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Classical Music CDs Review


Baroque Music from Latin America by Padilla, Salazar, Zipoli, Fernandes, Araujo, Hernández, others

Ex Cathedra

Jeffrey Skidmore

It's only (almost) February, but I'm certain that come December 31st, this recording will still be at or near the top of my list of outstanding choral releases of 2005/2006. Following on their acclaimed first volume of "Baroque music from Latin America" (Hyperion 67380) issued in 2003, Jeffrey Skidmore and his Ex Cathedra forces return to the lands of the Inca and Aztecs and the world of cathedrals, missions, Christian theology, and Baroque-style music brought by their Spanish conquerors during the 17th and 18th centuries. And from the opening track, a majestic, soul-stirring processional (a different form of which was used by Ex Cathedra on its earlier disc), to the moving, prayerful recessional hymn Dulce Jesús mío (My sweet Jesus), there's not a weak, dull, or uninspired moment on the entire 77-minute program. If you haven't heard the music of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and ultimately native-born composers working in Mexico and in various South American countries during this period--and there already are a growing number of recordings celebrating this vast, continually emerging repertoire--then you could do yourself no better favor than to get this disc and begin your journey here.

The first-hand research by Skidmore is impressive and compelling enough to command our interest (his descriptions of his South American travels are brief yet informative and colorful!), but the music--the enormously fascinating and sophisticated works of Padilla, Araujo, and Zipoli; the exciting, rousing villancicos of Salazar, Fernandes, and (again) Araujo--is enough to keep us happily listening and marveling at the quality of the writing and the absolute mastery of every bar by the singers and instrumentalists.

Several of the works are scored for multiple choirs and intriguing arrays of instruments, from strings, recorders, cornetts, and sackbutts, to bagpipes, trumpets, harp, bajón, shawm, tromba marina, and all manner of percussion. And it's all recorded in ravishing sound that brings the grandest gestures and most delicate details to vivid life. This is great music and equally extraordinary music-making, the result of careful thought and planning and the efforts of some of the world's finest musicians. A most worthy project--enthusiastically recommended! [1/31/2006]

--David Hurwitz