Discography of Cantigas and related music

The following disks can be found in the classical room of any major record store (Tower, Virgin, etc.). Some can be found at public and/or University libraries, and most can be found at our house.

The Cantigas de Santa Maria is a collection of over 400 songs about the Blessed Virgin Mary, compiled under the direction of King Alfonso X (the Wise) of Spain in the 13th century. With that many to choose from, there's room for a lot of groups to record a lot of albums. Furthermore, the music notation in the manuscripts is ambiguous with respect to rhythm, and of course says nothing about tempo, dynamics, instrumentation (if any), etc. so there's room for a lot of different performance styles. Some groups have chosen a very boisterous, percussive approach based largely on 20th-century "traditional" music of north Africa and the Middle East, while others take an interpretation more resembling the received wisdom on performance of European troubadour and trouvere song.

However, for whatever reason, most groups recording this material have mixed it with several other sources:

The Recordings

Ensemble Alcatraz. Visions and Miracles (Elektra Nonesuch 9 79180-2)
Perhaps our favorite of the "boisterous" school, this disk includes two selections from Las Huelgas and six Cantigas de Santa Maria, one of which is performed in half a dozen different meters (remember the "ambiguous rhythmic notation"?).
Altramar. Iberian Garden, vol. I (Dorian DIS-80151)
Subtitled "Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Music in Medieval Spain, vol. I," this CD (and presumably its successor(s), which we haven't heard) sets out to treat the three cultures of medieval Spain equally. It contains one selection from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, one from the Cantigas de Amigo, a 12th-c. canso from the troubadour tradition, an Arabic poem by a 12th-c. Moslem, an Arabic poem by an 11th-c. Jew, a Hebrew poem by a 12th-c. Jew, and a pilgrim's song from the Codex Calixtinus.
Anonymous 4. Miracles of Sant'iago (HMU 907156)
New York's most famous early-music group performs a mix of monophonic chant and polyphony from the Codex Calixtinus.
Ensemble Anonymus. Llibre Vermell (Analekta AN 2 8001)
This CD contains all fourteen pieces from the Llibre Vermell.
Boston Camerata. The Sacred Bridge (Erato WE 810 ZK)
This one contains a few cantigas, mixed with a large number of medieval Sephardic poems in Ladino. Unfortunately, the Sephardic pieces have no surviving music from the period, so the performers used more recent "traditional" settings of them.
Capella Reial de Catalunya / Hesperion XX. Cantigas de Santa Maria: Strela do dia (Astree Auvidis E-8508).
Thirteen cantigas de Santa Maria, performed by Jordi Savall's two musical groups in a free, exuberant style.
Discantus. Campus Stellae: from the Abbey of Saint-Martial de Limoges to Santiago de Compostela (LC 5718)
Brigitte Lesne and her all-girl orchestra perform a variety of pilgrim songs from the Codex Calixtinus.
Hesperion XX. Llibre Vermell de Montserrat (EMI CDM 7 63071 2)
Jordi Savall again.
Huelgas Ensemble. Codex Las Huelgas: Music from 13th Century Spain (Vivarte SK 53341)
Paul van Nevel's ensemble does thirteen pieces from Las Huelgas.
Esther Lamandier. Cantigas de Santa Maria (Astree Auvidis E 7707)
Esther Lamandier sings nine cantigas in a spare, haunting style, accompanying herself variously on harp, portative organ, and vielle. Highly recommended.
New London Consort. Llibre Vermell: Pilgrim songs and dances (l'Oiseau-Lyre)
Philip Pickett's group performs ten of the pilgrim songs from Montserrat.
Sarband & Osnabrucker Jugend Chor. Llibre Vermell de Montserrat
A recording of all fourteen pieces from the Llibre Vermell.
Sequentia. Vox Iberica vol. I: Donnersöhne/Sons of Thunder: Music for St. James the Apostle (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi D-7800)
Benjamin Bagby and his highly respected ensemble perform 22 pieces from the Codex Calixtinus.
Sequentia. Vox Iberica vol. II: Codex Las Huelgas (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi D-7800)
Vocal performances of a number of songs from the Codex Las Huelgas.
Sequentia. Vox Iberica vol. III: El Sabio (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi D-7800)
Vocal performances of a number of songs from the Cantigas de Santa Maria.
Sonus. Echoes of Spain: Galician-Portuguese Music of the Middle Ages (Dorian DIS-80154)
Seven cantigas de amigo, two from Las Huelgas, and eight cantigas de Santa Maria.
Theatre of Voices. Cantigas from the Court of Dom Dinis (HMU 907129)
Paul Hillier and Margriet Tindemans perform three cantigas de Santa Maria, seven cantigas d'amor from the 13th-14th-century court of the Portuguese king Dom Dinis, and four other love songs from 14th-century Spain.
Ensemble Unicorn. Cantigas de Santa Maria (Naxos 8.553133)
Thirteen cantigas de Santa Maria, using the "toybox" school of performance ("let's see how many different instruments we can use on one recording"). On the very inexpensive Naxos label, so for only a few dollars you can make your own decision.
Ensemble Venance Fortunat. Monodies et polyphonies extraites du Codex Calixtinus: Manuscrit compostellan du douzieme siecle (SOCD 45)
Sixteen pieces from the Codex Calixtinus.
Waverly Consort. Las Cantigas de Santa Maria (OVC 2013)
This CD consists mostly of Cantigas de Santa Maria, but it also contains three pilgrim songs from the 14th-c. Llibre Vermell of Montserrat. Not our favorite recording in regard to performance practice, but the Spanish-challenged may appreciate that they recorded some of the tracks with English translations.

Last modified: Thu Jan 21 10:12:24 EST 1999
Stephen Bloch / webmaster@ostgardr.org