'About Fray Martín de Villanueva as a composer, it is important to emphasise one thing: he was not a master but a good craftsman who knew the trade and composed correct works. These works are not in any case comparable with the one by his coevals Guerrero, Morales, Victoria, etc.'In an age when every neglected work is a masterpiece and when every musician is a genius, that disarming description of the 16th century Spanish composer Fray Martín de Villanueva should serve as a case study for aspiring PR agencies. It is taken from the sleeve notes for the CD seen above of Villanueva's music in the 'Maestros del Escorial' series recorded by the Escolaria del Escorial on their own label - YouTube sample here. One of Villanueva's more arcane claims to fame is that he does not have a Wikipedia entry. Despite this, although not at genius level, his sacred music is well worth seeking out; especially his thirty minute long Pasión seguin San Juan (Passion according to St John) which inhabits a beguiling twilight zone between plainsong and polyphony. 'Maestros del Escorial - Fray Martín de Villanueva' was bought in the monastery shop at L'Abbaye Sainte Madeleine a few days ago and this post is being uploaded from the French/Spanish border. A contemporary setting of the St John Passion features here.
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