. It shows the same devastation but from the other side: in it a Moor named Calaynos is charged by the lady he adores to go to Paris and bring back the heads of the three mightiest Frankish warriors. Although the ballad ends only with his entrance into Paris, we have to assume that he is killed.

Savall's recording makes no mention of several musical incidents in Don Quixote in the next long section of the book (it skips to Chapter 23). In Chapter 10, Sancho himself quotes from another ballad ("A messenger you are, my friend, no blame belongs to you"), and in the episode of the Knight of the Mirrors (Chapter 12), the young bachelor Sansón Carrasco (disguised as a wandering knight as part of a plan to force Don Quixote to return home) sings a sonnet to his lady. The latter is a silly poem, written by Cervantes supposedly in imitation of the worst poetry of his age, and even though it is sung in the book, I can understand the decision to leave it out. There is much verse quoted and other literary references in the episode of the Knight of the Green-Colored Greatcoat, who turns out to be Don Diego de Miranda (a nobleman who hosts Don Quixote and Sancho in his house for several days, where they converse with his overeducated son, Don Lorenzo), but no music. The only glaring omission is the loud dancing music heard at the wedding of Camacho the Rich (end of Chapter 19 and Chapter 20), which could have provided a great instruments-only track for this CD.

In the next section of the recording ("Living Ballads"), Savall includes pieces of music that are not actually performed at all in the novel but that are related to stories included in the narrative. In Chapter 23, Don Quixote weaves the story recounted in the Romance del Llanto de Belerma por la muerte de Durandarte into the dream narrative he relates from his time in the Cave of Montesinos. The tune of this ballad is quite simple but affecting, sung by Montserrat Figueras in her trademarked cantillatory style. Something about the music is so appealing that it helps the listener understand the sway the chivalric tales have in Don Quixote's mind, which on the page usually sound more absurd than tragic to modern ears. The romance is composed in the voice of Belerma, whose beloved Durandarte has just been killed in battle. Durandarte's last request to his best friend, Montesinos, is that Montesinos carve out Durandarte's heart to take to Belerma as a sign of his love even in death. In his madness, Don Quixote meets all of these characters in his imagination when he is lowered into the chasm named by legend for Montesinos.

There is another musical moment in the novel that Savall's recording omits, in Chapter 24, when the knight and Sancho, led by the cousin of their last host, meet a young boy on his way to join the army:
They overtook a youth who was walking along leisurely in front of them. He had a sword over his shoulder, and attached to it was a bundle, consisting apparently of his clothes, in all likelihood his trousers or breeches, a cloak, and a shirt or two. He was dressed in a short velvet jacket that was shiny as satin in spots, his shirt was showing, his stockings were of silk, and his shoes were of the square-toed variety in use at court. He was around eighteen or nineteen years of age, with a merry countenance and a seemingly agile body, and he was singing short-meter ballads as he went along, to while away the tedium of his journey. He had just finished a song which the cousin proceeded to memorize and which went like this: "My purse is lean, so to war I go; / If I had money, more sense I'd show."
The young man joins the travellers at a nearby inn, where there is a puppet show and an entertainment involving a divining ape. The puppet show relates the story of Sir Gayfiers (Don Gayferos), recounted also in another romance ("Si d'amor pena sentis"), which although not sung in the novel is recorded here. Melisendra, imprisoned by the Moors, speaks from her balcony to a knight she does not realize is her beloved Don Gayferos, telling him to go to her beloved and tell him that she is to be wed, against her will, to another man. Gayferos takes her on his horse, and they try to escape. When the Moors give chase, threatening to catch them, Don Quixote becomes enraged and, unable to separate fiction from reality, attacks all of the puppets and sets and destroys everything, believing he is rescuing the knight and his lady. It is also a simple tune, arranged lightly with harp and gamba, and Arianna Savall sings the vocal part.

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