Cantigas de Santa Maria
Hana Blažíková, Barbora Kabátková, Margit Übellacker, Martin Novák
outhere/phi 017


1. Virgen Madre groriosa  [4:51]   CSM 340
soprano, Gothic harp HB | dulce melos MÜ

2. Des oge mais quer’ eu trobar  [5:44]   CSM 1
sopranos, Gothic harps HB BK | dulce melos MÜ | percussion MN

3. Quen as sas figuras da Virgen partir  [4:38]   CSM 76
soprano, Gothic harp HB

4. Por nos de dulta livrar  [2:58]   CSM 18
Romanesque harp HB | psaltery BK | dulce melos MÜ

5. Entre Av'e Eva  [2:43]   CSM 60
soprano, Gothic harp BK

6. Santa Maria leva  [5:14]   CSM 320
soprano, Gothic harp HB

7. Quen bõa dona querrá  [2:18]   CSM 160
sopranos HB BK | percussion MN

8. Gran piadad’ e mercee e nobreza  [4:35]   CSM 105
soprano HB

9. Rosa das rosas, fror das frores,  [1:15]   CSM 10
Romanesque harp HB

10. Santa Maria amar  [6:07]   CSM 7
sopranos, Gothic harps HB BK | dulce melos MÜ | percussion MN

11. O fondo do mar tan chão  [5:07]   CSM 383
soprano, Romanesque harp HB

12. Pera toller gran perfia  [2:21]   CSM 85
Gothic harp HB | dulce melos MÜ | percussion MN

13. U alguen a Jesucristo  [5:03]   CSM 281
sopranos HB BK

14. Non pod' ome pela Virgen  [2:00]   CSM 127
Gothic harp HB | dulce melos MÜ

15. Quen serve Santa Maria  [2:57]   CSM 213
sopranos, Gothic harps HB BK | percussion MN

16. Sen calar  [4:49]   CSM 380
sopranos, Gothic harps HB BK | percussion MN

17. Que por al non devess’ ome  [2:26]   CSM 295
Gothic harps HB BK | percussion MN

18. Rosa das rosas, fror das frores  [4:29]   CSM 10
soprano, Gothic harp HB

19. Como poden per sas culpas  [2:57]   CSM 166
sopranos, Gothic harps HB BK | dulce melos MÜ | percussion MN

Hana Blažíková
soprano, Gothic harp1, Romanesque harp2, musical direction
[1, 2, 3, 42, 6, 7, 8, 92, 10, 112, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19]

Barbora Kabátková
soprano, Gothic harp3, psaltery4
[2, 44, 5, 7, 10, 13, 15, 16, 17, 19]

Margit Übellacker
dulce melos5
[1, 2, 4, 10, 12, 14, 19]

Martin Novák
[2, 7, 10, 12, 15, 16, 17, 19]

1 Franz Reschenhofer, Handenberg, Austria, 2008
2 Rainer M. Thurau, Wiesbaden, Germany, 2014
3 Karel Hanzík, Příbram, Czech Republic, 2005
4 Karel Hanzík, Příbram, Czech Republic, 2002
5 Bernd Maier, Freiburg, Germany, 2003

Hana Blažíková, soprano, harp and musical direction

Hana Blažíková was born in Prague. In 2002, she graduated from Jiří Kotouč’s class at the Prague Conservatory and went on to further study with Poppy Holden, Peter Kooij, Monika Mauch and Howard Crook. Hana specialises in the interpretation of Baroque, Renaissance and medieval music, which she performs with ensembles and orchestras around the world, among them Collegium Vocale Gent (Philippe
Herreweghe), Bach Collegium Japan (Masaaki Suzuki), Sette Voci (Peter Kooij), the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra (Ton Koopman), L’Arpeggiata, La Fenice, and Tafelmusik, among others. She appears on more than thirty CDs, including the well-known series of Bach’s cantatas with Bach Collegium Japan.

Hana Blažíková also plays the Gothic harp and presents concerts in which she accompanies herself on that instrument. She is a member of Tiburtina Ensemble, which specialises in Gregorian chant and early medieval polyphony.

