Sancta Ovetensis

Splendor in the cathedral of Oviedo

Jone Martínez; Jorge Jiménez; Aarón Zapico;

Winter & Winter October 2022

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The Spanish Baroque orchestra Forma Antiqva rescues forgotten masterpieces full of timbre, rhythm and expression. Conductor and artistic director Aarón Zapico opens the musical treasure trove in the archives of Oviedo Cathedral and introduces the world to unknown Spanish gems of the 18th century.
Each work is a premiere recording; to be discovered are six vocal pieces by Joaquín Lázaro [1746 - 1786] – these love arias about the highest, divine love are brought to life by soprano Jone Martínez – and two entrancing instrumental pieces, as well as a sensational violin concerto with soloist Jorge Jiménez.

Last reviews

Sancta Ovetensis. Splendor in the Cathedral of Oviedo (Melómano) March 2023
El repertorio de música española sigue siendo una selva inexplorada. Cada vez surgen más proyectos que rescatan pequeñas joyas, como la que nos presenta Forma Antiqva de la mano de su director Aarón Zapico. En este caso es la música de Joaquín Lázaro, maestro de capilla de la Catedral de Oviedo entre 1781 y 1786, junto con tres piezas instrumentales de autor anónimo que se encuentran en el Archivo Capitular. Joaquín Lázaro, formado en la Basílica del Pilar de Zaragoza, es el autor de varias arias que se presentan en este álbum. No son arias de ópera, sino para la catedral....

Sancta Ovetensis: del archivo de la Catedral de Oviedo (Scherzo) February 2023
Desde que en 1980 publicara Emilio Casares su estudio y catálogo de la música en la Catedral de Oviedo durante el siglo XVIII se sabía de la riqueza, calidad y pujanza de la vida musical de la sede ovetense durante el siglo ilustrado. Una serie de excelentes maestros de capilla elevaron el listón de la música que allí se podía escuchar casi a diario, a la vez que se preocuparon también de nutrir los armarios del archivo musical con obras de los mejores maestros nacionales y extranjeros. Así se explica lo al día que en materia musical estaba el padre Feijoo desde el Convento de San...


Sancta Ovetensis. Splendor in the Cathedral of Oviedo (Melómano) March 2023
Sancta Ovetensis: del archivo de la Catedral de Oviedo (Scherzo) February 2023
«Sancta Ovetensis»: trabajo de alto nivel musicológico y musical (RITMO) February 2023
El maestro Joaquín Lázaro y la capilla musical de la catedral de Oviedo en el siglo XVIII (La batuta de Pablo) December 2022
Primera piedra. «Sancta Ovetensis» es un sensacional trabajo de recuperación patrimonial del grupo Forma Antiqva (La Nueva España) November 2022
Sancta Ovetensis, el esplendor catedralicio de su música (La música en Siana) October 2022

Sancta Ovetensis


1. A Eulalia dichosa
2. Encendida en vivo fuego
3. Música de procesión: Procesión [Anonymous]
4. Noche preciosa, clara y divina

Concierto en Sol Mayor para violín [Anonymous]
5. Allegro non troppo
6. Adagio
7. Allegro con focco

8. Dios mío, calla
9. Del risco se despeña
10. Música de procesión: Misa [Anonymous]

Reparad qué luz clara y peregrina
11. Recitado
12. Cavatina

Compositions by Joaquín Lázaro,
except title 3, 5, 6, 7, 10

total time: 64:44


Musical Splendours at the Sancta Ovetensis
Joaquín Lázaro [Work from the years 1781-1786]

The life journey of Master Lázaro fell short of being one of the most extensive but lasting just over 40 years, it was one filled with music, from his origins in the province of Aragon to his final days in the northern regions of the Iberian Peninsula.

Joaquín Lázaro y Rubira was born in Aliaga [Teruel] in 1746, and learnt music in the Zaragoza Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, where he was a choirboy between 1755 and 1761. He continued at the service of this temple when he succeeded Cayetano Chavarría as Kapellmeister in March 1771, and received the Priestly Ordination in 1772. However, from 1773, his fragile health led to a series of enforced absences and leaves, mainly due to the heavy workload involved in maintaining discipline among the choirboys. A disagreement with the Cathedral chapter of Our Lady of the Pillar led to him leaving in 1778. Although health reasons were cited at the time, they were not the only motives. For several years, Lázaro did not receive payment of his allowances for mass, which he claimed from 1776. This, together with his precarious health, was strongly behind him distancing himself from the cathedral where he had developed his skills (1). Lázaro left his birthplace to seek new perspectives and headed north-east, teaching in the chapel of the cathedral in Mondoñedo [Lugo], replacing Bernardo Francisco San Millán from December 1777.

