Capella de Ministrers wins prestigious ICMA Awards with the album ‘El collar de la paloma’

Capella de Ministrers, directed by Carles Magraner, has been the winner of the prestigious International Classical Music Awards 2023 (ICMA) in the Early Music category with ‘El collar de la paloma’ (The Collar of the Dove), a work based on the eponymous book by the renowned Andalusian humanist, poet, and writer Ibn Hazm (Córdoba, 994 – Montija, 1064). With this album, the Valencian ensemble paid tribute and celebrated the 1,000 years of this work, considered one of the most prominent in Arabic literature. The audiovisual project had the collaboration of the City Councils of Córdoba and Xàtiva (Valencia), the city where Hazm wrote it in 1022.

The ICMA Awards, considered the Grammys of classical music, have announced the winners in the audio and video productions across 16 different categories (Early Music, Baroque, Opera, Vocal Music, Chamber Music, Symphony, Contemporary, etc.), featuring prominent ensembles, soloists, conductors, and orchestras from the international music scene. In the Early Music section, initially, 17 works were nominated, and later, three finalists were selected before declaring the winner. The ceremony and gala concert will take place at the National Forum of Music in Wroclaw, Poland, on April 21, featuring the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero.

This is the fifth consecutive year that the jury, composed of members from some of the most reputable European specialized publications, has selected different albums by Capella de Ministrers as winners in the Early Music category. They previously won with the album ‘Quattrocento’ in 2018.

The justification for the award by ICMA states, “In their tireless search for forgotten repertoires, Carles Magraner and his Capella de Ministrers turn to Andalusian music, specifically to the erudite Cordoban Ibn Hazm, who wrote the splendid Neoplatonic treatise that can be heard on this CD a thousand years ago. ‘El collar de la paloma’ alternates moments of pure improvisation with dance movements that support the musical framework of this program, where the nay flute, the kanun, or the rabel are always freely interpreted.” The award ceremony and gala concert will take place on April 21 at the National Forum of Music in Wroclaw, Poland, featuring the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero.

Magraner, after congratulating the nominees for their work, expressed his joy and satisfaction for this significant award, which “values 35 years of artistic career, covering 1,000 years of history alongside dozens of great performers and singers who make this project and the various repertoires we approach possible.” The musicologist and viola da gamba player mentioned that the album “is a musical journey through love as the author experienced it in the 11th century, a legacy that belongs to us.” He expressed his hope that this recognition “will help raise awareness and promote the research, recovery, and dissemination work of the heritage carried out by Capella de Ministrers and renowned musicians and early music groups in Spain.”

Unique auditory experience.

National and international critics describe it as “an intoxicating and unique auditory experience,” a “sonic perfume” in a “skillful interpretation of a repertoire” where Capella de Ministrers demonstrates “a deep knowledge and familiarity”; approached with “great expertise” and the “distinctive voice” of an “inspired” Iman Kandoussi, an “expert in Arab-Andalusian singing,” and “the queen of it all.”

They also highlight the work of a “great reference” like Magraner and “virtuosic solo passages” in which the performers demonstrate “flawless execution” and “the beauty of their instrument.” Likewise, specialized press values the work with outstanding scores and underline it with statements such as “I don’t know any other artist who can bring this concept or repertoire with this level of interpretation.”

Foundations of Love.

The songs of El collar de la paloma, the 65th album, are grouped into five blocks around the foundations of love, where the ensemble tackles Hazm’s texts in the 20 tracks of this record, which are set to modal improvisations (mawwāl) or adaptations of instrumental music, classical songs, and anonymous Arab-Andalusian traditional songs. Magraner (recorder and viols) collaborated with singer Iman Kandoussi (vocals) and musicians Robert Cases (harp and rubab), Aziz Samsaoui (kanun and saz), Kaveh Sarvarian (nay and tombak), and Miguel Ángel Orero (percussion).

For philosopher and writer José Ortega y Gasset, the book is “the most illustrious on the subject of love in Muslim civilization,” as he stated in a prologue to the texts of the Cordovan author, whose life and exile passed through Málaga, Valencia, Xàtiva, Almería, Denia, Mallorca, and Seville, finally taking refuge in the family farmhouse in Niebla, near Montija (Huelva), where he passed away. This poetic anthology reflects on the true essence of love and constitutes a firsthand testimony of the experience of love in Al-Andalus during the Umayyad dynasty.

Manuela Cortés, Doctor of Philosophy and Letters from the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies and Oriental Studies at the Autonomous University of Madrid, states in the album’s booklet that El collar de la paloma “is the first treatise on love and lovers known in the West. Described as an authentic literary gem by its translator, the academic and Arabist Emilio García Gómez.” The Arabist and researcher from the University of Granada points out that Hazm’s book, written at the request of his friend and scholar Muhammad Ibn Ishaq, “reveals aspects of his personality by reflecting on his thoughts regarding love, passion, moral values, and religious beliefs.”

Recovery and dissemination of heritage.

Capella de Ministrers has been working since its inception on the recovery and dissemination of musical heritage, which they have rescued and spread through over 1,600 concerts and meticulous recording projects, as well as various compilations and promotional CDs. Their research work extends back to the Middle Ages, encompassing different cultures.

Over the course of seven decades, they have performed in prestigious national and international auditoriums and have published works focusing on the music of the Crown of Castile and Aragon, Arab-Andalusian, Sephardic, Christian, Viceregal Spain in the New World, the Silk Road, the Misteri d’Elx, the Borja family, medieval, Renaissance, the Golden Age, Baroque, Mediterranean, and zarzuela music.