Ex Cathedra and Jeffrey Skidmore unearth more fascinating treasures with this latest anthology of Latin American music from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The first volume—‘New World Symphonies’, released in 2003 on CDA67380—has been hugely popular, getting regular airplay on Classic FM.
The works on this disc were chosen from the vast amount of extraordinary repertoire Jeffrey Skidmore discovered on research visits to the USA, Mexico and Bolivia.
Hanacpachap cussicuinin is a piece still widely performed throughout Latin America, its steady, processional drumming creating a haunting and seductive atmosphere. It is set for four voices in Sapphic verse in the Quechua language. The colourful imagery of the sequence of prayers skilfully mixes Inca and Christian imagery, with its references to stores of silver and gold, life without end, deceitful jaguars and sins of the devil.
It is not surprising that Hanacpachap cussicuinin is so widely performed throughout Latin America and also seems to capture the imagination of all who hear it outside this seductive region. The music is noble, magical and haunting and is the earliest printed polyphony from the continent of South America. It is set for four voices in Sapphic verse in the Quechua language. The colourful imagery of the sequence of prayers skilfully mixes Inca and Christian imagery, with its references to stores of silver and gold, life without end, deceitful jaguars and sins of the devil. The singers may sing it ‘in processions entering the church’. It makes an extraordinarily powerful beginning to any service, concert, or recording. It is recorded here for the third time by Ex Cathedra with new orchestrations and new verses. It is surprising that it is so often performed using only the first two of the twenty verses given in the source.
Moon, sun and all things is an anthology of Latin American music from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, chosen from the vast amount of extraordinary repertoire I discovered on research visits to the USA, Mexico and Bolivia. I worked in the Loeb Music Library at Harvard University, the Puebla Cathedral Archive and the Bolivian National Library in Sucre. I met many musicians in the National Arts Centre in Mexico City and in the Association for Art and Culture (APAC) in Santa Cruz.
These were wonderful trips and I made many new friends who were companions and guides giving generously of their time: Salua Delalah (German Embassy), Ton de Wit (Prins Claus Foundation), Cecilia Kenning de Mansilla (APAC) and Josefina Gonsález (Saint Cecilia Choir, Puebla). Nick Robins, a remarkable researcher from the USA who specializes in Indian Rebellions, gave a very different angle on the lives of indigenous tribes and the influence of the church. Annie de Copponex, a native of Santa Cruz and lover of all things Bolivian, who for many years has lived in London, was also a great influence and inspiration. I met representatives from the World Bank, World Development Corporation, Christian Aid, and other researchers from around the world. Che Guevara’s Bolivian Diary opens ‘A new stage begins today’. It was certainly a life-changing experience for me.
I visited twenty churches, attended ten Masses and heard twelve concerts. I shared several days travelling on pot-holed dirt tracks through the humid jungle of Eastern Bolivia with Freiburg Baroque and the English ensemble Florilegium, who were recording a CD as part of an imaginative education project with young Bolivian singers. I saw and heard hundreds of Chiquitos children playing and singing their Baroque heritage in their own towns and villages.
I also made contact with several leading Latin American musicologists who were willing to share their knowledge and expertise and again showed remarkable generosity: Juan Manuel Lara Cárdenas (Capillas and Nahuatl texts), Aurelio Tello (Sumaya) and Piotr Nawrot (Zipoli). I also met Bernado Illari, an Argentinian musicologist. In a few brief chats he revealed great insight into many aspects of performance practice.
I wholeheartedly thank all these people who in some way had a hand in shaping this recording.
The structure of the programme follows that of the Vespers Service, with the opening Response, three polyphonic Psalm settings (this was often normal practice in Sucre), a Hymn and Magnificat. The plainchant antiphons are those set for the feast of St Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order. In between these liturgical works I have placed popular villancicos with Spanish texts and sacred motets with texts in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. It was common practice throughout Latin America for services to intersperse popular music with the more conservative liturgical repertoire. Contemporary commentators describe villancicos as ‘sacred entertainment for the masses’ (1774), to be ‘performed with great authority and solemnity’ (1630), the ‘most relevant aspect of the service’ (1630), where ‘worship and true faith are set aside to attend to the pleasures of the senses – to flatter the ear and the vain appetites of the congregation’ (1755). Three of the composers represented here – Padilla, Araujo and Sumaya – all wrote fluently in both liturgical and popular styles and are worthy of much greater attention.
Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla 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 fourteen boys and twenty-eight 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, chirimías, cornetts, sackbuts and bajóns, frequently used to double or replace voices.’ This is large-scale music. Padilla’s brilliant setting of the opening Response is scored for two choirs suitably orchestrated.
