Music of six Basque zortzikos of the XIX century thought to be lost found in Mexico

Discovered in Mexico City the music of six San Sebastian zortzikos from the beginning of the 19th century, with a Christmas and Carnival theme.

Music of six Basque zortzikos of the XIX century thought to be lost found in Mexico
Photo: Historical archive José María Basagoiti Noriega of the San Ignacio School of Loyola Víizcaínas

As often happens in these cases, the discoveries are made by chance or by "carambola". Recently, they have discovered in Mexico City the music of six San Sebastian zortzikos from the beginning of the 19th century, with a Christmas and Carnival theme. The doctor in Musicology by the University of Montreal, John G. Lazos, has been the one who has found these scores, while he was immersed in the cataloging work of the Musical Archives of the College of Vizcainas. Surprised at the discovery of six games of zor-tzikos, he sent them to the Musical Archive of the Basque Country, Eresbil, to help them identify and translate them, since the lyrics, originally, are written in Basque.

The researcher admits that he was surprised to find the scores, given that the corpus of the Mexican fund is composed of religious works, mainly "the mass and the divine office". In addition to these compositions, the archive houses studies, methods, concerts, and sonatas typical of the period. Therefore, finding scores of Basque origin with these characteristics is something "exceptional".

To be able to catalog them, what he had to do was to understand what his lyrics said, for that reason, he sent them to Jon Bagüés, director of Eresbil, who first made amends in the compass of the zortzikos to try to date them. Bagüés explains that until the middle of the 19th century this type of composition did not have a compass of 6/8 (six by eight): "At that time they did not know that the best rhythm for writing a zortziko is 5/8. With 6/8 it does not fit well. " After 1850, however, the proper metric began to be used. Repairing both the rhythm and the spelling used to write the letter, deduced that the documents could not be before the nineteenth and not later than the middle of that century. The head of the Basque Music Archive refines the period a bit more and dates between 1818 and 1830 the date of the texts and, "probably, also that of music".

When reading the lyrics, Bagüés perceived that a "Basque culturalist" was used and, then, by the spelling and by the theme of the works, he concluded that these compositions belonged to José Vicente Etxegarai, a poet from San Sebastian who was known for making the festivities lyrical From the capital.

Thus, among other publications, the director consulted, the book Festara, which compiles all Etxegarai's poetic production, and compared the letters of the zortzikos found in Mexico with those gathered in the volume. In this way, he discovered that four of the six zortzikos were written by the Donostiarra. "I think it is the six," says Bagüés, who indicates that "unfortunately" the authorship of the other two can not be confirmed.

The director of Eresbil adds that the pieces found are not complete, but are fragments or "small parts" of Christmas carols, carnival comparsas, or other comparsas of young people from San Sebastian who went out on the eve of the Day of Kings - a tradition that is no longer celebrated-: "It was a party that was halfway between the religious carol and the invitation to Carnival."

In this sense, being known letters, "the value" of the discovery lies in the music that accompanies the texts and in the fact that it was believed "disappeared" music, which is "very interesting" for the study of the zortziko, because "there are not so many of that time".

As for the scores, Bagüés considers that it would not be "unreasonable to attribute" the musical composition to Pedro Albéniz, who until 1830 was a teacher at the Capilla de Donostia and who appears as an author at similar events, such as some Christmas carols from 1829 or music from the celebrations in honor of King Fernando VII in 1828.

The researcher John G. Lazos is producing the catalog of the musical heritage of the San Ignacio de Loyola Vizcaínas school in Mexico City. This educational center, founded in the eighteenth century by Basque residents in that country, brings together, in addition to their own, the musical archives of the school of Girls of Our Lady of Charity, of the sixteenth century, and San Miguel of Bethlehem, the seventeenth century.

The Doctor in Musicology, which is not the first time he faces a cataloging process like the current one, highlights that the center's funds are of "great importance".

As for the documents, of which already analyzed approximately half, the researcher states that they cover the period between the sixteenth and nineteenth century, what is known as "the period of New Spain and independent Mexico." "The vast majority are musical manuscripts, which must be considered as unique and unrepeatable documents, while a smaller part includes printed matter," says John G. Lazos, who adds the list of composers is long and brings together both locals and Europeans, as well as a "Grosso whose authorship is still to be defined".

Questioned if it is possible to find more documents such as the Zortzikos from San Sebastian, he affirms that he has not yet found another case like this, although he adds that "there is still a little more than half of the musical corpus to review and the surprises will surely continue".