Cordoba Cathedral has always made music a part of its daily life, of its worship. As a result, music and liturgy form an inseparable pair. In addition to being a church and a monument, this space boasts an interesting musical heritage. This legacy is not confined to the past, but is also a feature of the present, of the activity taking place each day when music is played as a sensory element to accompany the liturgy, and in initiatives involving the Cathedral's choir and orchestra
Music has always been present in the Cathedral of Cordoba as an inseparable part of the Catholic liturgy. This has been the case from the day of the consecration of the building for Catholic worship, on 29 June 1236, with the intonation of the hymn of praise Te Deum. The new religion demanded new musical forms as an expression of a new faith, initially using traditional Gregorian chant. No codices from these early days have been preserved and the first ones date back to the year 1294. From this era we have an inventory showing the first list of musical manuscripts. In terms of this document, only two fragments of works have survived to the current day. These, contained in manuscript 123, correspond to the authorship of Albarus Cordubensis. The first musical manuscript preserved is a Pontificale Romanum, dating back to 1350.
In the 16th century the Cathedral of Cordoba created a new set of plainchant choir books, although there are references to the existence of books of polyphonic singing in the previous century. However, the oldest preserved dates back to somewhere between the mid-sixteenth century and the early seventeenth century and contains works by Jerome Duran de la Cueva. It is currently home to an important set of choir books, real musical gems, which follow the melodic tradition of the Gregorian repertoire and feature exquisite polychrome miniatures.
To understand the musical life of the Cordoban cathedral it is also necessary to talk about the organisation responsible for its management, namely the Music Chapel, which offers its services for the liturgical activities held in the main diocesan church, with a special focus on the festivities of Nativity, Easter, Corpus Christi and the Assumption. Its original regulation appears in the document Estatutos de la Sancta Yglesia Cathedral de Córdova, (By-Laws of the Holy Church Cathedral of Cordoba) dating back to 1577. Bishop Rojas y Sandoval first began its institutionalisation as a professional body. Since that time the Musical Chapel has been an institution organised under the direction of the chapel master, the highest authority in musical issues, who is responsible, among other duties, for managing it, provide training and composing new works.
Along with the significant musical production of the chapel masters, we find works belonging to other composers who, although they had no direct relationship with this church, have contributed to its musical repertoire. The work of all of these has made it possible, today, for thousands of musical pieces to be conserved in the Cathedral of Cordoba Archives.
Another essential figure in the music of the Cathedral is the organist, whose work has had a significant influence on the Music Chapel. One has to appreciate their constant presence in the daily liturgy. In this case, sources refer to Juan Rodríguez el Viejo as the first organist of the Cordoban cathedral.
Cathedral of Cordoba Orchestra and Choir
Cathedral of Cordoba Orchestra
Its purpose is to solemnise the most important liturgical events, such as the celebrations of the Virgin of Fuensanta, the Immaculate Conception and Easter. The idea to create it started to take shape in 2014, although we had to wait a year for its first performance, during the Solemn Pontifical Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord in 2015. The orchestra is composed of 50 top-level professional musicians with extensive experience in the symphonic-choral field. Its performances range from the classics of Vivaldi, Bach and Mozart to contemporary composers such as Marco Frisina.
Cathedral of Cordoba Choir
At present it performs throughout the entire liturgical year, participating in all Sunday and religious holiday celebrations, in addition to accompanying the Cathedral Orchestra in its performances. This mixed vocal group, composed of 37 refined voices of style and quality, focuses on the interpretation of holy music, both polyphonic and Gregorian as well as symphonic-choral.The Cathedral of Cordoba Choir has different prestigious soloists with a wealth of experience covering a wide repertoire of the great composers, from the Renaissance to the present day.
The organ plays a starring role in cathedral music. It is designed to be a large musical instrument that fits with the space, its architecture and its ornamentation. Cordoba Cathedral originally had three organs that were replaced by those found today in the nave of the choir, namely the organ in the Epistle nave and that in the Gospel nave.
In 1700 the decision was made to build a new organ for the Epistle side and this was commissioned from the master organ builder José Antonio Colmenero.
The Valencian brothers Miguel and Barnabas Llop were the organ builders entrusted with its construction. Making it involved 35 arrobas of English tin (one arroba being equivalent to around 15kg) along with many others of lead, 6 planks of walnut and 3 arrobas of glue.
It was built during the episcopate of Francisco Alarcón (1658-1675), as can be seen from the emblem crowning the organ. Along with this motif we also find the arms of the bishops Agustín de Ayestarán (1796-1805) and Pedro Antonio de Trevilla (1805-1832), referring to the periods during which its repair was undertaken by Patricio Furriel. To these projects we can add the one that took place in 1892, when the master organ builder Jean-Baptiste Ghys increased the number of registers.
This is one of the largest organs in Spain. Moreover, it is noteworthy for its adaptation to new technologies since it uses a digital transmission system which allows for a total of 108 registers to be obtained and an almost infinite configuration of sets. It has several MIDI ports that allow the pipes to be operated not only with the three manuals and the pedal, but also with any instrument with a MIDI connection, independently interpreting any work written in the score. The symphonic organ of the Cathedral of Cordoba has around 3500 pipes and 48 real sets, most notably its Corneta Imperial of VI ranks and its Batalla Imperial.
This organ is currently in use each day. Every morning it accompanies the psalms of Lauds and Terce and the musical liturgy of the Conventual Mass of the Chapter. It is sometimes used for the concerts held at the Mosque-Cathedral Monumental Site of Cordoba.