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José DE OREJÓN Y APARICIO (1706 - 1765): "La Esfera de Apolo - Music From 18th Century Lima, Peru"

Música Temprana
Dir: Adrián Rodríguez van der Spoel

rec: Dec 4 - 6, 2015, Amsterdam, Waalse Kerk
Cobra Records - COBRA 0051 (© 2016) (70'27")
Liner-notes: E/S; lyrics - translations: E
Cover & track-list

anon: Sonata III á 2 con órgano; Sonata Coreliana para tecla I; Roque CERUTI (c1686-1760): Según veo el Aparato, jácara; José DE OREJÓN Y APARICIO: ¡Ah de la esfera de Apolo!; ¡Ah, del día!, ¡Ah, de la fiesta!, cantada; Dolores y Gozos de San Joseph, chacona & giga; Enigma sagrado, villancico; Jilguerillo sonoro, cantada; Por besar de este Fénix las plantas, villancico; Domenico ZIPOLI (1688-1726): Al Post Comunio in F

Soledad Cardoso, Lucía Martín-Cartón, soprano; Fernando Guimarães, tenor; Mónica Waisman, Florian Deuter, violin; Robert Smith, basse de violon; Wouter Verschueren, dulcian; Manuel Vilas Rodríguez, harp; Adrián Rodríguez van der Spoel, guitar; Francesco Corti, harpsichord, organ

In the last twenty years or so the interest in early music and in particular historical performance practice has disseminated across Europe and even far beyond. As a result musicians from Asia (especially Japan) and Latin America have taken their place at the music scene. Fortunately some of the latter have not forgotten where they have come from. Someone like Gabriel Garrido has given much attention to the music which is collected in archives across South America, for instance with a series of recordings on the French label K617. With his ensemble Música Temprana Adrián Rodríguez van der Spoel, like Garrido of Argentinian birth, also has produced several discs with music from Latin America, such as "Bailes, Tonadas & Cachuas - Songs and dances from Trujillo, Peru (18th century)" and "Iyaî Jesucristo - Music from the Jesuit Missions in 18th century Bolivia". Its most recent recording is devoted to a composer very few music lovers will have heard about: José de Orejón y Aparicio.

He was born in 1706 in Huacho, a small village north of Lima in Peru. At a very early age he was already active as a singer at Lima Cathedral. It is possible that he was a pupil of Tomás Torrejón y Velasco, who was director of music at the cathedral until 1728. He was also educated as an organist and acted for some time as an interim organist at the cathedral. Another important figure in Orejón's cathedral was Roque Ceruti who was appointed as successor to Torrejón y Velasco in 1728. He was a native of Milan and introduced Italian music to the repertoire. When he died in 1760 Orejón succeeded him; in 1742 he had already been appointed organist.

As a composer he has left a rather small oeuvre, and that was close to being almost completely lost when in 1987 it was discovered that the manuscripts of nearly all his works had been stolen. Fortunately eleven years later a microfilm of his complete extant oeuvre came to the surface. Six years ago this has been published and that has allowed the musicians of Música Temprana to present a selection on the present disc.

The programme documents not only the quality of a forgotten composer, but also the confrontation of the traditional Spanish style - introduced by missionaries from Spain in the 17th century - and the modern Italian taste, which was adopted by composers in the 18th century. Some pieces in the programme are largely Spanish in character, and that goes especially for the villancico. Por besar de este Fénix las plantas is a good example which opens with an estribillo, followed by three coplas and closes with the second half of the estribillo. It also has the typical rhythms of the villancico. One of the features of the villancico is the mixture of the secular and the sacred. It was originally a secular genre, but in the 16th century it was increasingly used for sacred texts, especially for Christmas (Navidád) or in honour of the 'Blessed Sacrament' (Santissimo Sacramento). The latter goes for Enigma sagrado: "Sacred Mystery, always intense love in which the very smallest is immensely big".

Closely related to the villancico is the jácara (or xácara), which has its roots in the underworld of southern Spanish towns in the time of the Moors. Jácaras are written to a fixed harmonic pattern and on a text in the dialect of the underworld which includes quite some coarse language. Even this genre found its entrance in the church. An example of a 'sacred' jácara is Ceruti's Según veo el aparato, which has the indication para la Nadividad. But in his liner-notes Adrián Rodríguez van der Spoel states that the Italian style has overshadowed the traditional features of this genre. "[Instead] of using real Andalusian music to make the wild, 'vulgar' characters convincing, [Ceruti] opted for a light Italian giga, with a rhythm very different from the typical guitar patterns that were the source of inspiration and hallmark of the xácara. Most probably, the audience would have laughed out loud, not so much at the story itself, but at the composer's own failings". Provided, I'd like to add, that his audience knew better.

