In the 16th and 17th centuries, the city of Évora was one of the most important centres of Portuguese polyphony. The gothic Cathedral of Évora was the scene of the development of the so-called 'Portuguese School' which produced many important musicians who were also active in Spain and in the colonies of the New World. The Cathedral archive, housing numerous musical treasures, bears eloquent witness to this and Rogerio Gonçalves and A Corte Musical have now recorded a selection of sacred and secular villancicos from this source. The foundation on which the four singers present this rousing music is a colourful instrumental accompaniment consisting of Spanish harp and Spanish guitar, strings and percussion, amongst other instruments.
The villancico was originally a polyphonic Spanish song with a secular subject; it was soon incorporated into the Christian liturgy and frequently used at high holidays and other religious festive days. In the archive of Évora, there are villancicos with Spanish as well as Portuguese texts, which is a rarity. Here, we are well able to observe the cultural variety, individuality and expressiveness of (early) baroque Portuguese music in the alternation between vocal and instrumental music, and in the contrast between secular and sacred works.