Barbora Kabátková, soprano, harp and psaltery

Barbora Kabátková is among the most sought-after Czech singers in the field of early and contemporary music. Barbora has been making music since her childhood, having studied the piano as well as singing. She studied choral conducting and church music at the Faculty of Education of the Charles University and musicology at the same school’s Faculty of Arts, where she is now a Ph.D. student specialising in Gregorian chant. Since 2009 she has taught Gregorian chant at the Faculty of Education of the Charles University. She is intensively involved in the performance of early solo vocal music, and plays the Gothic harp and the psaltery. Barbora performs with such ensembles as Collegium 1704, Collegium Marianum, Musica Florea, Collegium Vocale Gent, Doulce Mémoire, Cappella Mariana, the Berg Orchestra and Ostravská banda, and is a member of Collegium Vocale 1704. She is the artistic director of the female vocal group Tiburtina Ensemble. Barbora has sung at leading Czech and European festivals.

Margit Übellacker, dulce melos

Margit Übellacker dedicates herself primarily to the revival of Baroque and medieval repertories for historical types of dulcimer (pantaleon, salterio, dulce melos). She received important guidance during her studies at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (Basel), Linz and Munich. She is a founding member of the ensembles La Gioia Armonica and Dulce Melos and has appeared in many concerts and on recordings for radio, television, CD and DVD with the ensembles L’Arpeggiata, Shield of Harmony, Musica Alta Ripa, Les Passions de l’Âme, Musica Fiorita, Coriandolo, Il Suonar Parlante, Oni Wytars, Tiburtina, the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, the Mozarteum-Orchester Salzburg, L’Orfeo Barockorchester Linz, the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, the WDR Radio Orchestra Cologne, Zürcher Kammerorchester, I Barocchisti, and with artists such as Maurice Steger (recorder), Crawford Young (lute) and Aline Zylberajch (fortepiano). She has performed
and recorded throughout Europe and in South America, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Russia and the USA (including Carnegie Hall).

Martin Novák, percussions

Martin Novák was born in Ostrava in 1983. He studied the classical violin from an early age, but switched to drums and percussion at the age of ten. He studied at many jazz workshops in the Czech Republic, Italy and Canada. After a period playing in high-school bands, he moved to Prague to join the leading artists on the Czech jazz scene, among them Yvonne Sanchez, Najponk, David Dorůžka and Beata Hlavenková. Since 2013 he has studied with the great John Hollenbeck at the Jazz Institute Berlin. Apart from the world of improvised music, Martin is also part of the pop and songwriter scene. He has performed with Lenka Dusilová, Jana Kirschner, Lanugo, and Sarah & The Adams among others. He has recorded more than fifteen albums and toured many European countries.

English titles for the tracks 3, 4, 8, 10-15, 17, 19, by Stephen Parkinson.
English translations and summaries by Stephen Parkinson.

English translations nos 1, 2, 10, 14, 18 from Stephen Parkinson (ed.),
Alfonso X The Learned, Cantigas de Santa Maria (MHRA Critical Texts, 40)
© Modern Humanities Research Association.
The text has been reproduced with the permission of the Modern Humanities Research Association.

All other English translations and summaries:
© Centre for the Study of the Cantigas de Santa Maria
Traduction française: Catherine Meeùs
Deutsche Übersetzung: Franziska Gorgs

Recording: May 11-14, 2014 , Church of Our Lady beneath the Chain at the End of the Bridge, Prague (Czech Republic)
Recording, Editing, Mastering: Rainer Arndt
Liner Notes: Manuel Pedro Ferreira
Cover Picture: photo Michel Dubois (Courtesy Dubois Friedland)
Pictures digipack & booklet: Vojteˇch Havlík
Design: Casier/Fieuws
Executive Producer: Aliénor Mahy

Special thanks to PhDr. Mgr. Jan Hricsina, Ph.D.
Special thanks to Dr. Stephen Parkinson and the Centre for the Study of the Cantigas de Santa Maria.


