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"Bailes, Tonadas & Cachuas - Songs and dances from Trujillo, Peru (18th century)"

Música Temprana
Dir: Adrián Rodríguez Van der Spoel

rec: July 4 - 6, 2012, Renswoude, Koepelkerk
Cobra Records - 0036 (© 2013) (66'24")
Liner-notes: E/S; lyrics - translations: E
Cover & track-list

anon: Bayle de danzantes; Bayle del Chimo; Cachua al Nacimiento 'Dennos lecencia'; Cachua al Nacimiento 'Niño il mijor'; Cachua La Despedida; Cachua Serranita El Huicho Nuebo; Cachuyta de la Montaña El Vuen querer; Lanchas para Baylar; Tonada del Chimo; Tonada El Conejo; Tonada El Congo; Tonada El Diamante - Tonada el Tuppamaro; Tonada El Huicho; Tonada El Tupamaro; Tonada La Brugita; Tonada La Donosa; Tonada La Lata; Tonada La Selosa; Tonadilla El Palomo

Luciana Cueto, Lina Marcela Lopez, voice, percussion; Alvaro Pinto, voice, kena, percussion; Adrián Rodríguez Van der Spoel, voice, guitar, percussion; Gabriel Aguilera Valdebenito, voice, guitar, kena, percussion; Andres Locatelli, flute; Florian Deuter, Mónica Waisman, violin, percussion; Joshua Cheatham, violone; Manuel Vilas Rodríguez, harp; Mariela Añazco, María Cristina Galibert, Inger Limburg, Maite Tife, Veerle Vel, vocal ensemble

Música Temprana is an ensemble based in the Netherlands which specializes in music of the 17th and 18th centuries from the New World. It has made several discs with sacred and secular music. This time it has turned to the music which is included in an important manuscript, the Codex Trujillo del Perú which was compiled between 1780 and 1790 by the Spanish bishop Baltasar Jaime Martínez Compañón. He was born in 1737 and was sent to Peru at the age of 31. In 1779 he was appointed bishop of Trujillo. In the first half of the next decade he paid visits to the towns and villages of his diocese. These resulted in nine volumes of pictures and tables about a wide range of subjects, from archaeology to textiles and ceramics. It is a kind of documentation of the state of society at the time with the purpose of informing the Spanish court.

The codex includes 20 pieces of music, all of which have been recorded here. They bear witness to the cultural variety, reflected by the various forms and the use of the languages which were spoken at that time. What we have here is not so much 'classical music' but rather traditional music which is probably not that far away from the kind sung and played in Latin America in our time.

Three forms are represented. In the 18th century the tonada was used in Spain to describe a vocal piece with a text in metrical verse. It had its origin in the theatre but also developed into an independent genre. In Peru it was adapted by African slaves and Indians to their own traditions. The lyrics show a wide variety of subjects which are a mirror of society. Many texts includes words and expressions with a double meaning. Sometimes the exact meaning of a word is impossible to establish; the Tonada del Chimo is even not translated in the booklet because it is in Mochica, a language which is considered extinct.

Many tonadas are dancing songs; their titles give the indication para baylar cantando: "sung while dancing". That explains their pronounced rhythms and lively character. The manuscript includes several dances without a text, the so-called bayles. The third form is the cachua, a native pre-Hispanic form of a circle dance which still exists in parts of Peru. Originally it had strong erotic connotatations, but - as is so characteristic of the music of the New World - it is also used with different content. Here we even find two cachuas with a spiritual content, celebrating the birth of Jesus. The mixture of secular and sacred failed to find approval of the ecclesiastical authorities. An edict of 1754, quoted by Adrián Rodríguez Van der Spoel in his liner-notes, says it all: "We hereby command (...) all musicians and instrumentalists to abstain, in churches, (...) from playing sonatas, minuets and other pieces of local traditional music. They may only be played in theatres and in profane festivities". It is unlikely this edict had much effect.

In recent times a considerable number of discs with music from the New World have been released. Often we hear a mixture of Spanish and traditional elements. In this recording we probably come closer to the purely traditional music of the indigenous people of Latin America than in any other. The manuscript from which the pieces are taken is of great historical and musical importance. Rodríguez Van der Spoel has made a special study of this codex and has written down the results of his research in a book which should be published around the time this review is published (November 2013); on the last page of the booklet you will find more information about that. This disc is the musical illustration of his study, and can only be highly appreciated. The ensemble uses a mixture of baroque instruments, such as recorder, violin and harp, but also a battery of traditional instruments some of which may still be played in Latin America. This music shows strong similarities with the music of Latin America or - more generally - Latin cultures of today. That is also respected in the performances, but the artists have avoided any exaggeration. They are well aware that after all this is music of the past and cannot be played as if it was written yesterday.

This disc is a model of intelligent, but also passionate music making. Not only lovers of Latin American early music, but also those who have an interest in folk music will enjoy it.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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