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Hyperion Records

CDA67380 - New World Symphonies
Aztec shield (detail) (c1500).
Museum für Völkerkunde, Vienna

Recording details: October 2002
All Saints, Tooting, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: April 2003
DISCID: D910520F
Total duration: 68 minutes 27 seconds


'This wonderfully colourful collection puts the vivid vocal qualities of Jeffrey Skidmore's virtuoso choir Ex Cathedra into the foreground … sumptuously realised with a varied—but historically appropriate—panoply of voices and instruments … a richly rewarding CD … I have been driving around with it in my car and my 11-year old son now prefers it to David Bowie … thoroughly recommended' (Gramophone)

'fascinatingly varied in idiom and influence, and Skidmore has unearthed some real gems' (Choir & Organ)

'The expressive range is astonishing … a delight to commend' (BBC Music Magazine)

'Ex Cathedra has unearthed some magnificent music here; there are plenty of fascinating discoveries, performed with great feeling and panache, and with potent seasoning from the period instruments. The disc has the markings of a bestseller, and certainly deserves to be' (The Daily Telegraph)

'Jeffrey Skidmore unearths some scintillating examples of the Old World meeting the New, with Renaissance polyphony underpinned by African-Latin drums. The result is only a few beats removed from modern examples of Catholic worship. A fascinating disc' (The Independent)

'immaculately performed … fascinating' (The Guardian)

'This is one of the most exciting releases I've seen in awhile … The performance is flawless, with a wide range of emotional expression; the sound is excellent' (American Record Guide)

'this really is an irresistible recording, offering a wealth of styles and colours and plenty of South American sunshine. Buy it and discover the New World for yourself' (International Record Review)

'Hypnotically good … this is one of the most eye-opening CDs—or should I say ear-opening—that I have heard this year. What a magical concoction of sounds—and what brilliant playing!' (Classic FM)

'terrific music, terrific singing' (The Times)

'This is arguably the most original CD of the year, and it's generated a huge number of enquiries from Classic FM listeners. Jeffrey Skidmore and Ex Cathedra have tapped a rich seam of baroque choral music … Do not be put off by the unfamiliarity of the composers; this is wonderful music' (Classic FM Magazine)

'extremely rewarding, bringing yet further evidence of the richness of Latin American Baroque music … the performances are very accomplished indeed … splendid disc' (Fanfare, USA)

'this recording is highly recommended … These are polished, emotionally engaged performances, brightly recorded, of fascinating, exciting repertoire' (Early Music Today)

'stunning … choral music of the most vibrant quality imaginable, performed by Ex Cathedra with equally vigorous zeal … the whole background is fascinatingly documented in Skidmore's own invaluable insert-note … all vocalists display the group's customary virtuosity in a range of languages … unmissable' (Birmingham Post)

'Ex Cathedra and Jeffrey Skidmore are first-rate ambassadors for this music … the overall sound is beautiful and the performance, from instrumentalists and singers, has great conviction and energy … An album of unexpectedly wicked delight' (BBCi)

Baroque Music from Latin America
New World Symphonies
Baroque Music from Latin America
Kyrie  [2'04] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [3'37] LatinEnglish
Credo  [6'20] LatinEnglish
Kyrie  [4'20] GreekEnglish
Gloria  [10'01] LatinEnglish

Following the discovery of the Americas, Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church was established with incredible speed. Many of the Native Indians were part of highly sophisticated civilizations, most notably the Aztecs and the Incas, and were very responsive to the new ideas, especially music, which was already an important social and spiritual element in their lives. A staggering amount of music was subsequently created which, surprisingly, still remains little explored in today’s global age.

This disc showcases some of the treasures from this important era in history, and includes works sung in Quechua (the language of the Incas) and Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs). Works such as Padilla’s remarkable Missa Ego flos campi have elements of flowing polyphony from Old Spain combined with lively, often syncopated, short phrases reflecting New Spain. The instrumentation on this disc is also mesmerizing—many different instruments were used extensively, including recorders, chirimias, cornetts, sackbuts and bajons, frequently used to double or replace voices.

In the words of the conductor, Jeffrey Skidmore, this fascinating disc spanning the late 16th, 17th, and early 18th centuries is “an inspiring beginners’ guide to Baroque music and a spiritual devotion that has a relevance and function as important today as in the brave New World of South America all those years ago”.

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The discovery of the Americas has been described as the greatest event in the history of the world. The exploits of Cortés in Mexico and Pizarro in Peru in the early sixteenth century are well documented and the fantastic material wealth which was discovered was matched only by the greed and unimaginable brutality it provoked in the ‘conquistadores’. What is probably less well known is the spread of Christianity which accompanied the invasion and the incredible speed with which the Roman Catholic Church established a programme of education and building over a vast area. Many of the Native Indians were part of highly sophisticated civilizations, most notably the Aztecs and the Incas, and were very responsive to the new ideas, especially music, which was already an important social and spiritual element in their lives. Over the next two hundred years a staggering amount of music was created in centres throughout South America such as Mexico City, Puebla and Oaxaco in Mexico, Lima in Peru, Sucre in Bolivia and Cordoba in Argentina. This vast collection of wonderful music, which fuses together the cultures of three continents, is surprisingly still little-explored in this global age.

