> Le siècle d’or à la cathédrale de Mexico [PW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Le siècle d’or à la cathédrale de Mexico
Hernado Franco (1532-1585) Misa Brevis à 5
Agnus Dei
Arbor Decora
Salve Regina
Anonymous Sonata in e minor for recorder and bc
Alla Francesca
Francisco López-Capillas (1608-1674)
Dixit dominus à 8
Magnificat à 8
Manuel de Sumaya (1678-1756) Missa à 8 con violines
Agnus Dei
Recordings made in Chapelle Saint-Augustin de Vallerysthal (Moselle) in May 1997
La Cappella Cervantina directed by Horacio Franco


Experience Classicsonline

After the resurgence of interest in the music of the Spanish renaissance that gripped the early music scene through the early 1990s the "next big thing" was always going to be either Eastern Europe or Latin America. Eastern Europe is still waiting and the riches of the Spanish colonisation of America are now being brought to renewed attention. Given that Mexico had a well endowed Cathedral establishment from the 16th century onwards, it would only be surprising if there was not much music to be re-discovered. What there is is a rich treasure trove of works by composers of whom we have never heard, many of the early ‘maestri’ being Spaniards or Italians who emigrated, their successors often being born and bred in Spanish America. The music that they left is indistinguishable in quality from that which was being produced in Europe at the same time, and often has a distinctly original voice, as found here in the 8 part Mass with violins by Manuel de Sumaya.

Sumaya is probably the greatest of the native born composers to have become "Maestro di Capila" at Mexico Cathedral and his works show much craftsmanship and elegance. The same can be said of the two works by Francisco López-Capillas; double choir writing of some dexterity. The Misa (sic) Brevis by Hernando Franco is a considerably less inspiring work, interesting only for its historical importance in that Franco was the first Maestro of Mexico Cathedral.

The music is interesting, but the performances on this disc do not do it full justice. The singing of La Cappella Cervantina is mostly competent, but they are no match for the likes of the Tallis Scholars or The Cardinall’s Music, both of whom have recorded Spanish, if not yet Latin American, renaissance repertoire. There are some nice moments from the sopranos, but throughout the disc the basses lack any sense of focus in their production and the tenors are, at best never quite at home in any upper register work, at worst, just awful. (Sample 1) The interpretations are well thought out, but the singers are generally on the flat side of dull and really just not up to the job and this is a shame, especially since there is some very nice violin playing marred by the voices. (Sample 2) Their director, Horacio Franco, is the recorder player of the anonymous sonata - which he plays imaginatively, helped by well wrought continuo from Jose Suarez at the organ. It is a pity that he is recorded too closely and finds difficulty in regulating his articulation of high notes; his recorder has plenty of attractive "chiff" but exaggerated articulation at the end of the last movement allows this to become "crack" instead.(Sample 3)

The programme notes are informative, if a little verbose, but the biographical notes leave one wanting to dislike the performers, so egomaniacal is their constant praise. Horacio Franco apparently "appeared to those who happened to attend one of his performances as a kind of inspired Till Eulenspiegel" (!) This is pretentious nonsense arguably deserving of Till Eulenspiegel’s unhappy fate. A little modesty Mr Franco! Fascinating music, but these performances are not easily recommendable.

Peter Wells


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