The Early Music Festival of Úbeda & Baeza (Festival de Música Antigua de Úbeda y Baeza, FeMAUB) was established in 1997 to act as a showcase for the artistic and cultural attractions of the two towns, both of which were jointly declared UNESCO World Heritage sites in 2003. In its report, UNESCO highlighted the important contribution of both towns in introducing Italian Renaissance ideas in Spain, as well as the exportation of these artistic ideas to Latin America. The history of the festival is linked to the urban landscape of Úbeda and Baeza and to the numerous Renaissance spaces which serve as auditoriums. Moreover, the cultural centrality of Úbeda/Baeza allows the FeMAUB to impact the rest of the province of Jaén through the Vandelvira Cycle, which hosts concerts in churches, palaces and castles designed by the well-known architect Andrés de Vandelvira (1505-1575).
The festival commemorates a different theme of historical music each year and includes a wide diversity of perspectives, within varied forms of concerts (organ concerts, parades, pedagogical and social concerts, etc.), exhibitions, outreach talks, classes, and high-level conferences. From its origins, the FeMAUB has promoted the recovery and diffusion of the Iberian and Latin-American musical heritage, making this vast, and sometimes forgotten, part of Hispanic culture known by means of première concerts and new worldwide recordings. In fact, from 2013 the FeMAUB acts as the Observing Promoter (EPO) for R+D projects hosted by the Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIC), as the festival is considered to play a vital role in the transference of knowledge to society.
In 2007, the FeMAUB was the first Andalusian festival that formed part of the European Early Music Network (REMA). The following year the festival was incorporated in the Spanish Association of Classical Music Festivals (Asociación Española de Festivales de Música Clásica, FestClásica), allowing the festival to integrate its program into national and international circuits from an independent position. The prizes awarded to the FeMAUB include the Best Cultural Institution of Andalusia (“Mejor Institución Cultural de Andalucía”; El Público-RTVA, 2006) and the EFFE Label 2017-2018 (Europe for Festivals-Festivals for Europe). These are some of the awards that recognize the remarkable achievement of selected festivals in their innovative design, commitment to the European project, and its continued efforts to reach out and develop new audiences.
Today the FeMAUB is organized collaboratively between the regional government of Andalusia, the provincial government of Jaén, the city councils of Úbeda and Baeza, the International University of Andalusia, the University of Jaén, and the National Distance Education University UNED (through its associated centre in Úbeda). Other organisations such as the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport, the National Centre for Musical Diffusion, and the Bishopric of Jaén, are among the many private and public entities that support the mission of the FeMAUB. The festival has become a locus for music, culture and cooperation, a meeting point of people and the expression of ideas, part of a flourishing new Golden Age in both towns and in the province of Jaén as a whole.
[See a report on the first twenty years of the FeMAUB (1997-2016), including a list of ensembles, composers, and premier programs, among other aspects, here.]
Úbeda and Baeza, musical towns
Although Úbeda and Baeza are joined through their Renaissance spirit and their historical and cultural importance in the centre of the province of Jaén, they remain unique places. Úbeda, “the city of the hills”, is distinguished by its private architecture and civil power, while Baeza, a town which captivated worldwide writers such as Antonio Machado, is an exponent of public architecture and religious power. The enormous architectural and artistic heritage of Úbeda and Baeza (more than one hundred buildings, including palaces, stately homes, churches, and convents) was built during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Two essential figures at that period were Francisco de los Cobos (ca. 1477-1547), Emperor Charles V’s secretary, and Andrés de Vandelvira (1505-1575), the architect who created the most important landmarks of both towns. The Festival takes advantage of this broad range of spaces. In this way, the audience of the Festival can listen to music in a unique atmosphere, as the selected auditoriums as main venues for the concerts are clear paradigms of the Spanish Renaissance: the Hospital of Santiago in Úbeda and the Ruins of San Francisco in Baeza.
In line with their artistic richness, the musical life of Úbeda and Baeza was intense, due to the existence of a powerful and influential noble class who identified art as a symbol of power. This noble class founded music chapels in ecclesiastical institutions (Baeza Cathedral, Collegiate church of the Alcázar in Baeza, and Collegiate church of Santa María in Úbeda), private music chapels (Sacred chapel of El Salvador and Hospital of Santiago in Úbeda), and financed musical editions, commissioned musical works bringing together collections of musical instruments and music scores.