With the teaching vacancies in the chapels of Avila and Oviedo, Joaquín Lázaro decided to change location, and concurrently aspired to the post in both cathedrals. After successfully overcoming other candidates of such importance as Juan García de Carrasquedo, Jaume Bálius and Francisco Náger, Lázaro became head of teaching at the chapel of the Sancta Ovetensis on 10 February 1781, succeeding Pedro Furió. During the final five years of his life, he set forth on a period which was as short as it was intense and splendid in charge of the cathedral music, boasting a quality vocal and instrumental chapel ensemble, consolidated by almost 50 years under the tutelage of his predecessor Enrique Villaverde [1725–1775]. This undoubtedly represented the perfect vehicle for Lázaro’s creations, creating music in the shadow of the cathedral and its surroundings, exemplified by his prolific production which is preserved in the Chapterhouse Archive.

His fragile health, kindness and generosity were some of Master Lázaro's most defining character traits. The fact that we conserve his music in our Chapterhouse Archive is precisely thanks to his detached frame of mind, as he left the legacy of his music papers to the Chapter in Oviedo in his Testament, enacted in Mondoñedo before the notary Juan de Castro y Neira(2). In Oviedo, Lázaro lived with his nieces Francisca and Joaquina Lucia y Lázaro. The latter married Rafael Labastida, basso cantante of the cathedral chapel, who accompanied his uncle-in-law on a journey to Mondoñedo. Lázaro wanted to return here in a final attempt to restore his delicate state of health, having been granted a two-month leave by the chapter to «get out and get some air […] wherever suits him best» (3). However, the improvement he sought never appeared and on 13 September 1786, his death ten days prior was recorded in the chapter of Mondoñedo having just reached the age of 40 [CAO, CA Vol. 61, page. 183r].

It was no surprise to find Aragonese musicians in the musical chapel of the Sancta Ovetensis throughout the centuries, and Lázaro marked another turning point in its history. His disciple from Zaragoza, Luis Blasco, arrived with him in 1781, and became copyist for his works, showing impeccable musical calligraphy. As a psalm singer and countertenor, Blasco would help spread his mentor's music around cathedrals such as Astorga, earning his unwavering trust. The relationship grew to the point where the Oviedo chapter considered that the master delegated too much to him, favouring him for soloist parts to the detriment of other singers: «Please advise the Kapellmeister to use Saliella and other countertenors in chapter functions and use his copyist's voice less as he is not much to the taste of those who attend» [CAO, CA Vol. 61, 4-VII-1783, page. 49v].

You might have believed that the master's fragile health would be an obstacle to his work. Nothing could be further from the truth. Apart from fulfilling his duties at the cathedral, Lázaro was part of the Royal Economic Society of Friends of Asturias from November 1784, together with several other members of the chapter and chapel musicians. They contributed an air of solemnity to the public acts held by this association with their compositions. One of these people was the controversial Luis Blasco, author of the oratorio Oviedo festivo, y su Real Sociedad Económica regocijada [1784] (4).

Lázaro has left a significant mark on the Chapterhouse musical archives in Oviedo. A total of 93 of his works are kept «on paper» [sets of parts on music sheets], distributed among a total of eight bundles: one of them contains compositions in Latin, while the other seven contain recitals, arias, carols, and an oratorio, with texts in romance. Four pieces have been added to these – Stabat Mater, Pange lingua, Sacris Solemniis, and Verbum Supernum – preserved in one of the lectern books [Ms. 6], copied in 1784 by Francisco Villa de Rey. The resulting volume of works under his signature preserved in our Chapterhouse Archive reaches almost one hundred, containing the 86 catalogued by Emilio Casares [1977], the 5 found by Raúl Arias del Valle in the corners of the archive and the upper cloister [1993], and another 6 rescued by María Sanhuesa Fonseca in 1998. The penchant for his music meant it continued to be heard within the cathedral walls at the start of the 20th Century with some of his works still sung, such as Stabat Mater, Vexilla Regis and Pange Lingua, in addition to his Tantum ergo y Genitori, with an arrangement for 4 voices and organ by the master Medardo Carreño [1904–1906]. Works by Lázaro are also kept in the archives of the cathedrals in Astorga and Mondoñedo, Colegiata de Santa María del Campo [La Coruña], and Abadía de Montserrat.

