Arts-Scène Diffusion

Il Festino


José Marín, a tenor at the court of Madrid

José Marín, a tenor at the court of Madrid

The Spanish singer and composer José Marín (1619-1699) is one of the most astonishing, fascinating and ambiguous artistic figures of 17th-century Spain. In the course of a notably long life, he was ordained in Rome in 1644 and joined the choir of the Monastery of the Incarnation in Madrid as a tenor. Accused of theft and murder in 1654 and again in 1656, he was arrested, tortured, laicized and imprisoned. The court at Madrid (a real court of miracles under the Habsburgs) was used to indiscretions of this sort, and did not really hold them against this exceptional singer. In due course it welcomed a “penitent” José Marín who, after several years of exile and pilgrimage, led an exemplary life until he died on 8 March 1699.

José Marín’s tonos (songs) are among the most beautiful examples of 17th-century Spanish secular vocal music. Invariably written in verse-refrain form, they have an accompaniment for 5-course guitar (baroque guitar), written in tablature, and usually deal with the tribulations of love. While some praise the beloved’s beautiful eyes, others make fun of the “hero” who complains of having fallen into the clutches of an ugly and wicked harridan. This typically Spanish strain of realism is paralleled in other art forms, for example in Velázquez’s paintings or the plays of Lope de Vega or Calderón de la Barca.

These songs display an astonishing melodic richness and a guitar accompaniment of remarkable rhythmic variety, often involving syncopation.

This concert offers an opportunity to discover these surprising and little-known tonos in a version for soprano and tenor voices, with the original accompaniment for baroque guitar and lute.


Dagmar Saskova soprano
Francisco Javier Manalich tenor  
Eric Bellocq guitar & lute
Manuel de Grange guitar & direction


José Marín, a tenor at the Madrid court
José Marín, a tenor at the Madrid court

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