I discovered Conde Claros in the first programme of Juliam Bream's 1985 television series "Guitarra - the Guitar in Spain", at a time when I'd stopped playing the guitar. The piece - 22 Diferencias sobre Conde Claros by Luis de Narváez, and Bream's heroic performance on his Romanillos vihuela, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaZDknXPtCw
, caught my imagination.
When I started playing again, some years later, one of the first books I bought was Pujol's anthology of vihuela music in the Schott edition, which contains Mudarra's "Ludovico" Fantasia, the Canción del Emperador and Guárdame las Vacas by Narváez - and a different set of variations on Conde Claros, that by Mudarra. I've learnt that - there is a most helpful performance by M. Delcamp on this forum - and have finally made a start on the Narváez work, in the Pujol edition, published by Editions Max Eschig.
(There is a free downloadable version on the internet here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n31CQJf1R8g
, but it is in 6 sharps, and seems to want you to retune your bottom E string to F#).
The online performances of this I'm studying most closely are those by Hopkinson Smith on vihuela here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlNUpgptomQ
and this by Alex Park on guitar https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vt9K9ltwrQ
- beautiful, elegant and precise with great tone control. There are vihuela performances a-plenty of both the Narváez and Mudarra works.
But who was Conde Claros de Montalván? An internet search for "Conde Claros poem" (or "poema", if you prefer your results in Spanish) brings up acres of scholarship on the subject. The poem has Spanish, or Portuguese, or Carolingian, or Judaeo-Christian origins....the "king" may or may not have been Charlemagne....Anyway the variations we play, by Narváez and Mudarra (there are several others) are based on the tono
to which the ballad Romance del conde Claros de Montalván
, some 420 lines long, was sung. The full text is here https://es.wikisource.org/wiki/Romance_ ... alv%C3%A1n
- I've attempted a rough summary of it:
The gallant Count Claros - intrepid hunter, slayer of Moors - leaps out of bed shortly after midnight and with the help of his valet dresses in his finest clothes. He waylays his beloved, the princess Claraniña, on her way th the baths. In the shadow of a cypress tree, under a rosebush, they make love. They are spotted by a hunter. Instead of accepting Claros's generous cash offer to keep his mouth shut, the hunter goes to tell the king. The king, furious, has the hunter killed for having witnessed such a scene, then has Claros arrested and thrown into a dungeon in a tower. He is sentenced to be executed by having his throat cut, but is visited in prison by his uncle the Archbishop and a page boy. He asks the page boy to take a message to the princess, as he wishes to see her in his final moments. The princess, prostrate with grief, pleads with her father, reminding him of Claros's lineage, services rendered to the crown, etc., and at the last moment the king reprieves him so that they can be married.