Josep Mir i Llussà (c. 1700-1764, Catalan)

Josep Mir i Llussà is one among thousands of now completely forgotten composers from the baroque and classical era. He must have been highly regarded in his lifetime and country, as he held important positions not only in Catalonia but also in New Castile (link will open new tab to entry on Wikipedia), including the Royal Monastery of La Encarnación in Madrid. His works were still played in the early 19th Century, 50 years after they were composed, and scores of his compositions are disseminated through Spain and even Latin America (Mexico and Lima). They are all in manuscript form: the music was written for practical purposes and, despite Scarlatti and Soler, Spain was apparently too remote a cultural center in Europe for Mir i Llussà to gain a widespread recognition and publication that would have ensured his survival in the eyes of posterity.

Yet the works gathered on Missa in D Major, Stabat Mater, Quomodo Obscuratum Est, Lauda Jerusalem. Soloists, Chorus La Xantria, Vespres d’Arnadí, Dani Espasa. Musièpoca MEPCD-004 (2011) show that there was nothing “archaic”, remote or backward-looking in Llussà’s compositional outlook. His choral works are powerful, triumphant, but also brilliantly colorful in their orchestration (flutes and trumpets stand out in the Mass, and there’s an aria for tenor accompanied by oboe and string pizzicatti in theMotet Quomodo Obscuratum Est, as beautiful as any written by Bach, Vivaldi, Haydn or Mozart). Arias are mellifluous and there’s great interplay between soloists and chorus. In contrast, some purely choral numbers are beautifully interior.

Incidentally, the particle “i” (usually found under the form “y”) in Mir i Llussà means “and”. See Wikipedia’s article “Spanish naming customs“: In the sixteenth century, the Spanish adopted the copulative conjunction y (“and”) to distinguish a person’s surnames” – you know, as in Francisco Goya y Lucientes, José Ortega y Grasset or Pablo Diego Ruiz y Picasso. The liner notes, when they contract Mir i Llussà’s name, call him “Mir”. As in Francesco Goya or Pablo Ruiz, the famous painters.

On the strength of this CD he could be as important a find as Zelenka.