The Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano Isaac Fernández Blanco has been going from strength to strength in this last decade under the direction of Jorge Cometti, accomplished and innovative. He has renovated the whole building, added a second one, changed for the better the disposition and explanation of the extremely valuable collections. And on the musical side, led by Leila Makarius, there have been innumerable interesting concerts practically for free. But not only that: the authorities of the Museum have created the Capilla del Sol, resident ensemble of Baroque South-American music directed by Ramiro Albino. The group has worked intensively in recent seasons and has been invited to offer concerts in the provinces and abroad, particularly in the Chiquitania Festival, of which more below. And now it will offer a fascinating concert tomorrow Sunday at 11 a.m. at the Colón. Its title: "Vespers of the Feast of St Ignatius as they might have been celebrated in the Bolivian Jesuitic missions around 1750".
Longtime readers may recall that over two years ago I wrote an article about the biannual April Festival of the Chiquitania region, an area that lies about 200 km West from Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia. I will restate the basic facts: for over a century until they were thrown out in 1767, the Jesuits did a marvelous job in their Bolivian missions; we are not generally aware that the Guarany occupied a vast area that covered regions of Argentina (especially the well-called Misiones), Brazil, Paraguay and Bolivia. The missionaries of the Bolivian area were mostly from Bavaria and German- speaking Switzerland (or rather the dialect Schwyzer Deutsch). Men of vast culture and very good musicians, they taught Baroque European music to the natives and found them extremely receptive. As time went on, the Guaranys even became not only players and singers but also luthiers and composers.
Even after their expulsion they Jesuits had residual influence and the natives built new churches on the model they inherited and kept playing, composing and singing for a while, but eventually the churches suffered neglect and degradation and the good work fell into oblivion. But in the Twentieth Century an architect, Hans Roth, became enamoured of the region, lived there, and eventually rebuilt or renovated the churches according to what his investigations revealed. And then, something marvelous happened, as the result of the work of musicologists from different countries, including Argentina: a vast repertoire of Baroque music was found, a portion of it European but another one created there in Chiquitania. The material was gradually deciphered and partially published, to the surprise and wonder of musicians not only in South America but also in Europe. Valuable recordings ensued. Piotr Nawrot, Polish, settled there and began a systematic publication of the rescued materials. But he also did something audacious and fascinating: he founded the biannual festival and managed to attract ensembles from many parts of the world, including Argentina of course. This is surely the most exotic Baroque Festival in the world and I had a grand time attending it in April 2010.
My Herald colleague Ramiro Albino was there, in his capacity as talented recorder player of a Mendoza group, and had been there before leading Capilla del Sol. We have long been friends and I have admired the Capilla del Sol since its inception as an example of interesting and valuable Baroque repertoire done with good voices and players and particularly with the proper style under Ramiro´s direction. The group that the Colón presents is made up of five singers and ten players, all of them specialists.
"Vespers is the last but one of the Office hours. The service consists of the "Deus in adjutorium", five psalms each preceded by an antiphon, a hymn and the Magnificat. It is, outside of the Mass, the only service for which music other than plainsong is admitted" (Willi Apel). The vespers as concocted by Ramiro follow this general plan adding some anonymous instrumental music ("Partida de las virtudes") and an essential author of the Chiquitania repertoire, the Italian Domeinco Zipoli that worked in our Córdoba. Apart from many sacred pieces from him, the programme will include a Verset for organ. And all the rest will be by the very frequent Anonymous, principally from Chiquitania, as the Jesuit fathers were so committed to their missions that they generally didn´t sign what they composed, apart from those pieces that maybe also include the hand and mind of natives.
This is then a rare treat to savour.
For Buenos Aires Herald