A Viola da Gamba that connects Castilian and Norwegian cultures, a medieval story with the modern world, the French repertoire with Alfonso X the Wise, and which serves as a tribute to Kristina av Tønsberg.
An instrument that allows me to have a small part of my hometown with me every day.
Sunneva, which in old Scandinavian means "gift of the sun" is a Viola da Gamba made by Eduardo Francés Bruno in Béjar (Spain) in 2020; the head was carved by Miguel Ángel Tapia in Valladolid (Spain).
My viola da gamba, which I also like to describe as "the Viking Viol", unites several passions of mine in a piece of wooden poetry: my love for history, for Nordic landscapes and cultures, and for the timelessness of playing "early" music.
Kristina av Tønsberg, daughter of Haakon IV, King of Norway, was born in 1234. Because of Norwegian and Castilian alliances within the Holy Roman Empire, she was forced to leave for Castile in the summer of 1257. Just imagine, this woman, almost still a Viking, travelling in a Drakar to France, crossing that country on horseback with a retinue of a hundred people and entering the Iberian Peninsula through the Pyrenees, where she was received in the County of Barcelona by John I. About six months had passed since her departure from Tønsberg and Princess Kristina celebrated Christmas in the Monastery of Las Huelgas in Burgos. On March 31st 1258, the wedding between Kristina av Tønsberg and Philip of Castile, brother of King Alfonso X, took place in the Collegiate Church of Santa María in Valladolid (my home town!).
Princess Kristina died without descendants in Seville in 1262, according
to legend, because of the sadness she suffered from longing for her homeland.
Her life and history fell into oblivion, along with Alfonso X's aspirations to become emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
It was almost seven hundred years later, in 1958, the body of a clearly non-Castilian woman was found in a tomb in the Colegiata de San Cosme y San Damián de Covarrubias (she was 170cm tall, well above the average Castilian woman in the 13th century) and Kristina of Norway was once again a Castilian neighbour, with still such a marked distance between her homeland and the Castilian lands: the contrast between those fjords and green mountains with the more arid and almost bare landscape of Castile, where there is nothing but horizon (if that is "not much").
Fascinated by history in general, by this story, by this Castilian Viking; because I perfectly understand that feeling of sadness when leaving Scandinavia - because I consider Norway as the home of that other family I have there, whom I also miss - but I love to contemplate that "just horizon" of my native land, in which I also do not live; I considered it appropriate to dedicate an instrument to Kristina of Norway. The Viola da Gamba seems to me ideal for something like this; queen of the renaissance, queen of the baroque: Les Voix Humaines. That seventh string that Sainte-Colombe added to bring more melancholy and depth to his works, to the instrument; that higher register, which sang and enchanted for centuries. A descendant of the plucked instruments, a model for the violin family; a companion at so many moments in history. And, in the background, we hear those cantigas by Alfonso X El Sabio, who provoked all this whole story, all this conception.
Sunneva, with her impressive and detailed head, her crown, her gaze sometimes lost, sometimes haughty; imposing when she stands in concert halls, always elegant; she is also accompanied by two runes: the vegvisir, a compass to find the way back home, and the tapestry of destiny. All this so that one day, at last, we will find our way back to Norway together.
It would be unthinkable not to close this circle with a work for her, for Sunneva, for Kristina - they are one and the same. That is why I conceived the Lamento
de Sunneva in 2021, still in times of confinement, as a musical storytelling: with Nordic and Iberian influences; music of today but without leaving the philosophy of affections of the 18th century and at times, like the "fortvilelse" (despair)
section, it takes the technique of the instrument to the limit.
There is no score, although I may consider writing it down at some point.
I feel moved that I have gathered in one so many passions, memories, scenes
and moments that inspire me; I feel touched that Sunneva, this gift of the sun, with the precise colour of the fields of Castile in late summer, arrived in my hands in August 2020, with her incredible sound, to spend the rest of my life by my side, and that
she will survive me, with this story, with the story of Kristina av Tønsberg, Kristina de Noruega; with that Saudade, that Heimweh, hjemlengsel... in Spanish we don't have such a specific word.
And Sunneva will continue to sound with that seventh string, those human voices, with her lamento.