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Carmina Latina
Gaspar FERNANDEZ (c.1570-1629)
A Belén me llego, tio
Juan de ARAUJO (c.1648-1712)
Vaya de gira
Dixit Dominus á 12 [8.21]
Salve Regina a 8 [3.22]
Tomas de Torrejon y VALESCO (1644-1728)
A este Sol peregrino [4.20]
Desvelado Dueño Mio [5.06]
Diego José de SALAZAR (d.1709)
Salgo el torillo hosquillo
Joan CEREROLS (1618-1676)
Missa de Batalla a 12
Hanacpachap cussicuinin
Cappella Mediterranea; Choeur de Chambre de Namur; Ensemble Clematis/Leonardo Garcìa Alarcòn
rec. September 2012, Eglise Saint-Jacques, Liège (Missa, Dixit); Bollond, Eglise Saint-Apollinaire
RICERCAR RIC 334 [62.31]

This repertoire has been mulled over by several groups and the original joy and surprise at its discovery may have slightly worn off. You may know the three discs recorded by Hyperion featuring the choir Ex Cathedra. This new release with three groups of musicians under Leonardo Garcìa Alarcòn has moved this repertoire into the outside lane and up a gear. Looking at the pictures in the booklet the performers obviously loved it too, even dancing to much of it. The Cappella Mediterranea consists of four soloists (SATB). The Choeur de Chambre de Namur is a group of another twelve singers which acts as a chorus. Ensemble Clematis comprises fourteen mixed instrumentalists. All sorts of percussion are used especially castanets.
Many of these pieces have been recorded before and we are now into a position where we can make appropriate comparisons. Juan de Araujo is the name to remember here, as it is on Ex Cathedra’s ‘Fire Burning in Snow’ disc, (Hyperion CDA67600). This composer’s profile has, in the last decade, been much raised and quite rightly so. He combines the style and language of the Iberian peninsula with Monteverdi’s double choir techniques; no more so than in the Dixit Dominus. This can be heard on the Ex Cathedra disc mentioned above. Set for three choirs it might well remind you of a setting from Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1612 with its use of an obvious Gregorian chant and also the quick interchanges between the choirs. After the first minute or so, we enter a strongly syncopated section which lifts the mood further, helped by this vibrant performance which comes out at half a minute quicker than Jeffrey Skidmore’s group.
This new disc includes the fascinating Hanacpachap cussicuinin, which, in the exotic language of Quechua means ‘Joy of Heaven’. We only have four verses here and they are taken at a bright pace. Ex Cathedra record all twenty on the Hyperion disc, divided across the CD into four groups of five. I’m not sure why they did this and it becomes a somewhat irritating as you listen through although the dignified nature of their approach is recommendable. I also feel that for Alarcòn’s singers the percussion is a natural arm of their overall sound, their equal almost. For the English group, who not only have a rather Anglican sound in their purity, when percussion is introduced which they are very willing to do, it acts as an accompaniment, almost a distraction from their beautiful voices.
Alarcòn puts his best card down immediately with a spirited and excited performance of A Belén me llego, tio by Gaspar Fernandez. It’s a Christmas piece and makes a great start. The excellent booklet notes by Jerome Lejeune say, rather oddly that the “sacred section of the CD begins with the processional chant for the worship of Mary Hanacpachap cussicuinin” but the five tracks which precede it are also religious with texts strongly alluding to Christmas and Easter and in the case of Aesta Sol peregrine to ‘Divine St. Peter’.
Salazar’s Salga el torillo hosquillo is one of the most exciting pieces in this repertoire. Ex Cathedra recorded it on ‘Moon, Sun and all things’ (Hyperion CDA67524). There is nothing wrong with their performance at all, but Alarcòn’s musicians really let rip at a slightly faster pace and the whole thing takes off authentically.
The longest work is the Missa de Batalla by Joan Cererols. Amongst its previous recordings is one by Jordi Savall (Auvidis E 8704 recorded in 1988). It bears up well in comparison featuring as it does the late, lamented Montserrat Figueras however I prefer this new version. There is a greater sense of life engendered and a better balance of instruments against voices. There is also some beautifully warm cornetto playing in this new version especially in the Credo. Both versions vary little in length but Savall’s Credo is paced at one consistent tempo.
The Missa is scored for three slightly differently designed choirs. There are a few passages that are unaccompanied. The ‘Crucifixus est pro nobis’ in the Credo is one, then the full force of choirs, percussion and wind burst in spectacularly. The voices are double by instruments and have a continuo of theorbo, harp and violone. It is a kind of parody mass probably written in early 1648 after a triumphant war over the territory of Naples by the Aragonese who laid claim to it; hence the intervention of trumpets and battle drums. The effect is quite brilliant; listen to the Sanctus for example. The Agnus is one declamation shorter than usual so Savall introduces an instrumental central section. I prefer, in this movement, Savall’s calmer approach.
One oddity in the presentation of the booklet is that texts are provided for the first six tracks: not for the ‘sacred’ section and not for the mass or the later motets like Araujo’s beautiful eight-part Salve Regina.
This is a fine disc and well worth searching out. It will bring you much joy.
Gary Higginson