Jeffrey Skidmore’s programme notes chart his journey into the heart of Brazilian music, and his affection for the country’s teeming cultural diversity. He spent three years probing Brazil’s coastal fringe, mining archives from Rio de Janeiro to Salvador, on the way absorbing knowledge from local experts about recently rediscovered Portuguese musical traditions and compositions from Brazil’s colonial past. Brazil emerges here more as a state of mind than an expression of geography, tinged with vivid musical strands drawn from the so-called Brazilian Baroque, a glorious hybrid of European baroque and classical styles.
Skidmore and Ex Cathedra offer a programme that projects the joyful vitality of the best in early Brazilian music. Atonement and penitence are overshadowed in the album’s two Mass settings and assorted miniatures in favour of sensual lyricism—often naïve, always charming. Listen, for instance, to the village band feel of the Gloria from Garcia’s Missa Pastoral Para an Noite de Natal, the uplifting energy of the Kyrie from Gomes’s Missa a 8 Vozes e Instrumentos or, best of all, to Souza’s strikingly simple 'Ascendit Deus'. It makes a refreshing change to hear an anthology of choral compositions untroubled by worldly cares, especially so when performed with such conviction and love.