Nebra

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Nebra
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Miserere; Para obsequio a la deydad nunca es culto la crueldad, y Iphigenia en Tracia (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Marta Almajano (soprano), Xenia Meijer (mezzo-soprano); Al Ayre Español
CATALOGUE NO: 05472 77532 2
José de Nebra’s Miserere for two sopranos and strings is a lovely work that marries elegance with gravity, the flamboyant with the penitential. Though it’s undated, Nebra possibly wrote it in the 1750s, when he largely forsook his previous theatrical compositions to work exclusively on sacred music for the royal court in Madrid.

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Nebra set this Miserere (two others, for much larger forces, have also survived) as a series of duets

and solo arias interspersed with verses sung as plainchant. The music, spirited and affecting, occasionally betrays his theatrical past in passages of dazzling coloratura, but Nebra never undersells the seriousness or emotional weight of the psalm text. There’s a pervasive Italian influence, too – graceful inflections of melody and rhythm recall the likes of Pergolesi and Scarlatti, reminding us there were strong cultural links between Naples and Madrid. The disc ends with brief extracts from Nebra’s 1747 zarzuela Iphigenia en Tracia, notably a splendidly fiery ‘rage’ duet, ‘Ha, ingrato’.

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Marta Almajano and Xenia Meijer give superb voice to the music’s fluency and passion; Al Ayre Español provides its usual expert support. It seems Eduardo López Banzo has uncovered more forgotten treasures from the Spanish Baroque. Graham Lock