Many of Jordi Savall's recordings of older regional repertories involve a good deal of imaginative reconstruction. But Bailar Cantando is based on an actual musical manuscript, the Codex Trujillo. The codex was compiled in Peru in the last quarter of the 18th century by the Bishop of Trujillo, Balthasar Jaime Martínez Compañon, who may have notated the music himself. An accompanying volume of drawings shows that the musical scores leave much out: many instruments of Indian origin were used, for instance, but Martínez Compañon includes only a few, and Savall restores a few more. Nevertheless, enough was transmitted to make possible the realization of some extraordinary music. The texts alone (given in the original mixture of languages, modern Spanish, Catalan, Italian, German, French, and English) are worth the price of admission alone: the languages represented include Spanish, Quechua, Aymara, the extinct Mochica and Culle, and bits of African languages, with riotous texts alternating among sexuality, often interracially oriented, religiosity, and gloom. For the music, Savall draws on his own Hesperion XXI instrumental ensemble and Capella Reial de Catalunya singers, plus, as with several of his other releases, a regional group, the Tembembe Ensamble Continuo, which includes Amerind instruments. The music, in a way unique to Peru, reflects Indian European, and African elements, including a remarkable reminiscence of the experience of being seized as a slave (sample the Tonada El Congo). But much of the music, as in other cases where Savall has explored African influences, is joyous. Bailar Cantando means Dance While Singing, an actual subtitle attached to some of the pieces in the book, and throughout, Savall emphasizes the music's strong rhythmic element that at times sounds remarkably contemporary. The recording and the 248-page booklet (slender by Savall standards) contain much that will compel your frequent return. A standout masterwork, even among Savall's generally magnificent catalog.
Bailar Cantando: Fiesta Mestiza en el Peru Review
by James Manheim