At many centres priests began by teaching the liturgy through plainchant and eventually through polyphony and learning to play and make instruments. Qhapaq eterno Dios is a version of the Apostles’ Creed translated into Quechua, the language of the Incas, by the Franciscan friar Gerónico de Oré. He worked with 30,000 Native Indians in the Jauja valley just east of Lima in Peru. His manual of religious lyrics in Quechua Symbolo Catholico Indiano was published in 1598. Another Franciscan priest from Cuzco, Juan Pérez Bocanegra ends his Ritual with Hanaq pachap kusikuynin, which is also set in Quechua. It is the first polyphony published in the Americas in 1631. The composition is marked ‘to be sung in processions as they enter their churches’. Gaspar Fernandes, working in Mexico, was another composer noted for his work in the vernacular. Xicochi conetzintle is an exquisite lullaby set in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.

It was not only books of plainchant that were sent from Spain but also a colossal amount of polyphony by all the leading composers of the day. Morales and Victoria figured prominently along with Palestrina and Lassus. Alonso Lobo’s famous setting of Versa est in luctum which was performed at the funeral of Philip II, ‘Catholic King of Spain’, is also found in Puebla Cathedral Library. Hernando Franco was probably the first notable composer to move to New Spain. He was born in 1532 in Extremadura, the home of the ‘conquistadores’ and became maestro de capilla at Mexico City in 1575. Salve Regina was an important text sung every Saturday throughout the year. Franco’s powerful and distinctive five-part setting alternates plainchant and polyphony.

Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla belongs to a later generation. He was born in Spain in 1590 and moved to Mexico in 1622. In 1629 he became maestro de capilla at Puebla Cathedral where he served until his death in 1664. Puebla had lavish resources at its disposal including a large choir of 14 boys and 28 men. Robert Stevenson writes that ‘the musicians sat in double rows of seats facing each other. This arrangement encouraged antiphonal effects and the extensive use of instruments. During Padilla’s time the favoured instruments were the organ, harp and bass viol, forming a continuo; these were supplemented by recorders, chirimias, cornetts, sackbuts and bajóns, frequently used to double or replace voices.’ The model for Padilla’s parody mass Ego flos campi is not known. It is a remarkable double-choir setting that has elements of flowing polyphony from Old Spain combined with lively, often syncopated, short phrases that reflect New Spain. The frequent repetition of text in the Gloria, Credo and Agnus Dei serves a structural purpose with didactic implications.

Juan de Araujo belongs to a yet later generation. He was born in Spain in 1648 and emigrated as a child to Lima. At the age of 22 he was appointed choirmaster at the Cathedral there. In 1676 he moved to a similar post at the cathedral in La Plata, which is now Sucre in Bolivia. He stayed there until his death in 1712. He is thought by many to be the greatest composer working in the Americas at this time, and certainly comparable to the leading European musicians and worthy of a major revival. He is represented here by two compositions. Ut queant laxis is a setting of the famous hymn which gave Western music its solmisation system using the opening syllables of each half-line (Ut, re, mi, fa, sol, la). It is a polychoral piece for three groups of performers; a baritone solo, a three-part choir of high voices and a four-part SATB choir. Araujo was one of the finest choir trainers of his time and was particularly successful at training young voices. His music seems to use a lot of high voices. A particularly interesting feature of this work is the use of ‘false relations’, a harmonic device that juxtaposes flattened and sharpened leading notes, normally associated with English Renaissance music.

The second piece by Araujo is one of three works which belong to the tradition of the villancicos which became popular in South America. Los coflades de la estleya has many Hispanic features but also introduces Cuban and West African rhythmic patterns which eventually developed into the rhumba. The sub-title ‘Black song for the birth of our Lord’ conjures up the nocturnal processions which were a feature of seasonal celebrations by the African slaves. Convidando esta la noche also features dance patterns of African origin in the form of the guaracha, a dance still popular in Cuba. The synthesis of the sensuous, homophonic, ‘European’ sections and the exuberant cross-rhythm of the dance verses is particularly effective.

This healthy mixture of influences is natural, and astonishing in its richness. However the work of Zipoli is the most remarkable of all. Domenico Zipoli was born in Tuscany in 1688 and studied with Alessandro Scarlatti in Naples. In 1716 he joined the Company of Jesus and the following year left for Paraguay with a Jesuit mission. He was an organist and composer in Cordoba until his death in 1726. His Missa San Ignacio was re-discovered only a few years ago. One manuscript is dated fifty-eight years after the composer’s death ‘copied in Potossi 1784’. This reveals the popularity of Zipoli’s work with the Chiquito Indians who regularly performed and copied his music dating back to the presence of the Jesuit missionaries. Ignatius Loyola was the founder of the Jesuit order and so this Mass dedicated to him had a particular significance. It is written typically for three high voices (SAT), two violins and continuo. It contains music of great simplicity and conviction combined with more complex contrapuntal passages and solo sections of great integrity and often intense beauty.

With enormous skill and with no hint of patronisation this music involves the listener and performer on many levels. It is an inspiring beginners’ guide to Baroque music and a spiritual devotion that has a relevance and function as important today as in the brave New World of South America all those years ago.

Jeffrey Skidmore © 2003

Other albums in this series
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'Fire burning in snow – Baroque Music from Latin America' (SACDA67600)
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