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Concert reviews

"Baroque Virtuosos from Peru"
Música Temprana/Adrián Rodríguez van der Spoel
concert: Dec 3, 2015, Utrecht, TivoliVredenburg

This concert is available for listening here

anon: Sonata III à 2 con órgano; Roque CERUTI (1683/86-1760): Según veo el Aparato; José DE OREJÓN Y APARICIO (1706-1765): ¡Ah de la esfera de Apolo!, cantada; ¡Ah, del día!, ¡Ah, de la fiesta!, cantada; Dolores y Gozos de San Joseph; Enigma sagrado, villancico; Jilguerillo sonoro, cantata; Sonata Coreliana para tecla I; Tomás DE TORREJÓN Y VELASCO (1644-1728): De esta Rosa tan bella, villancico;

Lucía Martín-Cartón, Soledad Cardoso, soprano; Mónica Waisman, Florian Deuter, violin; Robert Smith, cello; Manuel Vilas Rodríguez, harp; Adrián Rodríguez van der Spoel, guitar; Francesco Corti, harpsichord, organ

There was a time that specialists in early music and especially those devoted to historical performance practice were outsiders on the music scene. In contrast to the establishment they often explored music which was hardly known. Today the situation is completely different. Early music ensembles are now very much part of the establishment and specialists in early music are even invited to conduct traditional orchestras. That is something to be happy about, but there is a downside. The epidemic of performing and recording mainstream repertoire over and over again has also affected the early music world.

Fortunately there are still ensembles which are willing to leave the well-trodden paths and discover new ground. One of them is Música Temprana, founded and directed by Adrián Rodríguez van der Spoel, a guitarist of Argentinian-Dutch birth. Although the ensemble doesn't confine itself to music from Latin America, that certainly belongs to its core business. It has already some fine recordings with this kind of repertoire to its credit. Music from this part of the world is attracting much attention from musicologists and performers alike and that has resulted in quite a number of interesting recordings. The name of Gabriel Garrido has to be mentioned here as he is one of the pioneers in this field. But there are still many sources with music nobody has heard and which is still waiting to be performed. The programme which Música Temprana presented in a series of concerts in the Dutch early music network turned our attention 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 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 from his oeuvre.

By including pieces by other composers Orejón was put into his historical context. One of these was an anonymous trio sonata. This Sonata III à 2 con organo documented the Italian influence in Peru. It is in true Corellian style: it has four movements and the second is a fugue. The programme also included a trio sonata by Orejón himself whose title even explicitly refers to Corelli: Sonata Coreliana para tecla I. First we heard two movements played at the organ, as indicated in the title; there was some confusion about whether there were only two movements or three. After a vocal piece the two remaining movements were played in a different scoring, first on harp, then on the violin.

Italian influences were not confined to instrumental music. We heard some pieces in genres we know from Spanish music - the villancico and the jácara - but also the typically Italian genre of the cantata. In the latter genre we expect some drama, comparable with opera, albeit on a more modest scale, especially when different characters are involved. That was the case in the cantata ¡Ah de la esfera de Apolo!, a dialogue between Phoenix and Icarus. It includes recitatives, arias and a duet. The aria grave 'Cuando a un sol' (Icarus) was probably the most expressive pieces of the concert, and was given an outstanding performance by Soledad Cardoso. In contrast, the villancico De esta Rosa tan bella by Torrejón y Velasco is hardly dramatic even though it is a dialogue between two characters. That doesn't mean that it's not good; it just shows the difference between a composer who is influenced by the Italian style and someone who is rooted in the tradition of Spanish music.

The mixture of Spanish and Italian elements also comes to the fore in the texture of some pieces. The programme opened with Jilguerillo sonoro by Orejón which is called a cantada: it begins with a duet which is followed by a recitative and an aria which includes quite some coloratura - all very Italian. But then Orejón adds a copla, a fixed element of the villancico. This is followed by the dacapo of the preceding aria. Orejón follows the same procedure in ¡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.

Then there is the genre of the jácara, which according to Van der Spoel 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. It is rather surprising then that this genre found its entrance in the church. Or, perhaps it is not that surprising considering that villancicos are often written to texts which are a mixture of sacred and secular elements. An example of a 'sacred' jácara is Ceruti's Según veo el aparato, which has the indication para la Nadividad - for Christmas. But - as if that was not enough - Van der Spoel assured us that this was hardly a real jácara: Ceruti made use of a form he didn't really understand. As an encore we heard Oigan, escuchen, atiendan, a 'real' jácara, written by Manuel Mesa y Carrizo, about the birth of the Virgin Mary. Obviously we didn't have the text, and that was probably just as well.

One piece I particularly liked was Orejón's Dolores y Gozos de San Joseph. It is a perfect example of a mixture of Spanish and Italian elements. It describes the joys and sorrows of Joseph which are juxtaposed in every section through a contrast in metre.

Unfamiliar repertoire needs a really top-notch performance in order to convince the audience that it deserves to be performed. That was certainly the case here: the enthusiastic reception by the many who attended the concert was well deserved. 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 showed. 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. Adrían Rodríguez van der Spoel is an engaging director of his ensemble who manages to present a differentiated picture of Latin American music. It isn't always extroverted and explosive: there is also room for intimacy and true expression. This concert bore witness to that.

I don't know if this programme is going to make it to CD. I very much hope so.

Johan van Veen (© 2015)

Concert reviews