Showcase December 2014 - page 33

exotic solo
Oygan una Xacarilla
was composed by the
Guatemalan
Rafael Antonio Castellanos
(1725-1791).
Xicochi conetzintle
, another lullaby to the baby Jesus,
was written by the Portuguese-Mexican composer
Gaspar
Fernandes
(1566-1629). It appears to contain three
elements of Aztec musical performance practice. The first
and most obvious is that of the text, written in Náhuatl,
the language of the central Mexican empire at the time
of contact. Fernandes also incorporates two other
elements characteristic of local ceremonial music, the
interval of the falling minor third and the iambic rhythm
of an eighth- and quarter-note grouping. An important
ceremonial instrument of the Aztecs was the conch shell,
and we introduce the piece with conch blasts that contain
both of these musical elements, transition directly into
the original melody sung by the women and finally into
Fernandes’ five-part setting. 
En un portalejo pobro
,
an
intimately-sized
villancico
, is also by Fernandes.
After two additional Bach selections, our program
closes with an excellent example of the church’s “formal
Baroque” style,
Dixit Dominus
, a work by
Francisco
Corselli
(1725-1788). Corselli, born in Italy of French
parents, moved as young man to Madrid, where he taught
and composed many religious works as well as such
operas as
La Clemenza di Tito
. A number of his works
were performed in the New World, including at Puebla
Cathedral, where today’s version of the
Dixit Dominus
was
heard in 1769.
So much music in Latin, Central and South
American archives remains to be unearthed,
studied and published, that the picture we paint
today could change in the decades to come.
Nevertheless, each newly discovered, transcribed
and published piece from New World sources
tends largely to confirm the general story that
has been written to this point. New is old, old
becomes new. East and West merge and exchange
geographical, and musical, identities. Creativity
and continuity coexist, producing fresh offspring
with solid lineage, yet undeniably juxtaposed
with the playful aspects of this musical legacy is
the sobering reality of historical Colonialism.
Program notes by
Jordan Sramek
, artistic director of the
Rose Ensemble.
After an orchestral work by Bach, Germany’s great
Baroque composer, we move to Baroque Peru and Bolivia,
to
Los coflades de la estleya
, a dazzlingly rhythmic,
large-scaled
villancico negrilla
, based on the music of
African slaves. It is by
Juan de Araujo
(1646-1712), the
greatest composer in South America at the turn of the
18th century. In 1680 he was hired as
maestro de capilla
at Sucre Cathedral, then the Cathedral of La Plata, in
Upper Peru (now in Bolivia), where he stayed until his
death in 1712.
We know little about
Roque Jacinto Chavarría
(1688-
1719), though it is clear he was a student of Juan de
Araujo. Chavarría’s
Oigan las fiestas de toros
, another
villancico
,
is one of his longest and most complex
compositions, and it must have occupied a prominent
position within the exuberance of musical celebrations
for the 1718 feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Plata,
now Sucre. His interest in both Guadalupe and the local
meanings of the feast are found in the lively and graphic
text, which embodies his sole surviving contribution to
the topic of bullfighting
villancicos
. Ironically, according
to musicologist Bernardo Illari, “bullfighting was one
of the Christmas topics lifted by Guadalupe
villancico
writers, both because of their hunger for themes and texts
and as an in-church reflection of the fiesta going on in
the neighboring plaza. These
villancicos
metonymically
represent the Devil as a bull. The bullfighter, usually
the baby Jesus, exceptionally the baby Mary, sets out to
defeat it; the fighting obviously stands for the symbolic
struggle against sin and evil.”
The program’s second half opens with
Entrance of the
Queen of Sheba
, an orchestral passage
from Handel’s
oratorio
Solomon
. Next we hear three fun-loving
negrillas
whose composers are unknown, all from 18th-century
sources in the Archivo Musical de Moxos, Bolivia. The
composer of the following work, too, is anonymous:
it is from a New Mexico
pastorella
, a play centered on
the shepherds (
pastores
) as they traveled to Bethlehem
in search of the baby Jesus. The Spanish clergy in New
Mexico, unable to speak Aztec, had introduced church
plays to help bridge the language gap, and the plays
are among the area’s oldest, most enduring Christmas
traditions.
Duérmete niño lindo
is sung to calm the baby
Jesus: “Sleep, beautiful child, in the arms of love…”
Like the set of three
negrillas
heard earlier, the
villancico
Señora doña Maria
is by an anonymous composer
in18th-century Bolivia, and source materials were located
in the Archivo Musical de Moxos. Next is heard
Gozos al
Señor José
, circa 1813, from the Santa Clara Mission in
California, founded by Spanish Franciscans in 1777. The
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DECEMBER 2014 / ANNUAL REPORT MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA
dec
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Program Notes
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