The JesuitRead more presence in Bolivia lasted from 1675 until their expulsion in 1767. The remarkable musical legacy they left behind is only recently getting the attention it deserves, thanks to recordings by ensembles including Florilegium and Sphera AntiQua (see Fanfare 35:4). The Beni province of Bolivia, on the border with Brazil, is home to the Moxos people. The Moxeño community that grew around the Jesuit mission of San Ignacio, founded in 1689, has never stopped performing the music brought there by the original missionaries. Groups of indigenous musicians playing stringed instruments built by indigenous builders have kept this repertoire in continual use, faithfully recopying manuscripts as well as passing music down through the oral tradition. The School of Music of San Ignacio and its director, Raquel Maldonado, have recorded three programs of this repertoire, and selections from all three are collected on this disc. Like the blending of native and European influences explored in the music of the Moxos archive, this recording is an intriguing mix of folk and art performance that doesn’t quite fit comfortably in either category.
The orchestra and choir, made up of students aged 16 to 26 as well as the school’s children’s choir, perform on modern orchestral instruments and indigenous bajones—large panpipe-like instruments made from palm leaves that have a sound similar to a Baroque bassoon. The students play well and with plenty of spirit; a few moments of less-than-ideal intonation can be forgiven. The sweet voice of soprano Celsa Callaú is featured in the lovely anonymous aria Tata guasu, sung in the Guaraní language and accompanied by Alcides Lamaica’s tasteful and restrained harpsichord playing. Unfortunately, Callaú’s voice lacks the flexibility and dexterity to tackle the demanding passagework of Domenico Zipoli’s Beatus Vir.
Zipoli, a native of Tuscany, studied with both the Alpha and Omega of Neapolitan Baroque composers, Bernardo Pasquini and Alessandro Scarlatti. He became a Jesuit and worked in Cordobà until his untimely death. His music was immensely popular, and it found its way around the Jesuit world. I highly recommend James David Christie and the Abendmusik Ensemble’s recording of Zipoli’s sacred drama San Ignacio de Loyola (Dorian) as an introduction to this underappreciated composer. There is also a number of good recordings of his keyboard music, which he published before he left for South America. It is fine music and worth exploring.
The difficulty too many musicians have with performing Neapolitan (or Venetian) High Baroque music is that so many of the faster movements use tone painting, the sheer unfettered joy of horsehair on gut strings, as their primary musical medium. Think of Enrico Ononfri and Il Giardino Armonico’s 1994 recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Many performers outside of the early-music revival turn these movements into an endless numbing morass of 16th notes, using too much bow and losing sight of the forest for the sake of the trees. The strings of Ensamble [sic] Moxos are to be commended for exploring the tonal palette available when vibrato is not the only means of expression, but they must go further if they really want to persuade the listener that this repertoire deserves more exposure than it is currently receiving.
This recording was made in an auditorium at the School of Music of San Ignacio. The sound is very close and direct, picking up on the choir’s uneven intonation and poor blending, particularly in the tenor section. The recorders are a bit too present in the mix, casting a spotlight on intonation issues as well.
The most convincing and memorable tracks on this album are the anonymous dance pieces Nuasi hananem rama and El verso, bursting with infectious rhythms, the children’s voices, indigenous instruments and harmonies opening a truly unique window into the living heritage of the Bolivian baroque.
Tata guasuby Anonymous Conductor:
Javier Torres Maldonado
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Worth gettingFebruary 3, 2012By Dean S. (Santa Cruz, CA)See All My Reviews"As someone who loves Baroque music as well as South American music & cultures, I was instantly delighted on my first listening of this marvelous CD. It is reminiscent of the fine work represented on the 3 Florilegium "Bolivian Baroque" CDs, which were done in a nearby part of Bolivia, also with mission music from the Moxos Native People (as well as with the Chiquitos). Though I am an atheist, I find the joyful sounds and spirited performances on this CD to be wonderful."Report Abuse
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