Los Ministriles in the New World
see end of review for track listing
Piffaro (Grant Herreid, Greg Ingles, Joan Kimball, Christa Patton, Priscilla Smith, Robert Wiemken, Tom Zajac), with Annette Bauer (recorders, dulcian)
rec. 10-14 January 2012, Dorothy Young Center for the Arts, Drew University, Madison, NJ, USA. DDD
NAVONA NV5875 [69:36]
Musicians who visited Latin America over the last couple of decades have been surprised to find instruments being played which were part of the early music scene in Europe. They also discovered large archives of music by Spanish and Portuguese composers some of whom were well-known as they worked at the Iberian peninsula in the 16th and 17th centuries, but also by composers from elsewhere. Moreover, these archives included music by composers who seemed to be of native birth. Only part of these have been explored as yet, but the wide interest in the musical heritage of Latin America has led to many interesting projects and recordings.
The American ensemble Piffaro has specialized in music for wind instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The members play instruments like cornett and sackbut, shawms, recorders, dulcians and bagpipes, sometimes with the addition of plucked instruments and percussion. The title of this disc refers to the wind bands which were often part of the personnel of Spanish cathedrals in the 16th century. Their role isn't totally clear. It is often thought that they supported the singers in religious music, but some scholars think they played independently, alternating with the choir, and also performed vocal pieces without the participation of singers.
The programme of this disc brings a wide variety of pieces, both sacred and secular, as well as music originally intended for instruments. The latter are sometimes performed with other instruments than originally intended by the composer. Mostly there is no objection to this practice. The three pieces by Antonio de Cabezón, for instance, were written for keyboard; here they are performed with a consort of recorders, a combination of wind, harp and vihuela or with the latter two.
The music which was performed in Latin American countries was mostly brought along by missionaries from Spain and Portugal. Therefore the largest part of the repertoire is by composers from those countries. It needs to be said, though, that music has also been found by composers from Italy and even Bohemia. This disc only contains music by Spanish composers. Some, like Cristóbal de Morales never set foot in the New World. His music belongs to the first and the most widely disseminated influx which was sung in Latin America. Others, such as Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz worked in the New World for some time and then returned to Spain. There were also composers who emigrated to the Spanish colonies. One of the best-known is Gaspar Fernandes who was from Portugal and worked in Guatemala and Mexico. He left a large amount of secular music, not only on Spanish and Portuguese texts, but also in native languages and dialects. For some time he worked in Puebla Cathedral, with Juan Gutiérez de Padilla being his assistant. In 1629 the latter succeeded Fernandes as maestro de capilla. He left a large body of sacred music and villancicos.
Some music dating from the 17th century was written by composers who were born in the New World. One of these is Francisco López Capillas, who was born and died in Mexico City. He was active as a singer, organist and dulcian player. In 1654 he became maestro de capilla of Mexico City Cathedral, the first occupant of this post who was born in the city. He was the son of a Spanish public servant; composers from native families were rare. It is safe to assume, though, that at least some of the compositions which have come down to us anonymously were written by native musicians. Some titles point in this direction, such as Yjaî Jesuchristo and Turulu neglo. Dios itlaçonantzine is attributed to Hernando Franco - a Spanish composer who emigrated to Mexico - but was probably written by a certain Don Francisco, according to the programme notes.
In programmes of Latin American music of the 16th and 17th centuries one often hears exciting pieces with infectious rhythms, and frequent use of plucked instruments and percussion. It is different here: there are some pieces of this kind, and percussion and instruments like vihuela and guitar are used, but in a rather modest way. Very often we hear a consort of recorders or a quartet of dulcians. The combination of shawms, sackbuts and dulcians is also regularly used. Two pieces are for double choir: Ah, de abajo by Gaspar Fernandes and Deus in adiutorium meum intende by Juan Gutiérez de Padilla. This way we get a balanced picture of musical practices in Latin America in the late renaissance and early baroque period. Piffaro is a highly experienced ensemble of virtuosic players who have mastered a whole range of instruments of various characters and in various pitches. They produce an exquisite sound, and the choice of instruments for every single piece is highly convincing. It results in a most compelling programme of music which invites repeated listening.
The programme notes in the booklet are very concise. The disc includes a folder with more extensive programme notes as JPGs. A pdf file would have been more suitable.
Johan van Veen
A most compelling programme of music which invites repeated listening. 

Track listing
Gaspar FERNANDES (c.1570-before 1629)
Tañe Gil du tamborino [3:31]
Santiago DE MURCIA (1673-1739)
Folias gallegas (arr. Grant Herreid) [1:35]
Antonio DE CABEZÓN (c.1510-1566)
Differencias sobre el canto llano de cavallero [2:35]
Differencias sobre el gallarda Milanesa [1:24]
La dame le demande (arr. Christa Patton) [3:22]
Diego ORTIZ (c.1510-c.1570)
Recercada IV 'La gamba' [1:40]
Juan ARAÑES (?-c.1649)
Una sarao de la chacona [1:58]
Fr. B. MURILLO (early 17th C)
Niña, con tus libres modos [2:09]
Juan BLAS DE CASTRO (c.1560-1631)
Sale la blanca aurora [1:40]
anon (Spain, c.1650)
Ay, ay, ay, tres veces [1:56]
Elegit eum Dominus (Motet para la entrada del birrey) [2:11]
Francisco LÓPEZ CAPILLAS (c.1615-1673)
Ego enim accepi (Sanctissimae Eucharistiae Sacramentum) [2:52]
Sobre vuestro canto llano (de San Jerónimo) [1:20]
anon (early 17th C)
Villano (arr Piffaro) [2:43]
anon (Peru, 16th C)
Turulu neglo [1:54]
? Don FRANCISCO (?-?)
Dios itlaçonantzine [2:27]
Oy, descubre la grandesa [2:09]
Ah, de abajo! [4:02]
anon (Bolivia, 17th C)
Yjaî Jesuchristo [1:07]
Hernando FRANCO (1532-1585)
Monstra te esse matrem [1:35]
Cristóbal DE MORALES (c.1500-1553)
Missa Si bona suscepimus:
Gloria [4:59]
Lucas RUIZ DE RIBAYAZ (1626-?)
Zarambeques [1:57]
anon (Bolivia, 17th C)
Christianos [1:20]
anon (Bolivia, 17th C)
Dulce Jesús mío (arr Grant Herreid) [2:42]
anon (Portugal, late 16th C)
Senhora del mundo (arr Piffaro) [3:15]
Pabanas [2:21]
anon (early 17th C)
Canarios [2:38]
Santiago DE MURCIA
Seguidillas manchegas (arr. Grant Herreid) [3:04]
Manuel BLASCO (fl. C.1684)
Versos al organo con duo para chirimias [1:11]
Juan Gutiérez DE PADILLA (c.1590-1664)
Deus in adiutorium meum intende [1:56]