Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge / Geoffrey Webber

Romaria: Choral Music from Brazil

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This release may seem odd indeed on the face of it: one of the most traditional of the English collegiate choirs taking on a collection of contemporary Brazilian sacred choral music that's all but unknown outside of Brazil. The genesis of the project is partly explained by a collaboration between the Choir of Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, and the music department of the University of São Paulo, Brazil, which chose the program. That doesn't diminish in the least the adventuresomeness of the program, which is thoroughly enjoyable on its own merits. A "romaria" is a pilgrimage or procession, and what you get is indeed a tour through Brazilian choral music written between about 1950 and the present day. There are a couple of short pieces by Heitor Villa-Lobos and others that follow clearly in the paths that he laid down, but what's interesting is how much of the music departs from the Villa-Lobos model even as it retains national characteristics. Modernism certainly made an impact on these composers, even if none of them adopted it wholesale in the manner of Ginastera. Metaphors, the opening work by Polish-Brazilian composer Henrique de Curitiba is worth the price of admission all by itself; it was never published, and its electronic part has here been reconstructed according to existing descriptions and directions. The work is entirely original: it is framed by recordings of sounds from the Amazon rainforest into which the choral text, the Incarnatus from the Catholic mass, is woven. Elsewhere there are pieces influenced by Afro-Brazilian music and by folk music, all of it with some novel element, and a mass setting by Aylton Escobar (tracks 17-21) that incorporates a great many styles and gives each part of the mass its own stylistic constellation. One wonders how a Brazilian choir would perform this music differently, but the program is absorbing from beginning to end as it is done here. Brilliantly diverse, gutsy, and very strongly recommended.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 8:14
Carimbó (Suite of Folksongs from the State of Pará)
2 1:09
3 1:46
4 1:03
5 0:53
6 1:37
7 4:31
8 3:31
Antiquae Preces Christianae
9 1:56
10 1:41
11 1:46
12 3:19
13 3:40
14 3:26
15 3:25
16 3:57
Missa breve sobre ritmos populares brasileiros
17 2:05
18 6:42
19 2:04
20 3:13
21 3:38
22 7:00
blue highlight denotes track pick