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El Nuevo Mundo: Folias Criollas
11 Nov 2010

El Nuevo Mundo: Folias Criollas

Our modern globalized perspective makes us alert to the cultural richness of difference, much as it ironically also seems to blur distinctions with ease of access.

El Nuevo Mundo: Folias Criollas

Montserrat Figueras, soprano; Tembembe Ensamble Continuo; La Capella Reial de Catalunya; Hesperion XXI; Jordi Savall, Director

Alia Vox AVSA 9876 [SACD]

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Multicultural, we savor the admixture of diversity, and in the savoring seem to relax the complex boundaries of identity. Although this takes place now on an unprecedented scale, the history of colonialism and trade remind us that cultural intertwining is a conspicuous strand in the fabric of the past, as well. And it is the cultural intertwining of the “Andalusian Caribbean” that is vibrantly explored in the recording, El Nuevo Mundo, by the inestimable Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras.

In the exploration, traditional Latin American music in a variety of forms sits easily in the company of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music from both the Spanish “old” and “new” worlds in what can only be perceived as a musical family reunion, a reunion where resemblance rings true even among the more distant cousins, and kinship remains evident throughout the generations. The performance forces themselves underscore the theme, as well, for Savall’s well-known early music ensembles, La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Hesperion XXI, are joined by the Mexican traditional ensemble Tembembe Ensamble Continuo, a collaboration begun several years ago as part of the Festival Cervantino.

Solo turns are ample and shared: harpist Andrew Lawrence-King, for instance, improvises a “Danza de Moctezuma,” while gambist Savall takes a turn with smile-inducing, improvised “Canarios”; Figueras brings her hauntingly sinuous and sensuous voice to one of the most memorable works on the program, the cantata-like “Niña como en tus mudanzas.” In addition to the solo work, the ensemble playing is endlessly engaging with its abundance of “pluckery” and irresistible rhythmic animation.

One of the finest examples of the principle underlying the program, and also one of the finest of the performances, is the paired “Xicochi Conetzintle” and “Xochipitzahuatl,” the former an early baroque Christmas lullaby by Gaspar Fernandes from the cathedral at Oaxaca, the latter a traditional “son” in honor of Mary. The Fernandes piece is elegant in its rendition and memorable in its rhythmic undulations and cross-rhythms. The “son” blends seamlessly into the patterned sway—as “cousins” might easily do—only to yield place to an equally seamless return to the lullaby. In the motion back and forth we discern something of the flow of the musical currents shaping the music of el nuevo mundo; in the interplay of sounds we can take great delight.

Steven Plank

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