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"¡Una tonadilla nueva! - Baroque Music from Ecuador"

Ensemble Villancico
Dir: Peter Pontvik

rec: April 30 - May 1, 2010, Norrtälje, Länna kyrka
CPO - 777 568-2 (© 2011) (51'26")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/S; lyrics - no translations
Cover & tracklist

anon: Atención a la fragua amorosa; Canción de un negro al Niño Dios; Canción de una pastorita al Niño Dios; Curi muyito; Ese viril con pan; Muy hermosa es María; Oy nuestra Reyna del cielo; Sagales a prisa; Tono triste para oración; ¡Una tonadilla nueva!; Manuel BLASCO (c1628-1696): De uno en uno vayan entrando; El negro José; La chacona me piden, ¡vaya; Oygan que da; Ventezillo traviesso; Gutierre FERNÁNDEZ HIDALGO (c1547-1623): Salve Regina; Joseph HORTUÑO (?-1722): Vamos todos a ver; Gonzalo PILLAJO (?-?): Al sol de la tierra y el cielo

Jessica Bäcklund, Annasara Jaenssonsoprano; Dan Johansson, alto, virginal; Gonca Yazan, alto; Love Enström, Carl-Fredrik Jaensson, tenor; Yamandú Pontvik, baritone; Joakim Schuster, bass; Katarina Widell, blokfluit; Magdalena Marding, viola da gamba; Karl Nyhlin, lute, guitar; Rolf Landberg, percussion; Peter Lönnerberg, organ

Baroque music from Latin America, performed by Swedish musicians - that seems pretty odd. One is inclined to think that the exuberance of Latin American music would make a poor fit with Scandinavian coolness. But we're in for a nice surprise.

There is a specific reason why the Ensemble Villancico has recorded this repertoire. Its director, Peter Pontvik, has made special study of Latin American music. In 2006 he made a research trip through Ecuador and came into contact with two local musicologists who gave him access to a manuscript with sacred music from the 17th century, called the Codex Ibarra. "In the view of Jorge Cazorla, the director of the Historical Archive in Ibarra, the nuns of the Conceptionist Cloister in the same town, were the authors of the texts that were set by native church musicians - from Quito - for various church feasts. The artistic talent of the nuns of this order was repeatedly documented in the annals of the then Real Audiencia de Quito (Royal Audience of Quito) and involved instruments and song as well as dance and theatre", Peter Pontvik writes in the booklet.

Many of these native composers have remained anonymous. Joseph Hortuño and Gonzalo Pillajo are unknown quantities, about whom nothing is told in the liner-notes. In the case of Manuel Blasco only the dates of birth and death are given but nothing else. About half of the pieces are from the Codex Ibarra and are recorded here for the first time. The programme is extended by pieces from other manuscripts. Manuel Blasco's Ventezillo traviesso is from the archive of the cathedral of Bogotá in Colombia. From the same archive comes the setting of the Salve Regina by Gutierre Fernández Hidalgo. He is the only composer on this disc who appears in New Grove: he was of Spanish birth and moved to Bogotá (then called Santafe) in 1583. This piece reflects the polyphony of the late renaissance. But there are also anonymous pieces which show that these unknown composers mastered counterpoint as well, for instance the author of Atención a la fragua amorosa. There are also pieces for double choir, like Al sol de la tierra y el cielo.

The manuscript gives little information about the way this repertoire was performed. Peter Pontvik mentions the use of shawms, harp and organ. Ironically the former two are not used here. Instead we hear recorders, viola da gamba, guitar, lute, virginal, organ and percussion. Among the latter are curious instruments like fruit rattle, caxixi and rainmaker. I assume these are instruments which belong to traditional music, but they could well be suitable to this repertoire; in Latin American baroque repertoire 'art' and 'folk' are strongly interwoven. One of the traditional pieces is El negro José, which bears witness to the presence of African slaves in Latin America. So does the anonymous Canción de un negro al Niño Dios. This also justifies the use of an African percussion instrument like the marimba.

As I have already mentioned, with this disc we're in for a surprise. The members of the Ensemble Villancico are fine musicians, whom I have heard before on a disc with 17th-century sacred music from Sweden, from the Källunge Codex. But one doesn't associate Scandinavian musicians with this kind of repertoire. The combination of the two works very well, though. That could well be due to the fact that the ensemble in its exploration of early music pays much attention to 'world music'. They seem to have a very good feel for the popular element in the repertoire performed here. They sing and play with energy and zest, and a perfect sensitivity to the characteristic rhythms of this repertoire. Anyone who loves Latin American baroque music will greatly enjoy this disc, both because of the quality of the repertoire and the level of the performances. It is just a shame that the playing time is so short.

As I have already mentioned, with this disc we're in for a surprise. The members of the Ensemble Villancico are fine musicians, whom I have heard before on a disc with 17th-century sacred music from Sweden. But one doesn't associate Scandinavian musicians with this kind of repertoire. The combination of the two works very well. That could well be due to the fact that the ensemble in its exploration of early music pays much attention to 'world music'. They seem to have a very good feel for the popular element. They sing and play with energy and zest, and a perfect sensitivity to the characteristic rhythms of this repertoire. Anyone who loves Latin American baroque music will greatly enjoy this disc, both because of the quality of the repertoire and the excellence of the performances. It is just a shame that the playing time is so short.

The record company has not done us and the music great service by omitting translations of the lyrics.

Johan van Veen (© 2011)

Relevant links:

Ensemble Villancico


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