Music of ARAUJO, BALLY, FERNADES, MURCIA, SALAZAR, ZÉSPEDES, ZIPOLI, ANON
Ensemble Caprice has an unusual history. Formed in Germany in 1989, the group relocated to Canada, for undisclosed reasons, and is now headquartered in Montréal. Like so many early-music groups, it is truly international; recent gigs include concerts in Germany, Belgium,Read more the Netherlands, and the Middle and Far East. Its U.S. debut occurred in 2005 at the Boston Early Music Festival. The roster lists a full complement of bowed strings, plus a well-stocked continuo group, enough to record standard orchestral works from the Baroque.
The discography does in fact list recordings of Telemann, Couperin, Purcell, Sammartini, and Vivaldi, none of which I’ve heard. For its latest release, Ensemble Caprice has put together a delightful program of Latin-American music, although much of it is by composers who are originally from continental Europe. Santiago de Murcia (1673–1739) was a Spanish guitarist-composer whose works have been widely recorded. His Marizapalos is a gentle solo for guitar, while La Jotta is a lively number for full instrumental ensemble. The Italian Domenico Zipoli (1688–1726), student of Alessandro Scarlatti, spent the bulk of his career in Paraguay and Argentina. He contributes a lovely Christmas Pastorale and an energetic Battalia imperiale that would have impressed Biber. The Spaniard Juan de Araujo (1646–1712) was maestro de capilla in Lima and Cuzco. His single piece, Los coflades de la estleya, received its first recording in a memorable performance by the Roger Wagner Chorale and mezzo Salli Terri, circa 1968. Even the French are represented by Henri de Bally (c.1585–1637), with a haunting Spanish-language air de cour, Yo soy la locura. At eight pieces total, the composer with the largest representation is Anonymous, although it’s obviously not all the same person. Especially memorable are the instrumental number Pasacalies de 2o tono (Flores de música, 17th century) and Hanacpachap cussicuinin (Peru, 1631), a stately piece of Renaissance vocal polyphony.
Compared with the sort of programs that Jordi Savall has given us, this is music centered mostly in the 17th and 18th centuries, with a few exceptions. The instrumentarium of Ensemble Caprice is not a “cast of thousands” like Savall’s—basically it’s a standard Baroque string ensemble with the addition of guitars, recorders, and cornetto, the latter expertly played by Matthew Jennejohn. But this works in its favor, I think. The performance style is not quite so over the top as Savall’s, but never less than enthusiastic and committed. For this CD, Ensemble Caprice has welcomed into its midst a top-notch vocal consort of five singers, who also handle the solos.
I enjoyed this CD immensely; the program has been carefully chosen for depth and variety, and the performers hit every single number squarely on the head. For anyone addicted to Latin-American Baroque music, as I am, this disc is a valuable addition to the relatively few CDs devoted to this literature.