The notes to this release by the peripatetic early music group Música Ficta offer a good deal of interesting political background on the music of the Spanish Baroque but presuppose some knowledge of the repertory involved. In brief, the focus of the program is the vocal music of Sebastián Durón, a Spanish theatrical composer who lived from 1660 to 1716. The album contains not complete theatrical (or sacred) works, but pieces designated as tonos humanos or tonos divinos (sometimes called tonadas humanas/divinas). These were Spanish solo songs of the 17th century, which might be secular (humano) or sacred (divino); they're interesting partly because of the musical and thematic overlap between those spheres, a development that conservative clerics railed against but could not suppress. A good example is Duerme rosa y descansa (Sleep, rose, and rest, track 11), classified as a tono divino; its subject is death, but there is no specifically Christian imagery. These works are mostly strophic, but both the tono humano and the tono divino were increasingly influenced by Italian opera as time went on and began to take on aria shapes and recitatives; the program reflects this as well. Música Ficta's large continuo group, characteristic of a theater ensemble, is applied in the sacred pieces, as well, and the rich sound complements rather than simply accompanying the voices of tenor Jairo Serrano and soprano Angelique Zuluaga. The vocal pieces are interspersed with a variety of instrumental pieces by Durón and others; the overall collection forms a chamber recital that might have been heard by one of the Spanish nobles who supported this music. This elegant release is recommended for those intrigued by the whole question of the sacred and secular in Baroque vocal music; the Spanish situation is unique.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim