In the first days of the ‘early music revival’
recording was all about bringing revelatory performing styles
to well known music. The format later switched to show an emphasis
on complete recordings, or on first recordings of music by obscure
figures. This lead to a situation whereby obscurity was often
seen as being more important than quality. With this recording
something of the early format is regained. Domenico Zipoli is
certainly obscure, but why his music has been allowed to become
obscure is a real question. The quality of Zipoli’s compositions
is outstanding. Maybe the fact that he spent his career in Paraguay
as musical director to the Jesuit missionaries, didn’t help
his reputation in Europe. However, the manuscripts of much of
his music have been preserved in Bolivia and Paraguay and this
reconstruction by Bernardo Illari brings to light music that
is full of vigour, charm and imagination.
The performances by Gabriel Garrido’s Ensemble
Elyma show that it is not only in Europe that good things are
happening in early music. This South American group performs
with polish and energy and blends voices and instruments with
sensitivity. The use of bassoon continuo is particularly charming
and really does blend with the voices. Likewise the occasional
addition of a large drum played with a real sense of panache
creates a splendid image. The somewhat insufficient booklet
notes spend one of the three paragraphs discussing the use of
"bajunes" - Pan Flutes made from the dried leaves
of the ‘cusi’ palm tree. However, the performance seems to use
recorders instead. They are finely played and add much colour,
but are we meant to believe this to be the sound of pan-flutes?
How fascinating if they were, but it doesn’t sound like it to
this listener. (Sample 1) The booklet also does not explain
who Martin Schmid was, or why some parts of this work might
be by him. If they are, he is just as much of a master as Zipoli.
The singing is uniformly good from the adults
of Ensemble Elyma, the sopranos Adriana Fernandez and Silvia
Perez being particularly fine. There is a quality of timbre
here that marks out the specialist soprano voice, and this is
underlined by the sensitive rubato and shaping of the phrases
and the range of the dynamic palette. (Sample 2). The drawback
is in the children of the Coro de Niños de Córdoba.
Using children’s choirs is always a risk, for they will not,
obviously, have the same level of experience on which to draw
as will adult singers. This is an area where the UK, with its
long tradition of boys in Cathedral and Collegiate choirs, is
fortunate. The Coro de Niños de Córdoba make a
good noise in some places, and a pretty awful noise in others.
When the children become nasal and lose their sense of the vowel,
the noise is most unpleasant. Unfortunately they can also change
from a nasal sound to a beautiful one in consecutive phrases.
(Sample 3) This lack of consistency is not a problem with the
other aspects of this disc and the music itself is infectious.
Apart from the children, this disc bears repeated listening
and is well worth having.