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Opera News (05/2012)

Alia Vox AVSA 9876
Code-barres/Barcode: 7619986398761



Reviewer: Arlo McKinnon

he Spanish conquest of the New World set off profound changes in world culture. The interaction among the Spaniards, their African slaves and the native peoples of the Americas entailed many cruelties and tragedies yet also brought about a tremendous cross-cultural pollination whose effects continue to resonate in our own times.

Jordi Savall and his Hespèrion Ensemble XXI (formerly XX), along with his wife, the late Monserrat Figueras, have produced an astounding legacy of recordings. Their range has been extraordinary, from the medieval age up to the music of Mozart and Haydn, touching on numerous national traditions. Here they have turned their attention to music of the eighteenth-century Creole culture. El Nuevo Mundo presents a marvelous collaboration involving Savall, Figueras and their ensemble with the exciting Mexican early-music ensemble, Tembembe Ensamble Continuo. The generous program features music from Spain, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela and the Canary Islands, sung in various Spanish dialects as well as in Náhuatl, the language of the Aztecs.

The sources of this music are widely scattered, and for many of the works they consist solely as a melodic line and/or lyrics. The performers involved were required to engage in extensive reconstruction work, including arranging, orchestrating and creating from scratch. There are significant parallels in all of this work to the field of jazz, and improvisation also is a crucial component in both traditions. The results here are fantastic. One can hear a vibrant line of musical thought stretching as far back as the fifteenth-century villancicos of Juan del Encina and looking ahead to Mexican corridos and Latin dance-band music of our time, as well as to certain key works of Osvaldo Golijov. Along the way, flamenco elements and even hints of Andean music can be detected.

Figueras is featured in those numbers that are most closely tied to the European influences. As usual, hers is a radiant voice, very distinctive and alluring. Appropriately, the bulk of the singing of those works that more clearly reflect a Latino influence are given to soprano Ada Coronel, tenor Patricio Hidalgo and baritone Enrique Barona. All three sing with warmth, passion and a deep understanding of this music. Savall and the other instrumentalists do a fine job of blending and providing excitement. These performances have such a lively flair and style that they will strongly appeal to all those who love Latin music.




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