El Nuevo Mundo: Folías Criollas, M. Figueras, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Hespèrion XXI, Tembembe Ensamble Continuo,
(released on August 10, 2010)
Alia Vox AVSA 9876 | 76'11"
The fascinating history of the learned European music created in the cathedrals and city streets of colonial settlements in the New World is of regular interest here at Ionarts, something that came on my radar screen during graduate school, because of the presence of the Latin American Music Center here at the Catholic University of America. This disc has the unlikely possibility of being recommended both by me and the folks at NPR Music, most of whose discussions of music on air cause me to turn off the radio. The performances are so infectiously vivacious, with the historical sources refracted through more recent folk music traditions, but never following that unfortunate assumption that folk music has to be crude or ugly in sound. These performances are both refined and subtle, while simultaneously being joyous, rollicking, even raucous. Improvisations are woven into the program, taking up some of the same patterns as the basis for historically inspired new creations. The vocal performances are all lovely, both from the traditionally "classical" singers like Arianna Savall, Furio Zanasi, Daniele Carnovich, and others and from those from more popular traditions, mostly on more recent traditional songs performed by members of Tembembe Ensamble Continuo. The most "inauthentic" part of the program, it should be noted, is that in some of the pieces new words have been fitted to historical music. This is not only a standard historical practice, yielding pieces known as contrafacta, but the new words give added meaning to the program, celebrating the union of old and new worlds in this music.
Jordi Savall will preside over La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Hespèrion XXI, and Tembembe Ensamble Continuo in this program at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater later this month (September 27, 8 pm). It receives one of our warmest recommendations of the coming year, and tickets cost only $15.