Bolivian Baroque

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COMPOSERS: Anonymous,Zipoli
LABELS: Channel
WORKS: Works from the Missions of Chiquitos and Moxos Indians
PERFORMER: Bolivian soloists, Florilegium


Ever resourceful in seeking ways to capture souls, the Jesuits in Latin America had great success involving the locals in church music. ‘Missionary Baroque’, as the resulting style has been dubbed, sounds close to South European chapel music, except that it sometimes sets indigenous languages. Both colonials and Indians composed, with well-honed European expertise to judge by the examples in Florilegium’s venture, which itself parallels the 18th-century experience in that the instrumentalists travelled to Bolivia, auditioned for four singers there and recorded with them in a resonant rural cathedral.


Their arias, short cantatas and sonatas are mostly anonymous – sometimes homegrown, sometimes imported. The one named composer, Domenico Zipoli, wrote models for teaching purposes, with fresh, simple textures, eloquent melodies and clearcut switches of pace and emotion. His pupils, if such they are, more than match him – the star items are a sparky instrumental Pastoreta and a minimotet Caima, iyai Jesus. The singers are suave and supple, with Henry Villca additionally contributing one surprise high note and a panpipe improvisation in Spanish dance style. There is an extra DVD to show the delights of the setting and confirm the audible relish in Florilegium’s performances. Robert Maycock