The programme chosen for this recording consists of six arias by Joaquín Lázaro for treble, accompanied by different orchestral groups, and two fascinating instrumental works of unknown authorship. The selection is a timely look at the cathedral soundscape between 1781 and 1786, in the pomp of his musical splendour, when a select ensemble of voices and instruments filled the temple with a colourful atmosphere.

The arias for soprano
With or without a prior recitative, these arias always heighten the text with vocal embellishments to emphasise words of special significance. The musical pictorialism and the splendour of the soloist are the two stand-out characteristics in these compositions. The accompaniment includes violins, horns and continuo, a common formula for Lázaro, which are sometimes joined by flutes. The violins and continuo may also be used alone, as we can hear in one of the arias in the programme.

Four of the arias are Christmas pieces. Dios mío, calla, with violins, flutes, horns and continuo [Leg. 13 A, nº 9 and Leg. 58, nº 2], is an aria da capo dedicated to the birth of Jesus. The composer rhythmically underlined the word «quiet», supporting the accented syllable with a dotted note; in «rest», he uses a descending melodic design which invokes rest and sleep.

As was habitual in this period, the form of the aria da capo is also that of Noche preciosa, clara y divina, accompanied by violins, flutes, horns and continuo [Leg. 13 B, nº 19]. Lázaro, the musician of light, enhances here the expressive power of words such as «illuminate» or «splendour», reserving the high pitch of the vocals for them. Another denomination appears in Reparad qué luz clara y peregrina; it is a recitative and cavatina with violins, flutes, horns and continuo [Leg. 13 B, nº 27]. Here we observe the reuse of a cathedral chapel work: the recitative, accompanied by the continuo, has an original text which alludes to the star which guided the three wise men; «Look, its light disappears/the star that led them to Bethlehem», which is crossed out and replaced by another of different meaning which focuses the attention on the birth of Jesus. In the aria, the entire instrumental range is used, enhancing with progressions the expression «guides me», and reserving melodic climaxes for «clear», «sovereign» or «fire».

The inspiration of Lázaro uses the image of the rose covered with dew as a metaphor for the newborn Jesus in Del risco se despeña, with violins, horns and continuo [Leg. 13 A, nº 8-1 and 8-2]. Once again, the aria da capo is the expressive vehicle for a music piece which is full of pictorialism, such as the embellishing of the melody in «happy», or its descent in «he falls». The habitual soloists for this music of virtuous workmanship were trebles - choirboys with high-pitched voices. In the manuscripts, a copy of the vocal part of the aria is kept, which states the name of its owner and performer. This copy tells us that after the death of Lázaro, the aria continued to be performed in the cathedral, as in the manuscript we can see the name of the treble Josef María Páez, son of the Kapellmeister Juan Páez, successor to Lázaro from 1786 to 1814.

If Christmas was one of the moments when there was an onus on the Kapellmeister to show his creativity as composer, he also had to demonstrate his talent writing music for the festivities the chapter would arrange. At our cathedral, Santa Eulalia [patron of the diocese, of the city of Oviedo and all its principality] is always a special celebration. Therefore, there is an abundance of hymns, arias and carols dedicated to this saint in the chapterhouse archive. The two remaining arias are a sample of Lázaro’s talent for celebrating the martyr girl of Mérida. In the aria da capo A Eulalia dichosa, with violins, horns and continuo [Leg. 13 A, nº 1], the master uses a flexible and gallant vocal line, with tiny motifs which are repeatedly adorned. The apparent sobriety of the accompaniment to the aria Encendida en vivo fuego, with violins and continuo [Leg. 13 B, nº 12], does not impede the use of musical imagery in the vocal line, with ascents and dynamism in «rise to heaven to rest», to celebrate the triumph of the saint after her martyrdom. This aria, with small changes to the text, served for the festival of the martyr San Pelayo, as reflected in the manuscript.

The instrumental music
Joaquín Lázaro also stood out for this composition of instrumental music, although we have not preserved any of it in the Chapterhouse Archive, at least under his signature(5). Most of the instrumental music in the archive is of unknown authorship. It is of great interest to include it here, due to its character and function, even if we do not know its author. The beautiful Música de procesión for violins, oboes, horns and continuo [Leg. 44, nº 2] evokes a celebration of great solemnity, with an expressive and dramatic accompaniment. The anonymous Concierto en Solo Mayor, for soloist violin, violins and continuo [Leg. 44, nº 5] is an example of those profane repertoires which also had their place in the temple, in the siestas of the most solemn festivities. In three movements, the initial «Allegro non tro[p]po» and the final «Allegro con focco [sic]» follow the form of the Italian solo concert, alternating orchestral ritornelli with virtuous solos which explore the language and the difficulties of the solo instrument: fast scales, spread chords, triple stops, and so on. The necessary contrast comes courtesy of the central «Adagio» articulated in two long solos of cantabile character, framed by three very short tutti.

From a gallant style to an incipient classicism between the walls of the Sancta Ovetensis, Lázaro's trajectory condensed his work and talent for innovation and experimentation into a short time thanks to the music he created for vocal and instrumental groups who provided service to the temple. Splendid soundtracks, music of light: the fugacity of an existence consumed in the flame of his art.

(1) My heartfelt thanks to M. I. Mr. Isidoro Miguel García, Canon Archivist and Librarian at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar; the data come from the Children's Archives of the basilica in Zaragoza.
(2) Lázaro bequeathed his music to the chapter of Oviedo, on the condition that it would continue to financially support his nieces Francisca and Joaquina. However, it would appear that this request was not entirely fulfilled [Chapterhouse Archive of Oviedo], Chapterhouse Acts [hereinafter abbreviated CAO, CA– Vol. 61, page. 9r]. Bourligueux [1971: 685-688] published the Master’s testament as an appendix to his article.
(3) CAO, CA Vol. 61, page. 174v.
(4) Regarding Blasco and his relationship with the Economic Society, Sanhuesa Fonseca [2009].
(5) In the 4th book of the collection Divertimenti Musicali per Camera, complied by Girolamo Sertori for the marquises of Castelfuerte [manuscript, Pamplona, 1758-1760] the Tersa Obertura con Violine, Viola, Corni, Oboesi e basso by Joaquín Lázaro appear, included in the collection after 1760 [Gembero Ustárroz, 2001: 406-407].
Dr. María Sanhuesa Fonseca [University of Oviedo]



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Premio Sello FestClásica (Asociación de Festivales Españoles de Música Clásica) a Forma Antiqva y su programa «Farándula castiza», 2021.
Premio GEMA (Asociación de Grupos Españoles de Música Antigua) a la «Mejor Dirección 2019» para Aarón Zapico.
Medalla de Oro del Foro Europeo Cum Laude, 2019.
Premio MIN de la Música Independiente - Mejor Álbum de Música Clásica 2019 para «Concerto Zapico Vol. 2».
NPR Music's Best Classical Albums Of 2018 para «Concerto Zapico Vol. 2».
Premio GEMA (Asociación de Grupos Españoles de Música Antigua) al «Mejor Grupo de Música Barroca y Clasicismo 2016».
Premio GEMA (Asociación de Grupos Españoles de Música Antigua) a la «Mejor Producción Discográfica 2016» por «Crudo Amor - Agostino Steffani».
Premio FestClásica (Asociación de Festivales Españoles de Música Clásica) a Forma Antiqva y su programa «Concerto Zapico», 2015.
Nominación International Classical Music Awards «Opera Zapico», 2014.
Nominación International Classical Music Awards «Concerto Zapico», 2012.
Premio AMAS de la Música en Asturias, 2012.
Premio Serondaya a la Innovación Cultural, 2012.
Nominación a los International Classical Music Awards por «Amore x Amore», 2011.
Premio «Asturiano del Mes» del periódico La Nueva España, 2011.
Premio al «Grupo del Año» de la Radio Televisión Pública de Asturias, 2010.


Universo Zapico

c/ Ramón y Cajal, 18 - 3º Izq.
33900 Langreo, Asturias (Spain)


Proyecto financiado por el INAEM, Ministerio de Cultura y Deporte

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