I first encountered Andrew Lawrence-King and The Harp Consort as participants in an uncommonly enterprising Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music at St. John's Smith Square, London, in May 2002. The theme was New Worlds: the allure of exotic music and distant lands. Mid-17th-century Hispanic baroque combines intellectualism and sensuality in a rich mix.
This joyous CD juxtaposes an exuberant Mass by Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (1590-1664) with Latin American and African folk-dances which inspired it, and it exemplifies how much remains to be discovered in Latin America. The project originated at the annual summer Festival of Baroque and Early Music at the Abbaye de Saint-Michel-en-Tierache, near the Belgian border.
Padilla was born in Malaga and emigrated to Puebla, between Mexico City and Veracruz, where he became maestro de capilla and was a central figure during a flowering of artistic achievement in the mid-17C, combining his musical duties with managing an enterprise which manufactured and sold bajones and chirimias (bass dulcinas and shawms, to be heard here).
The 'parody mass' Ego flos campi is based on a then extant motet, which is brought to new life with colourful rhythms and syncopations. In this programme, the five normal sections of the Mass are surrounded by instrumental and vocal items that will be new to most listeners, and which hold interest easily with their vivid secular texts and catchy tunes. Andrew Lawrence-King plays Spanish harp, organ and psaltery and is is largely responsible for this rich brew, and for engaging an ideal team of singers and players, with instruments which range from familiar bowed and plucked string instruments of the period to exotica such as the bajon and an array of traditional percussion including the jacaras de la costa, a conch shell!
The presentation is lavish and itself delightful. There is a fully illustrated book which is too large to fit into a jewel case, so there is a special slip case. Each performer is identified with initials by name, voice and instrument, so that you can follow exactly what you are hearing. The words are provided in clear print, in the original languages (Latin and Spanish) and in English and French translation, and there is an essay by Andrew Lawrence-King, both learned and pleasurable to read, to put the music into perspective. A Christmas present that everyone would enjoy.
Copyright © 2002, Peter Grahame Woolf