Juan de Araujo belongs to a later generation. He was born in Spain in 1648 and emigrated as a child to Lima in Peru. At the age of twenty-two 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 worked with thirty-five musicians in this beautiful, white cathedral and stayed there until his death in 1712. He is thought by many to be the greatest composer working in the Americas at that time, and certainly comparable to leading European musicians. Araujo was one of the finest choir trainers of his time and was particularly successful at training young voices. His setting of Dixit Dominus is scored for three choirs, one a trio of solo voices doubled by viols, and two full choirs doubled by strings, woodwind and brass. Polyphony alternates with plainchant. The vast majority of Araujo’s surviving manuscripts are now to be found in the impressive Bolivian National Library in Sucre, which opened in January 2004. Seventeen manuscripts were presented to me by the library in digital form on CD. The notation of Araujo’s music is particularly interesting, making use of ‘void’ notation and ‘black’ notation. This is a very neat way of writing down the complex rhythms of the villancicos, and warning the performer of the problems at the same time.
Diego José de Salazar was a Spanish composer who is not known to have visited the New World. ¡Salga el torillo hosquillo! is found in the Sucre archive in several forms attributed to both Araujo and Salazar.
Francisco López Capillas was the first Creole composer of significance and his music was so highly regarded that several volumes of his music were taken to Spain and widely disseminated. He worked in Mexico City and in Puebla from 1641 to 1648 under the directorship of Padilla. Whilst Capillas’ style is very polished and sophisticated, the Poblano influence is strongly in evidence with its lively double-choir interchanges of short phrases.
Manuel de Sumaya was another Creole composer of a later generation born in Mexico City where he was a Priest Musician at the cathedral and eventually became maestro de capilla in 1714. He was highly rated in his day and is considered by many to be one of the great composers of New Spain. His move to Oaxaca in the last years of his life is still largely unexplained. It may have been precipitated by a conflict with the Cathedral Chapter. He seems to have been very happy with the set-up in the beautiful city of Oaxaca and wrote some of his finest music there. He had a choir of twenty singers and ten players. He also worked closely with Indian musicians. ¡Albricias, mortales! is a vibrant setting of an uplifting text. There is a joyful dialogue between a three- and four-part choir and ensemble of trumpet and strings.
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 Córdoba until his death in 1726. Much of his music was rediscovered only a few years ago and it reveals why it was so popular with the Chiquitos Indians in Bolivia who regularly performed and copied his music. The Jesuit Mission Stations in the jungle of Eastern Bolivia are a string of beautifully restored churches including San Javier, Concepción, San Ignacio, San Miguel and Santa Ana. They are now a World Heritage site. I attended concerts and Masses at all of these and all were packed to the rooftops with children watching and listening attentively in the doorways and at the windows. An inventory of musical resources from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries shows that some churches had one, two, even three organs, up to seven harps, twelve violins, between three and five violones, four trumpets, at least one tromba marina, a bassoon, two harpsichords and bells. This is happy, optimistic music which reflects the Utopian dream of the ‘reductions’. It is our aim to recreate these sounds, although Zipoli’s music is notated, typically, for only three high voices (SAT), two violins and continuo.
The mesmerically simple Dulce Jesús mío is also found in the mission archives set in Spanish and in the language of the Chiquitos Indians as Yyaî Jesuchristo. It is performed as a recessional piece with all the musicians leaving the stage, one by one, as in our concerts.
The non-liturgical pieces perhaps need further explanation. Dios itlazonantziné is a beautiful Nahuatl text set by Hernando Franco, who 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. Sancta Maria, e! is an exquisite miniature also set in Nahuatl by the Indian composer Francisco Hernández, who as a tribute took his name from Franco, his teacher. The three popular-style Spanish villancicos all have remarkable texts rich in conceptual imagery, sometimes comical and sometimes profoundly serious. The double-choir setting of ¡Salga el torillo hosquillo! dramatically describes a bullfight which becomes an allegory of the Birth and Passion of Christ. The coplas are particularly striking for their use of powerful and emotive language combined with a ravishingly beautiful melody. The original manuscript describes ¡Aquí, Valentónes! as a xácara, a form used to reflect street-life – el mundo de la hampa. It is dedicated to St Francis of Assisi who is referred to both as the most street-wise saint and as ‘el valentón más divino’ – ‘the most divine ruffian’. The alternation of solo passages and triple-choir interjections vividly captures the dramatic urgency of ‘gang slang’ put here to effective proselytizing purpose. ¡Ay, andar! celebrates the birth of Jesus in an ecstatic ‘dance till you drop’ knees-up which builds to an orgiastic, frenzied climax. This is going more than half-way to meet the congregation!
Jeffrey Skidmore © 2005
Other albums in this series
Fire burning in snow – Baroque Music from Latin America