Notes and Editorial Reviews
Deus in adiutorium.
Dixit Dominus. Aquí, Valentónes! Ay, andar!
Salga el torillo hosquillo!
Beatus vir. Ave maris stella.
Viva Ignacio! Viva!
Cui luna, sol et omnia.
Sancta Maria, e!
Hanacpachap cussicuinin. Dulce Jesús mío
This is a successor to ?New World Symphonies,? a disc that created something of a sensation with critics and collectors alike when it was released some three years ago. It also caused some confusion among
?s editors, who, obviously taken in by the title, allotted it to the magazine?s ?Orchestral Collections? section when my review was published in 27:1. And there was not a note of Dvo?ák on it, I promise!
The earlier disc, in fact, consisted of a wide range of choral music from Latin America stretching from late Renaissance to the early part of the 18th century, the centerpiece being the
Missa Ego flos campi
by Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, who this time manages only a walk-on part in the shape of the tiny, if resplendent Response
Deus in adiutorium
. The new disc broadly follows the sequence of a Vespers service, including three of the Vespers psalms in polyphonic settings, and plainchant antiphons appropriate to the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order. In keeping with popular tradition in Latin America, the liturgical pieces are interspersed with
with Spanish texts, and motets sung in Nahuati, the language of the Aztecs.
Once again, the chronological range is wide, and once again, I suspect that the selection will prove to throw up its own ?hit? numbers. I doubt mine will be the only wet eyes in the face of the concluding track,
Dulce Jesús mío
, an anonymous Nahuati setting of such divine simplicity that it transcends descriptive words, an observation that applies nearly as much to
Sancta Maria, e!
by the Indian composer Francisco Hernández, a pupil of Hernando Franco (1532?1585), probably the earliest Spanish composer to settle in the New World, here the contributor of
, a beautiful intercession to the Virgin here greatly enhanced by the sweet purity of the soprano of Grace Davidson, whose solo contributions throughout are one of the many enchantments held by the disc. All four of the
included are also candidates to make it onto playlists, the likely number one being Juan de Araujo?s
, the opening words of which, ?Hey! Come on . . . Play, sing and dance!? tell all. And, by heaven, does Ex Cathedra do just that, whirling through the piece with a recklessly joyous abandon that suggests they must have been high on sangria when it was recorded. Also memorable is
by Manuel de Sumaya, a Creole composer born in Mexico City, where he became
maestro de capilla
of the Cathedral in 1714. Scored for trumpet and strings, three solo voices, and chorus, its exuberance and driving rhythms at times evoke images of a Latin American Vivaldi.
I?m almost ashamed to confess that I enjoyed these popular pieces rather more than the liturgical music, most of which impresses with its rhythmic verve and bright, confident mood, but is mainly distinguished by an often attractive naiveté rather than profundity. There is nothing here of the quality of the Padilla Mass recorded on the earlier disc, although the richly-textured setting of
by Francesco López Capillas, who worked under Padilla at Puebla during the mid 1640s, is skillfully laid-out for antiphonal choirs.
In an engagingly personal note, Jeffrey Skidmore tells of his exploratory journeys to Latin America, where he uncovered vast amounts of a treasure store of repertoire that is at last being almost feverishly explored by scholars. His love of it is evident not only from his words, but also the performances he inspires from Ex Cathedra. To induce such idiomatically colorful singing and playing on October days in London is an achievement warranting unreserved plaudits. Viva! Viva, Jeffrey!
FANFARE: Brian Robins