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Staff Report

CUENCA, SPAIN, 27 MARCH 2007— Holy Week is one of the most spectacular and emotional fiestas in the ancient city of Cuenca, located in the Region of Castile-La Mancha, between the Júcar and Huécar river canyons. Cuenca's urban layout, with its hills and narrow streets, make it a very special setting to celebrate Holy Week and Easter. Religious devotion, art, colour and music combine in acts to commemorate the death of Jesus Christ.

Processions led by Nazarenos dressed in long hooded gowns reminiscent of the Klu Klux Klan , the American terrorist organization, parade through the streets carrying religious statues (pasos ) to the sound of drums and music. The participants are members of the different Easter brotherhoods and are hooded in order to protect the anonymity of the sinners seeking forgiveness.

Semana Santa de Cuenca

These traditions date back to the 17th century, when the first Easter brotherhoods were founded. The annual Semana de Música Religiosa de Cuenca (Cuenca Religious Music Week)  coincides with the Easter week celebrations and features important international orchestras and soloists. The concert venues, the Capilla del Espíritu Santo inside the Cathedral, the Convent of the Justinians of Saint Peter, the Iglesia de San Miguel, Fundación Antonio Pérez , The Romanesque Church of Arcas, among others contribute to the magical atmosphere. This year's festival themes are the 300th anniversary of the death of Dietrich Buxtehude and 250th of Domenico Scarlatti.

Camerata Salzburg, Compañía Pedro María Sánchez, Gabrieli Consort, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightment, Schola Antiqua, Venice Baroque Orchestra, Gerd Albrecht (conductor) , Flora María Álvaro, Raquel Andueza (soprano), José Antonio Saínz Alfaro, Emilio Aragón, Thomas Bauer (baritone),  Andrés Cea (organ), Vittorio Ghielmi (cello), Gustav Leonhardt (harpsichord), Marisa Martins, (mezzo-soprano), Paul McCreesh, Katherina Müller, (soprano), José Van Dam (baritone), keyboard artists Kenneth Weiss and Ivo Pogorelich  are among the many musicians on this year's festival programme of mostly baroque and early sacred music including the complete traditional Gregorian offices at the Gothic Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de Gracia, built on the site of a former mosque.

Cathedral of Nuestra Señora de Gracia

Incidentally, for those with Semana Santa plans in Andalusia, you might want to accompany your evening tapas with Sangre de Cristo or Blood of Christ, the fashionable house cocktail served in a glass chalice at Bar Garlochi on the Calle Boteros in Seville.

Semana de Música Religiosa de Cuenca
30 March - 8 April 2007
Paseo del Huécar, s/n
16001 Cuenca, Spain

CD Tip

Dietrich Buxtehude: Membra Jesu Nostri
Anne Grimm (soprano), Johannette Zomer (soprano), Peter de Groot (alto)Andrew Tortise (tenor) , Bas Ramselarr (bass)
Netherlands Bach Society
Jos Van Veldhoven, conductor
Channel Classics 2006
CCS 24006 SACD/hybrid pcm, stereo, multichannel

Like the exquisite and personal early Italian devotional paintings in tempera and gold on wood panels, Dietrich Buxtehude's seven meditations on the various body parts of the crucified Jesus Christ (feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart, and face) are small in size but immense in inspiration, achievement and influence.  Buxtehude (1637-1707) influenced many composers,  notably Johann Sebastian Bach. Historically informed and Flemish in style, the singers and instrumental musicians of The Netherlands Bach Society offer vibrant and deeply moving readings of all seven short cantatas. Highly recommended. 

Related CK Archives

John Scott Plays Complete Buxtehude Organ Music

Spanish Baroque Music: An Interview With Edouardo Lopez Banzo 

101 Best Classical Music CDs: Early and Baroque Music

Guide to Baroque Instruments

Early Italian Painting: How to buy a Masterpiece

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