COMPOSERS: Escalada,etc,Gutiérrez de Padilla,Santiago de Murcia
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Missa Mexicana
PERFORMER: The Harp Consort/Andrew Lawrence-King
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907293
This is an intoxicating mix of European and Mexican, of sacred and secular, of voices and exotic instruments. The core of what Lawrence-King explicitly calls ‘a musical exploration, not a liturgical reconstruction’ is a ‘parody’ Mass by Padilla, each movement a reworking of a (lost) motet, ‘Ego flos campi’. Despite Padilla’s origins in late 16th-century Spain, his glorious eight-part textures are heavily overlaid with the thrumming rhythms of guitars, their powerful harmony and key-word refrains repeated with the religious ardour of a modern gospel meeting: links with European Renaissance polyphony are often barely perceivable.
Around the Mass movements is a heady selection of dances and jácaras, rowdy rumbustious songs inhabited by the characters of popular theatre but used to attract and edify congregations. Most of the music here is for the Christmas Mass. The rhythms are enthralling, mixing 3/4 and 6/8, thrown further by second-beat accents and unbalanced phrases – eight bars plus ten bars.
The Harp Consort throws itself into this with the deceptively uninhibited, quasi-improvisatory freedom which only total technical command and inspired imagination can achieve. Colours are startling – cuttingly focused voices, the resonant mist of Mexican guitars, shawm, bajón (bassoon) and percussion including rain-stick, small bells and conch shell. A revelation not to be missed.