Several pieces document the influence of the Italian style, especially the pieces which are called cantada and which show the characteristic texture of the Italian chamber cantata: a sequence of recitatives (recitado) and arias. Probably the most pure cantata is ¡Ah de la esfera de Apolo!, which opens with a 'duo for our Lady'. It is followed by two recitative and aria pairs. The fact that the cantata closes with a repeat of the last section of the duet seems a reminiscence of the villancico. The second aria, with the addition grave, is highly expressive. This cantata is a dialogue between Phoenix and Icarus, and it is an interesting example of how a secular subject - taken from mythology - could be turned into something sacred.

The most demonstrative example of the mixture of the two styles is ¡Ah, del día!, ¡Ah, de la fiesta! which again looks like a normal cantata with a duet, a recitative and an aria, but ends with two coplas. The aria includes some nice imitation of trumpets by the two sopranos. Jilguerillo sonoro begins with a duet which is followed by a recitative and an aria which includes quite some coloratura. This is all very Italian, and that also is true of the content: it is about singing birds, the goldfinch and the nightingale, which so often turn up in Italian chamber cantatas and operas. They were used allegorically, and that is also the case here. The Spanish style is represented by the coplas at the end of the piece, after which the first part of the aria is repeated.

A very interesting specimen of the mixture of Italian and Spanish elements is Dolores y Gozos de San Joseph. It describes the joys and sorrows of Joseph which are juxtaposed through a contrast in metre. The five sections are all divided into two halves. The first is about the sorrows for which Orejón makes use of the chacona, which has its origin in South America but had become quite popular in Europe and particularly in Italy during the 17th century. The second describes the joys; here the composer turns to the giga, which was frequently used across Europe and has its origin in England (jigg). It results in a most compelling piece.

Through the inclusion of pieces by other composers Orejón is put in a historical perspective. The sonatas are further evidence of the influence of the Italian style in the New World. The title of the Sonata Coreliana is telling. The line-up in its four movements, divided into two pairs, is different: the first two are played at the organ, the third opens as a solo for harp which is later joined by the violin; the fourth movement is played as a piece for violin and bc. The Sonata III á 2 con órgano is performed as a trio sonata with two violins and bc. The largo is particularly expressive. An organ piece by Domenico Zipoli rounds off the programme. He was from Prato in Italy, studied with Bernardo Pasquini in Rome and settled in Cordoba in 1716; ten years later he died of tuberculosis. The largest part of his output comprises sacred vocal music which has been preserved in archives in Bolivia. Al Post Comunio in F is from a collection of keyboard music printed in Rome in 1716.

I had the great pleasure to hear these pieces during a concert in Utrecht in December 2015. I was impressed by the music and by the performances. I was looking forward to this disc which would give me the opportunity to pay more attention to the texts and the background of this repertoire. Undoubtedly José de Orejón de Aparicio was a very fine composer and it is a matter of great fortune that copies of his music have been found. "We hope this project will be the first of a series to include Orejón's other surviving pieces (...)", Adrián Rodríguez van der Spoel writes in the booklet. I share his hope; that would be something to look forward to, especially if the performances are as good as what is on offer here. Under the engaging direction of Rodríguez van der Spoel Música Temprana delivers splendid interpretations. With Lucía Martín-Cartón and Soledad Cardoso the ensemble has two outstanding singers in its ranks. They have clearly contrasting voices, but they blend perfectly as the many duets show. They also have the right temperament for this kind of repertoire which is essential to make it come across. That also goes for the instrumentalists, among them the two excellent violinists Mónica Waisman and Florian Deuter.

Programmes with music from the New World mostly focus on the extroverted, and often include the use of percussion. No need for that here: there is no lack of the rhythms which we associate with Spanish and Latin American music but there is also room for intimacy and true expression. That makes this disc pre-eminently suited for repeated listening. It is a treasure you shouldn't miss.

Johan van Veen (© 2017)

Relevant links:

Música Temprana

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