Federico Mompou

Musica callada, libro 1

‘Angelico,’ the first miniature of Musica callada, begins with clustered, bell-like quintal harmonies accompanying a simple, recitative melody, which, if not for the absence of barlines or a time signature, would divide evenly across eight bars in common time. The initial austere phrase is repeated before transitioning to a new section, where warmer, tertian harmonies are embedded in a canonic texture. Although the piece centers around an A tonality, Mompou eschews diatonic harmonies in favor of an abstraction of the tonic-dominant relationship; cadences in ‘Angelico’ are simply open fifths. As for the triadic harmonies that are present, Mompou uses them non-functionally.

‘Angelico’ welcomes us to a realm of light, a meditation that is necessarily grounded in human perspective. Its sentiment is not of ecstatic religiosity, but of mystical quietude. The only record of Mompou’s religious beliefs, as far as I am aware, is to be found in his music and a speech delivered on his aesthetic ethos. It is not my intention here to present an academic analysis; however, I would like to cite an interesting section of Mompou’s speech on Musica callada. He quotes Neoplatonic writer Martinanus Capella:

‘In the sacred wood of Apollo, the trees sing the melodies of god; the high branches and the low branches sing at the octave, and those in the center […] divide the octave into a fifth and a fourth.’

I was ignorant then that my first harmonic conceptions coincided so exactly with the music of that mythical wood. A forest bom region that I promptly left, carried logically by the desire for new landscapes and lands for better cultivation. Nevertheless, there lived in my spirit such procedures that have marked various works of mine. (Trans. Eric Daub)

Mompou orchestrated

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