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Silva de sirenas (John Griffiths).jpg



Every new discovery connected with the book Silva de sirenas (Valladolid, 1547), composed and compiled by Fernando Enríquez de Valderrábano, appears to tighten the links between the vihuelist, his patron Francisco de Zúñiga y Avellaneda, IV Count of Miranda, and his palace in Peñaranda del Duero on the Castilian plains. As knowledge deepens, the role of his patron appears increasingly influential, this Spanish grandee whose reputation as an arbiter of musical taste had gained him a reputation among prestigious musicians throughout Spain, despite the remoteness of his residence. He was highly praised, for example, by Bermudo en his Declaración de instrumentos musicales in 1555.

The earliest information concerning Enríquez de Valderrábano dates from 1542 and it is quite possible that his life extended long after the death of his patron who is thought to have died in 1560 or early 1561. Francisco de Zúñiga, was born early in the century, becoming count in 1536 on the death of his homonymous father, and maintaining his residence in the family palace where he had grown up, located remotely in a small town 120 km to the east of Valladolid.

Valderrábano was in the count’s service from at least 1544, and even though one of the count’s household criados, it is not impossible that there may have been some familial connection given that surname of the count’s mother was also Enríquez. In fact, he was present at the death of
María Enríquez in 1544 and was able to certify it as a witness.


John Griffiths


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The word “return” is ripe with meaning; a universal idea across human civilizations, both ancient and modern. In the bible, we come from dust and to dust we shall return and the prodigal son returns home to seek redemption. The cyclical nature of reality continues to be the major aspect of Hindu philosophy while the first century Chinese poet Zhang Heng (78-139) dreams of “wending back to the thatched cottage and plucking the five strings (of the pipa) with deft fingers” in his nostalgic masterpiece, Return to the Field. In our more ordinary daily lives we get a return on our investment, we go beyond the point of no return, we return purchases, or someone wishes us a happy return of the day for our birthday.


This recording is a personal exploration of returning as a concept. Sometimes it is a purely structural technique: in the title piece, Per Nørgård’s Returns, an undulating, dance-like motive continually reappears within a form that is essentially a palindrome centered around a section of chords and intervals whose lengths are partly aleatoric. In other cases, returning means reevaluating the earliest attempts at a musical journey: the first five of Leo Brouwer’s Estudios Sencillos—simple studies—are some of the first pieces I remember learning with my first teacher, my father. Like those of Bach and Schumann, Brouwer’s little masterpieces were written to capture the imagination of kids at the very outset of the music learning process. They lose none of their appeal and artistic integrity even decades after that process has begun.


Other selections here are motivated by that mysterious intersection of memory, nostalgia and identity that is hard to define in words but somehow easier to express in sound.

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