Estêvão Lopes Morago • O bone Jesu

In late July and early August of 2012 I helped organizing the Festival Iberian Music 16th & 17th Centuries in Angra do Heroísmo (Terceira Island, Azores), a five-concert marathon during a week in the churches of the city that have organs. It combined the performance of Iberian organ music with Portuguese sacred vocal polyphony.
On 31 July the Ensemble da Sé de Angra performed in the beautiful church of Nossa Senhora da Guia of the Convent of São Francisco in Angra, which now is used as the city’s museum. The church acoustics is amazing and it was very confortable to sing polyphony with one-singer-per-part ensemble. We recorded this concert and the following vídeo is precisely from that performance.

It is the motet O bone Jesu, for four voices, by Estêvão Lopes Morago (c.1575-c.1630), a composer of Spanish origin that studied at the Évora Cathedral Choirboys College and, later, was chapel master of Viseu Cathedral. He left his musical output in two small choirbooks now preserved at the Viseu Districtal Archive.

I think these were the first recordings made of this work, after some adjusting revisions to a former edition of the motet, mostly with the introduction of ficta. It follows the common formal structure of Morago’s motets: two long segments of imitative counterpoint with a central homophonic section, often used to emphasise a very strong statement, in this “ne quando dicat inimicos meos, praevaluit”. The work is full of dissonance and I remember that the singers had to work a lot to extract the best sound from this difficult musical texto for an amateur group.

In this performance Ensemble da Sé de Angra, which incorporates members of the Coro da Sé de Angra, is Carolina Barbosa (superius), Ana Sousa (altus), Luís Henriques (tenor) and Jorge Barbosa (bassus).

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