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"Oy Hasemos Fiesta - Music from 16th-century Guatemala for voices and winds"

Ensemble Lipzodes; The Pro Arte Singersa; Jonathan Oddie, organb

rec: 2007 & 2008, Bloomington, Ind., Auer Concert Hall
IU Music/Focus - [no number] (© 2010) (56'54")

anon: Agnus Deia; Angelus Dominib; Aparejad ballesterosa; Ave maris stellaa; Credoa; Cuentas a Santa Maria; Dominus regnavit; Fahuana; Gloriaa; Hic solusb; Istadiorumb; Kyriea; Lauda Jerusalem (Psalm 147)a; Maria de solo un bueloa; Mulier quit prolas; Oy hasemos fiesta todasa; Pabanilla; Pange linguaa; Pange lingua (instr); Primero tonos; Quantelcta; Romanceb; Salamanca; Sanctusa; Y tech nepaa; Matéo FERNANDES (?-?): [piece without title]; plainchant: Archangele Michael; Audi benigne conditor; Christe redemptor omnium; Gaude mater ecclesia

[EL] William Hudson*, voice; Wolodymyr Smishkewych, ; Nurit Blum*, Luca Alves Melo*, recorder; C. Keith Collins, recorder, dulcian; Kathryn Montoya, recorder, shawm; Juan Carlos Arango, shawm; Anna Marsh, shawm, dulcian; Adam Bregman*, sackbut [(*) guests]

Music from Latin America enjoys increasing popularity among performers and audiences alike. Over the last decades large amounts of repertoire have been found in archives in various countries of Latin America, not only in the main centres but even in very remote places. In fact, the further away from the large cities, the more chance that original repertoire from the past has been preserved.

I have no catalogue at hand of all recordings with this kind of music, but I assume it is mostly repertoire from the 17th and early 18th centuries which is performed and recorded. This disc is different in that it concentrates on music of the 16th century. And that explains that it is music of a different kind, and that the performance is different from what we mostly get to hear.

All pieces on this disc are from one source, the so-called Lilly Library Guatemalan Manuscripts. In the 1960s several manuscripts with 16th-century music were found in a remote part of Guatemala, which give some idea of the repertoire which was performed in villages. It confirms the statement of an author of the 17th century that many villages, even the smallest ones, "have distinguished cantors and choirmasters, who officiate with great seriousness and piety at the Mass; they sing vespers to polyphony, and celebrate saints' days much better than Spaniards do".

The manuscripts contain various repertoire: chant and polyphony, masses and motets, pieces in Latin and in Spanish as well as in native languages. In addition some pieces are preserved without a text or with an incipit only. Specimen of all these various genres have been chosen for this disc. In addition some plainchant is sung, which is taken from missals found in Guatemala cathedral, and which find their origins in Sevilla in Spain.

The result is a various programme of vocal and instrumental items. The disc begins with a Pabanilla, performed instrumentally, as are pieces like Salamanca, Fahuana and Quantelcta. Antonio Vásquez de Espinosa, who was already quoted before, also mentions the instruments the native Indians were playing: shawms, flutes, sackbuts, curtals and organs. Several pieces on this disc are played at the organ.

Most works are of a liturgical character. The second item is Cuentas a Santa Maria, a 'Litany in praise of The Virgin Mary', and an example of a liturgical piece in Spanish. It is an antiphonal piece in which the various lines are sung in turn by two voices. Some pieces follow the alternatim practice, like Lauda Jerusalem (Psalm 147) and the Credo, in which the verses alternate between plainchant and polyphony. Another common practice in Latin America is the fauxbourdon, and an example is the responsory Archangele Michael which precedes and follows Beatus vir (Psalm 111/112). In Pange lingua we find an alternation between homophonic stanzas and stanzas which are sung by a solo voice with slight ornamentation.

In addition to the liturgical pieces the disc contains three villancicos. Maria de solo un buelo is about the resurrection of Mary, and is performed by the choir, with solo episodes for soprano and tenor. Aparejad ballesteros seems to be a rather secular piece, sung by the choir and four soloists. The disc ends with another villancico in honour of Mary, Oy hasemos fiesta todas, again for choir with a solo part for soprano.

As I already have indicated this repertoire is different from what is mostly performed on discs with Latin American music. And that has consequences for the way it is interpreted. In most recordings much attention is given to extraverted pieces which are performed with passion and vigour. Here most music is sung with much more restraint, and that seems to be just right, considering the statement quoted before that cantors and choirmasters officiated "with great seriousness and piety". Passion and vigour are more appropriate in the villancicos and they are certainly not absent in these performances. The general level of singing and playing by the choir and the ensemble is excellent.

This disc contains music which almost certainly has been recorded never before. That makes it an important addition to the growing catalogue of recordings with Latin American repertoire. It could also serve to correct, as it were, the picture of music from that continent. Not everything is extraverted, and not all music from that region needs to be performed with a lot of noise. Lovers of Latin-American music shouldn't miss this disc, but others - for instance those who are interested in early liturgical music - will also enjoy this recording.

The booklet has only a synopsis of the liner notes and no lyrics and translations. But a pdf file with more detailed information about the music as well as all the lyrics and English translations can be downloaded from the website of the Ensemble Lipzodes (see below). Here one can also purchase this disc, which is probably not widely available in music shops.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

Relevant links:

Ensemble Lipzodes

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