Atrium Musicae de Madrid

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In the 1970s and '80s Atrium Musicae recorded and performed reconstructions of some the earliest music from Greece, Iberia, and South America.
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A Madrid ensemble specializing in all kinds of ancient European music, the Atrium Musicae de Madrid was founded in the '70s by Gregorio Paniagua, a Spanish monk. It also classifies as a family band, as membership at times included three additional members of the Paniagua klan -- Eduardo, Carlos, and Luis Paniagua. Like many family bands, some members were drawn in at tender ages. Luis can brag that his debut as a performer was, at 15, on-stage at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. Perhaps the group's most famous recording is Musique de le Grece Antique, in which it performed ancient Greek music carefully taken down off scattered fragments of still existing papyrus, and even a tiny snatch of Roman music as next to nothing remains of the sheet music from this once great Empire. Presumably there was a lot of sheet music lost to the fire when Rome burned. Performing the ancient compositions also meant the reconstruction of an arsenal of ancient instruments. This certainly was a fascinating aspect of the group's life performances during a series of acclaimed international tours. It also provided an unmistakably fresh sound for the recording, although some Greek history scholars have accused the Panigua brothers of overdoing it. The success of this 1978 recording is not the only feather in the group's collective cap. The 1976 Musique Arabo-Andalouse delves into Hispanic-Moslem music and is credited with creating a whole new interest in this fascinating genre of southern Spain. From the late '70s into the early '80s, the group began a series of recordings dealing with 15th and 16th century popular Spanish songs, then sailed to the New World for the fascinating Las Indias de Espana, a recording of pre-Colombian music collected from archives. The decision to dissolve the group was no doubt based on some of the younger brothers' interest in beginning solo careers. Luis Paniagua has established an extremely succesful presence as a composer and performer, leading ensembles as well as creating projects for dance, theater, and film. He is an accomplished sitar player and is known for blending ancient and modern instruments. This seems to be an interest among all family members, as founding member Gregorio Paniagua's lengthy catalog of original compositions includes La Folia, in which a harpischord and chainsaw meet in the ensemble, although hopefully there is no direct contact. Gregorio continues the musical life he helped his younger brothers embark on and is also active as a performer and composer of works for concert, theater, and film. One of his most interesting collaborations was done in 1995 with Rita Marley, wife of legendary reggae performer Bob Marley. In 1994, Eduardo Paniagua formed a new ensemble, Música Antigua, and the Pneuma label to document its projects. The back catalog of the Atrium group continues to be in demand, and additional commercial success has been achieved through the use of the group's material on gimmicky compilations such as Greatest Hits from the Last 20 Centuries.