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Women in the Arts and Letters in Navarre (13). Women musicians in the history of Navarra

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Diario de Navarra

María Gembero-Ustárroz :: María Gembero-Ustárroz

Milá y Fontanals Institution of research at Humanities, CSIC and member of the Chair de Patrimonio y Arte Navarro.

Diario de Navarra, in partnership with the Chair of Heritage and Navarrese Art of the University of Navarra, addresses, monthly, with the help of specialists from various universities and institutions, aspects on the relationship of women with the arts and literature in Navarra.

Attempting an approach to the role played by women in the musical history of Navarra is a complex challenge . In preparing my book Navarra. Música (2016), the first general history on topic, I verified the lack of programs of study on women musicians in the Navarrese context and, therefore, their null recognition. The Western musical canon has been built from works composed by men, linked to musical institutions and practices in which women had no place. Women composers could hardly abound, for example, if they did not have access to the appropriate training , and when even the creative capacity of the female gender was questioned. As a consequence, women do not appear in musical historiography or appear only exceptionally, tangentially and rarely as protagonists. We hardly know the names of women musicians, nor the contexts in which they developed their musical work. The scarcity of women musicians in historical accounts derives from the lack of interest of researchers, the limitations of the sources used so far and the dominant male approach , which only in recent decades has begun to be revised, both by feminist historiography and by other methodological approaches. It is a priority to try to reconstruct the ignored historical musical reality of 50% of the population, the female one, but to do so it is necessary to explore the areas in which women could play a leading role in music. I present below some examples of musical activities before 1950 with female participation, as sample of lines of work that can be developed in the future.

Musical nuns

Convents were one of the few strongholds where women could exercise the musical profession while maintaining a good moral consideration. The cultural importance of the Navarre convents was underlined by Ricardo Fernández Gracia in the book Tras las celosías ( 2018), but specific musical programs of study about them is missing.

During the Modern Age, many young women with good musical training entered convents as musical nuns, with no or reduced dowry, to form part of the all-female musical ensembles of these institutions. In a forthcoming study I show, based on sources from the file General of Navarra and the file Diocesan of Pamplona, that the future nuns were systematically trained for years with masters who taught them music theory, plainchant, polyphonic singing, how to play instruments such as the organ, harp and bajón, to play music at sight and also, on many occasions, to compose everything necessary for the worship of each convent (including Christmas carols and pieces for up to eight voices). In seventeenth-century Pamplona, the musical school of Diego Galindo, organist of the cathedral, stood out, where many young women were trained and later sent to convents in different parts of the Peninsula. Some convents in Navarre, such as the Poor Clares of Arizkun and the Carmelite convent of Araceli in Corella, preserve historical musical collections that have not yet been catalogued and that testify to the musical activity of the nuns.

Performers of secular music

Some women who emerged from anonymity during the medieval period are Isabel la chanteuse, singer and minstrel at the court of Charles II of Navarre (1349-1387) and the dancer Graciosa de Valencia, active at the court of Charles III in 1412-1413. Sculptural and pictorial representations confirm the presence of women musicians, as can be seen in two players of stringed instruments that appear in the mural of the Passion (1330) by Juan Oliver for the Refectory of the cathedral of Pamplona (now in the Museum of Navarre), among other cases.

From the 16th century onwards there is abundant information about women musicians in the "comedias", very varied theatrical spectacles that were negatively criticized by moralists. The Dominican friar Francisco Garces, in his enquiry y respuesta [...] sobre las comedias y bayles de contradanzas y otros deshonestos e instrucción de la crianza buena de los hijos (Pamplona, 1756), condemned particularly sinful dances, such as the fandango and the contradanza, as well as the supposedly provocative gestures that women included in their singing and dancing on stage. The comediennes (who were often musicians at the same time) were sometimes the protagonists of loud scandals. According to documentation preserved in the file Municipal de Pamplona, on October 17, 1737, while La batalla del honor was being performed in the Casa de Comedias of the capital of Navarre, the graciosa María de Neveras did not sing her lyrics when it was her turn and slapped Antonia de Flores, second graciosa, on stage, who accused her of never knowing the part. This subject of altercations contributed to the bad moral reputation of the comedies and to the fact that the theater, unlike the convent, was not considered an ideal musical destination for women.

At the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, some singers from Navarre or settled in Navarre achieved recognition, such as Felisa Munárriz and Josefa Sanz, who participated in some of the concerts organized in Pamplona by Pablo Sarasate.

Teachers and composers

The musical training of women underwent significant changes during the 19th century, as secular educational institutions were created. Among them was the Pamplona Music Academy, created in 1858 and one of the first in Spain to be fully subsidized by a public institution, which admitted students of both sexes, although the girls initially only studied solfeggio and piano. Numerous women, both students and teachers, passed through this institution.

