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12.8.06

Don Quixote and Music, Part 7

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

From Chapter 30 to the conclusion, much of the story's action is directed by the magnanimous hosts, the Duke and Duchess, who are fans of the first part of the novel and immediately recognize Don Quixote and Sancho Panza and invite them into their home. It is here that Sancho begins his confrontational relationship with duennas, probably due to his warping of the Ballad of Sir Lancelot, to the effect that the duchess's duennas are to tend to his gray donkey (Chapter 31). In the famous episode of the Distressed Duenna, a procession approaches the castle, with one of the Duke's servants attired as a sorceror, Trifaldín of the White Beard. This procession is accompanied by "the melancholy notes of a fife and the hoarse, discordant roll of a drum." Again, Savall's recording does not attempt to reproduce that sound (only a "melancholy music" improvised on harp and vihuela) but moves ahead to the words of the Distressed Duenna, who recounts how she fell from the life of a minor noblewoman into the position of duenna (Chapter 38).

She was seduced by a man, who sang to her. Savall has matched the words of Cervantes's poem ("De la dulce mi enemiga") to a villancico by Gabriel, sung by the sweet baritone voice of Lluís Vilamajó. The villancico has a refrain as well as a charming instrumental ritornello led by recorder. He seduced her with many simple and amorous songs, especially seguidillas, or roundelays, little easily rhymed songs meant for dancing. Under the next reading, we hear a jaunty gallarda by Enríquez de Valderrábano, which evokes the dance music she mentions, and then a performance of De tu vista celoso, an anonymous seguidilla with an echo effect. The latter piece is a rhythmically infectious ditty, accompanied by percussive beats, beginning with what sounds like knuckles on the wooden body of an instrument. This section is another example of how Savall's recording adds to the reader's understanding of the novel.

There is no music in the rest of the episode of the Distressed Duenna, at the end of which Don Quixote and Sancho ride blindfolded on a wooden horse, believing that they have flown over great distances but have actually not left the Duke's garden. One night in the castle, another of the Duchess's serving ladies, Altisidora, pretends to have fallen in love with Don Quixote. The knight listens from his window to her plaintive romance ("Oh tú que estás en tu lecho"), which Savall has found in an anonymous musical version. Tuning his vihuela, Don Quixote answers her with his own romance about the power of love ("Suelen las fuerzas de amor"), for which Savall has adapted the words of Cervantes to music by Antonio de Bibera. The first romance is sung by Arianna Savall, who accompanies herself on the harp, just as Cervantes describes the scene. Similarly, Don Quixote's romance is sung by Daniele Carnovich, with Rafael Bonavita on the vihuela.

Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras
Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras
It is at this point that the Duke and Duchess pretend to appoint Sancho Panza to the governorship of an island, the reward that Don Quixote promised him at the very beginning of their adventures. By way of moral lesson, Sancho's simple answers to the problems and questions placed before him as governor are surprisingly wise. It is of interest to note that Cervantes apparently based the characters of the Duke and Duchess on an actual noble couple, the Duke and Duchess of Villahermosa, who had a country manor in the region of Spain that Don Quixote and Sancho pass through. The translater of my edition, Samuel Putnam, notes that "in the year 1905, in connection with the celebration of the three-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Part I of Don Quixote, the Duchess of Villahermosa observed the occasion by staging an elaborate fiesta, having medals struck and paying the printing costs of a handsome Cervantes album" (p. 1005, Chapter 30, note 7).

In an earlier note, Putnam also states that, in the same year of 1905, "a puppet show based upon the story of Melisendra was staged at the Ateneo in Madrid, in connection with the three-hundredth anniversary of the publication of Don Quixote (Rodríguez Marín)" (p. 1003, Chapter 26, note 2). The residence of the Duquesa de Villahermosa is in Pedrola, near Zaragoza, and the family were major collectors of art, music, and antiquities and were extremely influential in the history of the region. I am not sure if members of the family made any observance of the 400th anniversary of the novel last year. The Villahermosa's palace in Madrid is now the location of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.

After Sancho has abdicated his governorship and Don Quixote has defended the honor of a second duenna, the knight and squire decide to set out from the Palacio de Villahermosa. Not content to let the matter go that easily, Altidisora sings another song to the cruel, departing knight. For the final music in this section, harpist Andrew Lawrence-King plays a gallarda by Alonso Mudarra, and Montserrat Figueras speaks and then sings the anonymous Lamento de Altisidora ("Escucha mal caballero"), set to the words of Cervantes. I appreciate Figueras's artistry and the spirit of her performance, but her vocal tics -- sliding, scooping, flatness, precious diction -- can be distracting at times, especially when the musical interest flags, as in this piece.

(To be continued.)

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