Vivace en Vivo: Estampas de un Nuevo Mundo

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A Puerto Rican handbell choir? There are more curious things in the world, but the list isn't long, and the fact that the group is musically quite accomplished shortens the list even more. One might complain that the packaging of this apparently independently released album gives no information as to how and why the group came about; handbells are primarily a British and American phenomenon, but from the brief remarks on the package (in Spanish only), you learn merely that the choir was founded in 1991. The program is set up as a sort of musical tour of Latin America, with Puerto Rican standards (not so often heard as the others) mixed in with pieces like the Mariachi Vargas chestnut La Bikina, Antonio Carlos Jobim's Chega de Saudade from Brazil, and the ubiquitous El Condor Pasa. But the big surprise is the preponderance of classical selections: a couple of Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras, Piazzolla, and, most remarkably, Ginastera's Malambo for piano, Op. 7. That's not an easy thing for bell ringers to keep coordinated, and it's delightful. Each piece is lightly accompanied by percussion and, where necessary, by another instrument that lightly evokes the original sound of the work. The live recording captures lots of crowd nose, which isn't so great, but this is an offbeat and successful item for anyone who likes bells.

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