Ex Cathedra Consort

Fire Burning in Snow

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Fire Burning in Snow, the third volume in Ex Cathedra's series of Baroque music from Latin America, is strong testimony to the vitality of the musical scene in South America in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. The bulk of this album is devoted to the sacred and secular choral music of Juan de Araujo (1648-1712), who was born in Spain, but whose family moved to South America when he was a child. He lived in Peru and Panama, but spent most of his adult life in La Plata, Bolivia, where he was the organist at the cathedral. The music recorded here is notable for its almost Monteverdian range of styles and expressiveness. This selection of Araujo's strongly rhythmic work includes a rigorously polyphonic motet for triple choir; a simple, lovely lullaby for women's voices; and many stylistically diverse choral villancicos. The standout work on the CD, though, is Hanacpachap cussicuinin, a 20-verse Peruvian hymn in the Quechua language that was the first example of choral polyphony published in the Americas in 1631. It's broken into four sections of five verses each, and performed with ensembles of differing sizes and varying accompaniments. The anonymous hymn has a startling grandeur, and even with 20 verses it's so compelling that it never wears out its welcome. Ex Cathedra Consort and Baroque Ensemble sing and play with high spirits and polish. Conductor Jeffrey Skidmore is to be commended for bringing this repertoire, much of which has never been recorded, to light, and for delivering such lively realizations and energetic and full-bodied performances. This SACD should be of strong interest to anyone who loves Renaissance and Baroque polyphony and fans of choral music with a Latin flavor.

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