The Cantigas de Santa Maria (CSM) is a collection of 419 devotional songs in Galician-Portuguese (cantigas) compiled between circa 1264 or earlier and 1284 at the court of Alfonso X, el Sabio (‘the Learned’), King of León and Castile. It is the largest medieval collection of Marian songs written in a vernacular language. It is also the second largest surviving corpus of medieval songs with musical notation; it is surpassed only by the end-result of one hundred and fifty years of trouvère production in both France and England.

King Alfonso not only ordered this compilation to be made; he also controlled it, personally contributed texts and music to it, and caused his piety (and that of his closest relatives) to be featured prominently in it. CSM 1, Des oge mais quer’ eu trobar [track 2] announces precisely, using first-person speech, the King’s decision to compose ‘from now on’ songs honouring the Virgin. His care to dress the image of the Virgin with the most beautiful silk, for public admiration during Marian feasts, is referred to in CSM 18, Por nos de dulta livrar [track 4: instrumental version]. Later, when his project was attaining its final stage, his effort was personally rewarded by miracles performed by Mary, as is narrated, for instance, in CSM 295, Que por al non devess’ ome [track 17: instrumental version].

These songs also illustrate the two main categories of CSM composition: lyrical and narrative. Overall, one song in each group of ten praise the qualities and deeds of the Virgin Mary (cantiga de loor), while the remaining tell of her miracles (cantigas de miragres). In the present recording, five compositions are of the loor type: the initial one (CSM 1) and the four with ‘decadal’ numbers (CSM 10, 60, 340, 380). The miracle songs include both short narratives, as in CSM 166, Como poden per sas culpas [track 19], and very long ones, seldom performed nowadays in their entirety, e.g. CSM 213, Quen serve Santa Maria [track 15], where, of twenty stanzas, only four (I, IX, XII and XIII) are included on this recording. The poems tend to adopt the formal features of the Andalusian zajal, an Arabic song inspired by old Iberian traditions — strophic rhymed poetry with initial refrain, followed by stanzas which initially present contrasting rhymes but end up replicating those of the refrain. Exceptionally, refrainless forms, following high-register troubadour models, are used: this occurs, for instance with CSM 1, Des oge mais [track 2] and CSM 400, Pero cantigas de loor, because they were purposely composed to open and close the collection (without the appendices), serving therefore as its overall frame.

Despite this, the collection at first encompassed only one hundred songs; the King then changed his mind and expanded it to four hundred (plus special groups meant for liturgical feasts). The selection and distribution of the pre-existing songs was also changed. This can be still seen in the extant manuscripts. The first (Madrid, B.N. MS 10 069) was kept in Toledo in the eighteenth century, hence its siglum *To. It includes 128 songs. Two other codices, originating in Seville, are found in the Monastery of El Escorial, north of Madrid. The most outstanding, being richly illuminated (MS. T. I. 1), is generally referred to as códice rico or *T; it contains 193 cantigas and was meant to be the first volume of a two-volume set, each with 200 songs, the second volume of which remained incomplete and is now kept in Florence. It was probably written around 1280-84. The last codex, *E (MS. b. I. 2), famous for its miniatures with musical instruments, is slightly later. It contains 407 cantigas (discounting repetitions) and therefore represents the final stage of the collection; its numbering has been followed by modern editors.

Besides the total number of songs, there are differences between the initial and the final stage. Miracles located in Spain, e.g. CSM 18, Por nos de dultas livrar [track 4], are rarely found among the first hundred. The narratives were mainly taken from compilations in Latin that enjoyed international circulation, and then translated and versified; many of the sources coincide with those used earlier by Gautier de Coinci in his Miracles de Notre Dame: examples include CSM 7, Santa Maria amar [track 10], on the pregnant abbess, and CSM 105, Gran piadad’ e mercee e nobreza [track 8], on the maid of Arras. Also international in character are the miracles of CSM 76, Quen as sas figuras da Virgen partir [track 3], on the image of the Christ Child that was held for ransom; and CSM 85, Pera toller gran perfia [track 12: instrumental version], on the vision seen by a Jew in England. Neither of them belongs to the original hundred songs, but they retain the general orientation of that group. Two unique stories are located in France: CSM 127, Non pod’ ome pela Virgen [track 14: instrumental version], on the young man who kicked his mother, and CSM 281, U alguen a Jesucristo [track 13], about a knight who became the Devil’s vassal. In the later layers of the collection, however, more and more miracles associated with the Iberian Peninsula are added. Locations include, in Spain, Salas (CSM 166, Como poden per sas culpas [track 19]) and Sigüenza (CSM 383, O fondo do mar tan chão [track 11]); and in Portugal, Terena (CSM 213, Quen serve Santa Maria [track 15]).

