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Medieval Renaissance&17th Baroque Classical
Festive polyphony and popular dances from 17th-century Mexico
Soloists, Vocal Ensembles & Double Choir
Organ, Spanish harp, sackbut, bajón, baroque guitars & percussion
14 performers (director: Andrew Lawrence-King)
“Missa Mexicana is at once thought-provoking and toe-tapping - an all too rare combination in classical music these days.” Barnes & Noble, USA
“Beautifully sung … haunting loveliness … exuberant … verve and abandoned gusto … superlative … spell-binding … exhilarating”
“Foot-tapping … irresistible”
The Times, London
“An intoxicating mix of voices and exotic instruments … total technical command and inspired imagination.. a revelation not to be missed”
BBC Music Magazine
Ego flos campi (Missa Mexicana )
Double Choir Mass: Missa Ego flos campi Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (c1590-1664) (Puebla Cathedral, Mexico)
Spanish and South American villancicos
Padilla, Francisco de Vidales, Joan Cererols & Juan Garcia de Zéspedes
Hispanic & African bailes and romances
Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz & Santiago de Murcia
Xácaras, Marizápalos, Cumbees, Guaracha
Serafín, que con dulce harmonía
In the mid-seventeenth century, Mexico’s Puebla Cathedral boasted a rich musical tradition, modelled on Old Spain yet influenced by the exotic rhythms of the New World and by the rich harmonies of African music, brought to central America by slaves from the Ivory coast. Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, whose mass “Ego flos campi” forms the centre-piece of this concert, was born in the south of Spain and was maestro de capilla in Jerez and Cadiz, before crossing the Atlantic to take up the post of assistant in Puebla. He became maestro de capilla there in 1629.
This conservative, formal style was regarded as a reflection of the ancient splendour and solemnity of the holy Mass, but Padilla brings the old forms to life with driving rhythms and sparkling syncopations. Just as the composer himself left Spain to make his home in the New World, his musical style was grounded in the traditions of the Golden Age and then nurtured by the colours and rhythms of central America.
Padilla’s music breathes the spirit of the dance, and the details of individual dance-types were preserved by Ribayaz’s 1677 book Luz y norte - Lantern and North Star - an explorer’s guide to Hispanic dances. The most famous of these dances was the xácara, sung in the dialect of the back streets of Madrid and traditionally accompanied by an ensemble of guitarists dressed in black Spanish cloaks, with daggers hidden in their sleeves.
This 17th-century street music became fashionable even in high society, as Spanish composers used the vivid rhythms and dance-energy of the xácara to drive forward the plots of operas and to introduce theatrical excitement even into church music. Indeed, in Christmas villancicos by Padilla and by his colleague, Francisco de Vidales [the principal organist at Puebla cathedral], the text draws the listeners’ attention to the secular origins of the music: “Here’s a new xácara” “Always with the xácara attitude” “Come on, come on, let’s do the xácara now!”
Our programme is not a liturgical reconstruction but a concert, bringing together dance-like religious settings with their original bailes, the actual dances that inspired them. The authenticity is not only musical, but cultural, revelling in the complex cross-currents of conservatism and experiment, of naiveté and sophistication, high and low art, intellectualism and sensuality, that characterise the Hispanic baroque. For whilst the 17th-century congregation and the clergy of Puebla cathedral listened to Padilla’s Mass interpersed with his Christmas villancicos, they would have been inescapably reminded of the raw origins of the xácara dance.
Publa Cathedral, Mexico
The Harp Consort
in the Abbey of
St Michel en Tierache
Andrew Lawrence-King comments: