Cantadas al Santísimo by Francisco Hernández Illana and José de Nebra
The 18th century turned Spanish music upside down. To satisfy the tastes of the newly-installed Borbon dynasty, Spanish musicians gradually adopted the trends set by French and Italian music. Sebastián Durón, Antonio Literes and José de Torres, born in the second half of the 17th century, were particularly skilled at assimilating the music of the rest of Europe in their compositions. But it was the composers born around 1700 who were to fully adopt the techniques and style of Naples authors such as Leonardo Vinci, Leonardo Leo or Giovanni Battista Mele. This was the case of José de Nebra (1702-1768), who was in Madrid at the same time as Mele and as other Italian composers working in the court such as Jaime Facco, Francisco Corradini or Francisco Corselli. The latter took over the position of Royal maestro de capilla from Torres in 1738 and shared it with Nebra as from 1751.
Nebra’s music, both religious and for the theatre, reached all over Hispanic territory, as proved by findings of his works in a wide range of Spanish and Latin American archives. It was considered the fashionable model and was imitated by the chapel masters who worked in the cathedrals and collegiate churches of the Spanish monarchy.
One of these masters was the prolific Francisco Hernández Illana. Born in Alcira (Valencia) around 1700, in 1723 he obtained what was to our knowledge his first position, that of maestro de capilla at the Cathedral of Astorga, where much of his work is conserved. In 1728, he occupied the same position for the Royal Corpus Christi College in Valencia and the following year at the Cathedral of Burgos, where he remained until his death. During his lifetime, he was praised for his “great skill in modern music”, a characteristic that can be appreciated in the cantadas we have selected. This programme is completed with a symphony by Vicente Basset, violinist in the Orquesta de los Reales Sitios during the time that Farinelli was in Madrid.