José Maurício Nunes Garcia's Missa pastoril para a noite de natal was written in 1808, though you might guess half a century earlier—there are distinct vestiges of Vivaldi, then Mozart, in it. But there's something different too: a benignly sunny disposition, a touch of folk-like informality in both the vocal and instrumental writing, which clearly locate it outside the mainstream European tradition. Even the Crucifixus is warm and welcoming in demeanour.
That's typical of all the pieces on this anthology, conceived by conductor Jeffrey Skidmore as 'an introduction to early music from colonial Brazil'. The Missa a 8 vozes e instrumentos of André da Silva Gomes has less vernacular flavouring than Garcia's Mass, but it is no less distinctive. Exuberant writing for trumpets and a joyful fugue in the second Kyrie are just two of the blandishments on offer.
Shorter works punctuate the two masses. Of these the anonymous Matais de incêndios, a piece of early Brazilian polyphony, is especially attractive, the part-writing buoyed by injections of assorted percussion. The writing for upper voices in Lobo de Mesquita's Padre nosso gleams alluringly, and has the same quality of artless fluidity which seems to characterise Brazilian music of this period. The performances catch effectively this sense of freshness and spontaneity, and one can only hope there might be a second volume in the offing.