One of the typical musical professions for women from the second half of the 19th century onwards was teaching, normally linked to the piano, an essential instrument in domestic and salon music. In this context, figures such as Celestina Ledesma Ancioa, born in Tafalla during the period in which her father, the well-known Aragonese composer Nicolás Ledesma, was chapel master and organist of the town (1809-1824), emerged. Celestina went on to publish at least one work, her Divertimientos por todos los tonos mayores y menores preparatorios a las piezas de piano (Bilbao, 1879?), which reflects her connection with the piano teaching . This musician married the Guipuzcoan organist Luis Bidaola and was the maternal grandmother of the well-known composer Luis Guridi Bidaola.

The case of Emiliana de Zubeldía Inda (Salinas de Oro, 1888 - Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, 1987), about whom there is a biography by her student Leticia Varela and brief research by other authors, is better known. place Trained at the Pamplona Music Academy with Joaquín Maya, and in Paris with the pianist Blanche Selva and the Belgian composer Désiré Pâque, Zubeldía was the first woman to obtain in 1920 a permanent position as piano teacher at the Pamplona Music Academy. In 1922 she took a radical turn in her life, leaving her husband and family to go to Paris, resigned in 1924 from her place teaching position in Pamplona and traveled through the United States and other American countries before settling definitively in Mexico. In New York and Mexico she worked with the Mexican composer Augusto Novaro, creator of a musical system based on acoustic and mathematical principles. Zubeldía's internationally acclaimed degree program as a pianist was parallel to his compositional work, which includes interesting piano, vocal (many of them based on folkloric tradition) and symphonic works. He was award National Composer of Mexico in 1957, published some compositions and trained several generations of students in Hermosillo. Most of his bequest remains unpublished, and his music is only exceptionally heard in concerts and recordings.

Patrons and dedicataries

Royal and noblewomen used to receive musical training as part of their courtly Education , and were often patrons of musicians and dedicators of compositions. During the Age average, they had musicians in their service, among others, Joan of Navarre (daughter of King Charles I and Queen of England from 1402) and Queen Blanche of Navarre (married to John II of Aragon). Inés de Clèves practiced dance and possibly shared the musical interests of her husband, the Prince of Viana.

In the 18th century, María Josefa de Armendáriz y Acedo, daughter of Juan Esteban de Armendáriz, third Marquis of Castelfuerte, for whom the Italian composer Girolamo Sertori worked, stood out as a dedicator of musical works. Ten manuscript volumes with music dedicated to this lady are preserved at the Library Services Nacional de España, one of them (Pamplona, 1758) with six sonatas for keyboard by Sertori himself, and the other nine (dated in Pamplona and Madrid between 1758 and 1760) with the Divertimenti musicali per camera, a compilation of operatic pieces and symphonic overtures by at least thirty different authors, among them Sertori himself and other important Italian and Spanish composers of the time. Possibly Maria Josefa herself participated as harpsichordist and singer in the performance of this repertoire.

Transmitters of music of oral tradition

Women, due to their historical relevance in the domestic sphere and in the Education of their children, have been important transmitters of the music of oral tradition. It is significant, for example, that several women collaborated as informants with the researchers who in 1944 collected for the first time scientifically traditional music in Navarra within the so-called "folkloric missions" organized by the Spanish Institute of Musicology of the CSIC in Barcelona. At mission statement 4, Luis Gil Lasheras collected some pieces transmitted by Pilar Rodríguez, perhaps a resident of Falces, and by an anonymous old woman from Roncal. For Father José Antonio de Donostia, compiler of mission statement 5, several rural women were informants, such as Facunda Camino Hasquet from Luzaide/Valcarlos and her mother Isabel Hasquet (born in Arnéguy, France), Juana Engracia Adot Cambra from Ochagavía, Cándida Olaechea Eraso, born in Pamplona and partly raised in Areso, and Juana Lecuberri Arburua, from Zugarramurdi.

A pending challenge

Since the second half of the 20th century, social and educational changes have brought about an exponential change in the musical presence of women. subject Today it is common to find in Navarre students and teachers at conservatories and music schools, women composers, singers and soloists of all kinds of instruments, conductors of musical ensembles, members of choirs, orchestras and bands, singer-songwriters, jazz performers and performers of various popular urban music styles, women bertsolaris, musicologists, music managers and producers. The award Príncipe de Viana de la Cultura has also sometimes been awarded to women musicians (the soprano María Bayo in 2002, the composer Teresa Catalán in 2021). The usual presence of women in today's complex musical fabric contrasts with the almost total ignorance we have of women's musical contribution in past eras. The cases mentioned before 1950 are only the tip of the iceberg of a historical reality that has hardly been studied and, therefore, silenced or ignored. Reconstructing the musical history of women in Navarra is a pending subject .