Posted by Soledad Sánchez Bueno on August 25, 2011 | Leave a comment
The growing interest in the revival and new performance of the Latin American colonial repertoire is illustrated by the recent proliferation of recordings. Despite the difficulties encountered in accessing reliable versions of this repertoire, there are plenty of ensembles that have worked directly with the sources to make recordings.
Until just over five years it would have been hard to find two hundred CDs of colonial music, most of it of poor technical and musical quality, or taking a more modern approach that was too general. But this does not detract from the merit of these performers and researchers, who initiated and promoted the appearance of more rigorous groups. While it was common then to choose a varied repertoire without any particular logic, we now find it somewhat more difficult to accept lay, missionary, cathedral and parish repertoires in the same collection, furthermore originating in latitudes and altitudes thousands of miles apart and composed by anonymous or known composers such as Zipoli, Salazar, Padilla Gutierrez, Ceruti, Juan de Araujo, Sumaya, Torrejón y Velasco and Esteban Salas (just to mention a few).
But something is changing. Specialisation and the expectations of the public require performances better adjusted to the context in which the works arose, better prepared and, above all, better performed.
If we go back a decade we find that the growing awareness of the existence of a vast repertoire as yet undiscovered by the recording labels led to the emergence of some projects that have lasted until today. Although highly questionable in concept and of barely acceptable quality, it is worth recalling the work carried out by the Repsol YPF programme for Music of Latin America, which began in 1998 with the release of a box set with several titles with music from Cuba, Argentina, Guatemala, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Panama, Mexico and Brazil.
Similarly the French label K.617 has released, as part of its Baroque Latin-American series, approximately forty monographic albums of colonial music. In this collection, the consistency of the criteria used to prepare the different albums is worthy of note.
In 2005 Bolivian Baroque released its first album, recorded by the Ensemble Florilegium led by Ashley Salomon, fruit of Piotr Nawrot’s research and publications. They have released three recordings so far, which display a certain tendency towards the creation of a stereotyped product with a Eurocentric treatment. Lamentably, the quality of the music has declined from the first album to the latest.
Recently, I was surprised by the quality of the music on a recording released by the Ensemble Caprice from Canada under the direction of Matthias Maute. However, once again, the choice of repertoire does not seem to follow any kind of logic that links the pieces together, apart from the mere fact of all coming from Latin America. Furthermore, it does not avoid the clichéd and idealised versioning of the repertoire, where the music has to grab the attention and possess obvious “Latin-American” traits.
Following in the footsteps of pioneers such as Robert Stevenson and Curt Lange, who initiated the revival of the repertoire and the study of the archives of the colonialist cathedrals, there are now specialists working hard all the world, such as Piotr Nawrot, Geoffrey Baker, Bernardo Illari, Miriam Escudero, Lauro Ayestarán, Dante Andreo and Javier Marín. The results of their research provide data that bring us closer to this music and draw attention to its idiosyncrasies. Some recent groups respect these idiosyncrasies by adapting their performances to the different contexts, periods, styles, genres and languages and by trying to produce more careful versions, though no less novel for being so.
La Capilla del Sol is a consolidated Argentinean ensemble that has taken a critical, unbiased approach to colonial music since its beginnings, in 2004. The musical excellence of its members, supported by the thorough research carried out continuously by its director, Ramiro Albino, has paved the way for several concerts by the group in Latin America. Recently, following a European tour (Slovenia, Czech Republic and Spain) the group received very good reviews.
Keeping a careful eye on the editions, using the original sources and taking a creative approach to performance has resulted in music that is alive and full of interest. By merging their specialized training in early music and the folk repertoire, the members give the group a distinctive sound.
The album titled Como pudieran en cualqueir catedral could never sound monotonous, not even to ears unfamiliar with Latin American colonial music. The contrast between the selected works lies in their functional differences, which are, in turn, reinforced by the musical re-creation. In this case there is a guiding principle that links the pieces: the hypothetical reconstruction of a Mass at the Jesuit Missions of Bolivia.
Emulating the procedure followed in the mission chapels, works were selected from missionary archives, which were then transcribed by the musicologists Piotr Nawrot, Sylvia Leidemann, Enrique Godoy and the director of the group, Ramiro Albino; all pieces that were part of repertoire of the Missions of the Chiquitos and Moxos.
As might be expected, the interpretation and recuperation of the sources in an edition and the preparation of a new version requires specific training. In the case of the reconstruction of the colonial repertoire, the performers run into the difficulty of having to “clothe” the music. Some seemingly simple pieces turn out to be extremely difficult to recreate without deep analysis. Other pieces have only survived as fragments and the musicologists chose to reconstruct the missing parts and use additional documentation to obtain further details on the use and ways of the percussion and other instruments, on the natural register of the voices and on how to adorn the music.
Likewise, they have to imagine its possible hybridization with local rhythms, instruments and ways of playing. One of the good points of this album is that there is no sign of contrivance or of an excess of imagination. Nothing seems arbitrary and at the same time the works are imbued with their own character, which distinguishes them from works with a similar structure and function composed in Europe.
It is a real pleasure to listen to this technically polished, high-level recording, with a quality still difficult to find in CDs of colonial music. The similarity in the timbre of voices and their perfect union, and the naturalness of the instrumental performances, gives the pieces a fresh atmosphere that I consider very appropriate if the aim is to reconstruct the spiritual and symbolic context. There are no clichés that fuel the expectations of the listeners; neither is the discourse simplified to bring it closer to the audience. Quite simply, this is a well thought-out, solidly argued and technically sound product.
Capilla del Sol
I hope this work by the Capilla del Sol is only the first in a series of recordings where we will be able discover other repertoires and the associated new approaches, so that they obtain the international acceptance they deserve. Colonial music is consolidating its place in concert programmes everywhere, seeking to re-establish the cultural bond that has united Europe and America for centuries.
CD “Como pudieran en cualquier catedral”
CAPILLA DEL SOL
Adriana Sansone, Silvina Sadoly, Soledad Molina, Isabel Barrios (sopranos) / Cecilia Pahl (mezzo-soprano) / Paul Tavaglino (alto) / Diego Zorah (tenor) / Alicia Moran, Virginia Llansa (violins) / Maria Jesus Olondriz (cello) / Evar Cativiela (guitar, vihuela) / Federico Ciancio (harp) / Cristina Garcia Banegas (organ) / Eduardo Rodriguez (bassoon) / Sergio Bazán (percussion) / Ramiro Albino (flute and direction)
Buenos Aires, 2010
This CD was produced with no profit motive in mind and its distribution is free.