For me – as, I believe, for every musicologist – going on field research (aka libraries, archives, etc.) is probably one of the most exciting activities. Last 22 March I visited Elvas Municipal Library, in Elvas. Elvas is a beautiful Portuguese town near the Spanish border, classified as UNESCO heritage centre. It is mostly famous for its complex of fortifications, improved throughout the various wars with Spain. There are also numerous churches worth visiting, notably the formal Cathedral – Our Lady of the Assumption Church – and its recently-restored Baroque organ build by Pascoal Caetano Oldovino (an Italian organ builder active in the Évora area) in the 1760s.
Elvas Municipal Library occupies the city’s former Jesuit College. The building was subject of recent restoration and is now very well adapted to the specifications of a modern library, with vast deposit, reading, and event areas notably a beautiful 19th-century-styled library room offered by one of the library’s patrons.
Among the many treasures housed at the Library, the manuscript that places Elvas in the musicological map is the Cancioneiro Musical de Elvas (Elvas Songbook) one of the most important 16th-century sources for Portuguese secular music. There are also two choir books containing the only works known to late-17th-century composer Francisco Martins (1629-1680), that was chapel master to the Cathedral and two prints of Duarte Lobo’s 1621 Liber Missarum, object of my MA thesis, and Manuel Cardoso’s 1613 Magnificat book and a dozen antiphonaries and graduals ranging from late 16th century to the 18th century. There is also a huge corpus of 18th and 19th-century stile concertato sacred music and chamber music, mostly for voice and piano.
It was great to be back to this beautiful city (was there once, in a concert with Coro Polifónico Eborae Musica at the Cathedral in 2008), visit the Cathedral, a fine example of late Manueline and Baroque with beautiful marble altars and the gilded decoration of the organ. Also the treasures housed at the Library of this peaceful town in the interior of Portugal. The following image is the landscape you can see around Elvas, very characteristic of Alentejo. Simply beautiful.