Cappella Mediterranea. Dir. Leonardo García Alarcon
Mariana Flores, Soprano, Angelica Monje, Contralto, Fernando Guimaraes, Tenor, Matteo Bellotto, Baritone.- After the conquest of the Americas, Spanish and Portuguese clergymen and musicians brought their entire polyphonic tradition to these new lands. Some of these musicians settled in Latin America, with Juan de Araujo in Peru and Tomas de Torrejon y Velasco in Argentina. Others were born in the New World: Gaspar Fernandez was born in Mexico and remained there during his entire career. The extensive libraries of music of the great churches of Latin America also preserved a large number of manuscripts that often contained pieces that had completely disappeared from European collections. Although the above musicians introduced their polyphonic skills to the New World, they were also seduced by local popular traditions, going so far as to adapt texts used in Roman Catholic liturgy to the local native languages. Hanacpachap, recorded here, was the first sacred work in a native language to be published in Latin America. This developmental shift in the Iberian polyphonic tradition is demonstrated by the works on this CD, one of them being Cererols’ Missa de batalla: this was composed for three choirs and is one of the most important Spanish Masses from the beginning of the 17th century. This recording, an exploration of sacred and secular music in the New World during the first years of the Baroque period.
Florilegium continues their fascinating exploration of the musical archives of the Jesuit missions of 18th-century Bolivia with music from three more manuscript collections. A sequence of instrumental and choral works taken from the most important of those resources, in Chiquitos, forms the bulk of the disc, though none of the composers represented appears ever to have set foot in South America, and all probably remained blissfully unaware that their music had been so faithfully copied and taken to the farthest reaches of the Spanish empire. There are sonatas here by Balbi and Locatelli, and settings of sacred texts by Bassani and the Bohemian composer Bretner beautifully sung by the Arakaender Choir, a group formed directly as a result of Florilegium's performances in Bolivia. The pieces by Juan de Araujo taken from the cathedral of La Plata (the present-day Sucre), though, are indigenous; the Spanish-born De Araujo worked in La Plata and was one of the composers responsible for its musical tradition, which Florilegium has brought to life so vividly.
Rather than trawl for forgotten manuscripts more widely through Latin America, Ashley Solomon and his group Florilegium prefer to concentrate their efforts on the archives in Bolivia. Solomon has founded a choir there, and both his groups regularly appear at the biennial renaissance and baroque festival in the Jesuit missions of the Chiquitos region. Their latest compilation includes pieces from those missions and from those of Moxos, together with music from the cathedral in La Plata, the present-day city of Sucre. Though the sources aren't always made clear, it's a lively, nicely varied sequence, mostly of works showcasing Solomon's excellent Arakaender choir, interspersed with an anonymous trio-sonatas and organ pieces recorded on a wonderfully gutsy instrument at the mission church of Santa Ana in the Bolivian part of the Amazon basin. The Italian-born Domenico Zipoli is the best known composer represented, appropriately enough, perhaps, for he did at least make the journey from Europe to the Spanish colonies in the new world.
The musical heritage of the Jesuit mission posts situated in the vicinity of the rivers Amazonas, Paraná, and Uruguay is interesting, even fascinating. By now, two music archives have been compiled, consisting of hundreds of works going back to the 18th century, the hey-day of these mission posts. The repertoire shows strong Italian influences, but also distinctively exotic elements, both in the treatment of harmony and melody and in the instrumentation. Since the liturgical services in the mission posts were held in Latin as well as in the indigenous languages, the musical settings of many motets were based on Guarani and Chiquitan texts. After the missionaries had been condemned to exile, their posts, many of them very efficiently run, were used for various other purposes: some local people managed to maintain their social structures; others fought against the exile of the missionaries, to no effect; again others set up new posts in the jungle. The 1950s saw the beginning of the restoration of the churches in the Bolivian part of Chiquitos and Moxos in the Amazone lowlands. Not long thereafter, the first musical notations were discovered, having been saved as precious cultural items by the local population. The ensemble Música Temprana performs this repertoire together with Bolivian musicians originating from the area, and pays regular visits to the region in order to learn more about the way of life and other characteristics of these indigenous communities.
The program for this release by French soprano Patricia Petibon is insanely ambitious, but she pulls it off brilliantly. The "nouveau monde" of the title refers not only to the Americas but to other overseas (from Europe) lands and even, Petibon says in the interview-style booklet, to the new world '"revealed to me by [early music pioneers] William Christie, Jordi Savall, and Nikolaus Harnoncourt when they revolutionized the approach to style and sound." But, Petibon goes on, this new world "is one that always has to be expanded with new explorations and new conquests." Thus we get pieces from a previously untouched Peruvian manuscript of the late 18th century along with a Spanish-language aria by Handel, popular songs from the Old and New Worlds, excerpts from Charpentier's Medée (with its crossing of the river Styx, yet another "new world" opera), Rameau's Les Indes galantes (a work desperately in need of a full-scale revival), Purcell's "When I Am Laid in Earth" from Dido and Aeneas (an "Egyptian" work), and more. Petibon weaves the various themes -- pastoral, nostalgic, self-destructive -- together in such a way that this extremely disparate material seems to flow together, and indeed she makes the point convincingly that audiences of the Baroque and Classical eras might have known a good deal of this music and considered it fit for inclusion on the same bill. The La Cetra ensemble of Basel is an adept co-conspirator in Petibon's plans, and even Deutsche Grammophon's graphics, not a field in which the label typically excels, are delightful.