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Baroque Music From Ecuador / Pontvik, Ensemble Villancico

Hortuno / Hidalgo / Blasco / Ens Villancico
Release Date: 07/26/2011 
Label:  Cpo   Catalog #: 777568-2   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Anonymous
Conductor:  Peter Pontvik
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Villancico
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Anyone who loves Latin American baroque music will greatly enjoy this disc.

Baroque music from Latin America, performed by Swedish musicians - that seems pretty odd. One is inclined to think that the exuberance of Latin American music would make a poor fit with Scandinavian cool. In fact we're in for a nice surprise.

There is a specific reason why the Ensemble Villancico has recorded this repertoire. Its director, Peter Pontvik, has made a special study of Latin American music. In 2006 he made a research trip through Ecuador and came into contact with two local musicologists who gave him access to a manuscript - the Codex Ibarra – containing sacred music from the 17th century. Peter Pontvik
Read more writes in the CD booklet: "In the view of Jorge Cazorla, the director of the Historical Archive in Ibarra, the nuns of the Conceptionist Cloister in the same town, were the authors of the texts that were set by native church musicians - from Quito - for various church feasts. The artistic talent of the nuns of this order was repeatedly documented in the annals of the then Real Audiencia de Quito (Royal Audience of Quito) and involved instruments and song as well as dance and theatre".

Many of these native composers have remained anonymous. Joseph Hortuño and Gonzalo Pillajo are unknown quantities, about whom nothing is told in the liner-notes. In the case of Manuel Blasco only the dates of birth and death are given. About half of the pieces are from the Codex Ibarra and are recorded here for the first time. The programme is extended by pieces from other manuscripts. Manuel Blasco's Ventezillo traviesso is from the archive of the cathedral of Bogotá in Colombia. From the same archive comes the setting of the Salve Regina by Gutierre Fernández Hidalgo. He is the only composer on this disc who appears in New Grove: of Spanish birth he moved to Bogotá (then called Santafe) in 1583. This piece reflects the polyphony of the late renaissance. There are also anonymous works which show that these unknown composers mastered counterpoint as well, for instance the author of Atención a la fragua amorosa. There are also pieces for double choir, like Al sol de la tierra y el cielo.

The manuscript gives little information about the way this repertoire was performed. Peter Pontvik mentions the use of shawms, harp and organ. Ironically the former two are not used here. Instead we hear recorders, viola da gamba, guitar, lute, virginal, organ and percussion. Among the latter are curious instruments like fruit rattle, caxixi and rainmaker. I assume these are instruments which belong to traditional music, but they could well be suitable to this repertoire; in Latin American baroque repertoire 'art' and 'folk' are strongly interwoven. One of the traditional pieces is El negro José, which bears witness to the presence of African slaves. So does the anonymous Canción de un negro al Niño Dios. This also justifies the use of an African percussion instrument like the marimba.

As I have already mentioned, with this disc we're in for a surprise. The members of the Ensemble Villancico are fine musicians, whom I have heard before on a disc with 17th-century sacred music from Sweden. But one doesn't associate Scandinavian musicians with this kind of repertoire. The combination of the two works very well. That could well be due to the fact that the ensemble in its exploration of early music pays much attention to 'world music'. They seem to have a very good feel for the popular element. They sing and play with energy and zest, and a perfect sensitivity to the characteristic rhythms of this repertoire. Anyone who loves Latin American baroque music will greatly enjoy this disc, both because of the quality of the repertoire and the excellence of the performances. It is just a shame that the playing time is so short.

The record company has not done us great service by omitting translations of the lyrics.

-- Johan van Veen, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Codex Ibarra - Excerpt(s) by Anonymous
Conductor:  Peter Pontvik
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Villancico
Period: 17th Century 
Written: Ecuador 

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