Villancicos y Danzas Criollas, La Capella Reial De Catalunya, J. Savall (Alia Vox, 2004)
A contrast between high and low musical cultures was built into the program, with examples of more learned polyphony, by Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (c. 1590-1664) and Pedro Bermudez (d. 1606), bookending popular villancicos and dance music. That such opposite styles coexisted, both composed by musicians who served in cathedrals in Mexico and Peru and elsewhere, reveals something about the mixture of cultures in the Americas. Oddly the opening work, Padilla's Exultate justi, sets a Latin text not proper to Christmas at all: its joyful tone, drawn from Psalm 32, was heard either in Easter or on feasts of apostles. Padilla drew out the exclamatory nature of the words through text painting, most notably in the phrase "Bene psallite ei in vociferatione" (sing well unto him with a loud voice). Like his setting of the Gloria, from the Ordinary of the Mass, Padilla's style was fairly simple and homophonic, effective but not all that striking. The most memorable of the Latin-texted pieces was the lovely six-voice Salve regina by Bermudez, in an alternatim style that paired elaborate and extensive polyphonic verses with a decorated form of the Marian antiphon's chant melody.
Simon Chin, ‘Christmas in New Spain’ offers an evening of spirited, cheerful tunes (Washington Post, December 16)
This concert will be repeated several times, through December 22, at the Folger Shakespeare Library on Capitol Hill.