Seek out the inner beauty of this music, look for it!

Of all the historians and musicologists that have analyzed the life and work of Antonio de Cabezón, none have been more passionate than his son Hernando, who on publishing his father’s works wrote: “Y así lo que en este libro va más se puede tener por migajas que caían de su mesa que por cosa que él hubiese hecho de propósito ni de asiento”[1]. These works, imbued with the Renaissance and of religious or courtly nature were, according to Hernando de Cabezón, created according to the abilities of his disciples, and are not a true measure of the composer’s talent.


None of these considerations, however, motivated my discovery of the inner beauty, serenity, elegance and depth of the aforementioned works of Antonio de Cabezón. I had already begun to incorporate them into my repertoire when Prof. Macario Santiago Kastner heard my version of Canto del Caballero on a radio broadcast. He wrote me a scathing denunciation: “You are called an apostle of this repertoire, yet you have committed two unpardonable errors: there were no pedalboards and no solo breaks in that era anywhere on the Iberian peninsula. You have reached for the externalized sound when you should instead search for the internalization of this music. Its beauty is within itself, in its writing. Look for it!”


My reaction was swift: I was anxious to know more about this indigenous repertoire on which foreign professors expounded. I was not the only one on this mission: the journey included Enric Gispert, María Esther Sala, Josep Soler, Lothar Siemens, Father Gregori Estrada… We read old treatises that today are considered fundamental: Arte de tañer fantasía by Fr. Tomás de Santa María, Declaración de Instrumentos and Arte Tripharia by Juan Bermudo, as well as texts by Montanos, Lorente and Nasarre, among others. Readings of these documents spurred a complete change in the fingering, ornamentation and comprehension of the art of glosa. In adopting the guidelines that our forebears dictated to us, there emerged a natural phrasing and a more vibrant articulation that together gave new life to the works. Even today, musicologists and interpreters continue to issue new editions, corrections and analyses.


Iberian music became compulsory material in conservatories and courses began to be offered throughout Spain. It was precisely in one of these courses that an adolescent, Juan de la Rubia, caught my attention with his manner of playing, his enthusiasm for this repertoire and how he communicated it, though he still had a ways to go – and we must never give up this quest – in the pursuit of greater authenticity.


Now, at more than 90 years of age, it is a great pleasure for me to see this recording dedicated to Cabezón and interpreted by the mature Juan de la Rubia. Internationally renowned as an interpreter and improviser, it is in these Cabezonian pages where we perceive that he has been able to capture not only the wisdom that they hide, but also – and above all – their emotion. 16th century music captivates us with its simplicity and contrapuntal art, and led by the hands that perform it, our eyes scintillate with the ineffable ecstasy of having submerged oneself in pure acoustic beauty.


Montserrat Torrent


Translation: Beth Krynicki

[1] “And so, what is in this book are just crumbs from his table, rather than anything created either for purpose or reward” (Most of Cabezón’s works were transcribed by ear as he was blind and could not write, so Hernando means his art was even greater than we can judge).