The changes also concern musical notation, which belongs to two different types. *To takes as its basis the note-shapes of Iberian chant sources, while the notational repertoire of *T and *E is inspired by French, pre-Franconian mensural notation. In contrast with the more archaic Toledo type, the Escorial notation permits a relatively confident rhythmic interpretation. This is, in fact, one of the reasons why the CSM attract many modern performers. Unlike most sources of thirteenth-century song, the manuscripts copied in Alfonso’s court include not only the pitches of a melody, but also their relative length. This is vital information for musicians; moreover, this kind of information carries important cultural implications, since rhythmic models can often be identified and influences detected.

Apparently these songs are not dissimilar from the European mainstream. They are predominantly syllabic, with occasional short melismas. Most of the melodies are compatible with the standard Gregorian eight-mode system, allowing for some deviation from expected modal behaviour; some melodic formulas are reminiscent of Gregorian chant, even if borrowing from liturgical sources is rare. CSM 340, Virgen Madre groriosa [track 1], is actually based on a troubadour song, an alba by Cadenet. Julián Ribera in the 1920s described the CSM, however, as being essentially Arabic. Later Higinio Anglés attacked Ribera’s claim on solid musicological grounds. Both views have recently proved to be too schematic.

King Alfonso X had a very strong connection with southern Spain, Al-Andalus, whose territories he helped recover from Islamic rule, established in the early eighth century. He spent many months in Murcia when it was still a vassal-state, ruled by a Muslim king; he befriended the King of Granada and established his court in Seville, whose impressive mosque became the cathedral where he was eventually buried. Medieval Andalusian music, between the tenth and thirteenth centuries, had both Hispanic and Arabic elements: Andalusian formal features were basically Iberian, while rhythmic features were basically oriental. The simple virelai form (types like AA/BBAA or AB/CCAB, the stanza beginning always with a contrasting melody) probably corresponds to an old indigenous tradition later taken over and developed by Andalusian musicians; the Andalusian rondeau form (AB/BB[B ]AB) was certainly local. Most of the CSM, as in this recording, exhibit a virelai form. However, no fewer than eighty-six (21%) adopt the Andalusian rondeau form, unheard-of in most of Europe. An example is CSM 295, Que por al non devess’ ome [track 17].

The Arabic rhythmic tradition has some superficial similarities with the French system of rhythmic modes, but it includes a few unusual, characteristic features: the large scale of some rhythmic cycles and periods, the use of syncopation and the importance given to quaternary metre. It also uses dotted rhythm and quintuple metre. The rhythm of the Cantigas de Santa Maria seems generally to be of the simple Parisian modal type, with frequent modal mixture (acknowledged by contemporary theorists), as in CSM 7, Santa Maria amar [track 10], and CSM 383, O fondo do mar [track 11]. However, many songs exhibit characteristics that cannot be understood in terms of French rhythmic theory, but make complete sense when compared with Arabic treatises, as in CSM 160, Quen bõa dona querrá [track 7], and CSM 1, Des oge mais [track 2]. Moreover, some rhythmic patterns that we associate with medieval France are also described in Arabic treatises, strengthening the case for possible eastern influence. The performer is confronted with interpretative options as well. For instance CSM 105, Gran piadad’ [track 8] recalls the Parisian third rhythmic mode, and the second may also be freely applied; however it could be sung according to quintuple metre, which survived in Iberian songs from the Renaissance and in some strands of oral tradition.

Thus the Cantigas are a mixed, Christian-oriented repertoire, as Anglés observed; but they also include, as Ribera suspected, some typical Andalusian traits rooted in the larger Mediterranean culture. This sets them apart from other medieval European song repertoires, and helps to explain both their astounding musical variety and their success with modern audiences.

Manuel Pedro Ferreira