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Meet the Latin American Baroque Composers

When I first saw that the programme for our exciting Latin American Baroque concert, I'll be honest with you, I really didn't know what to expect. I'd never heard of any of the composers, and certainly hadn't heard any of their music before, so I decided to look a little deeper into their lives.

Let me introduce you to these remarkable musicians before you have a chance to hear their work on April 13th. Prepare for a journey through the New World to meet some of these talented men.

Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (ca. 1590 – 1664)

Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, was an inspiration of the Latin American Baroque. Born around 1590 in Málaga, Spain, Padilla trained under Francisco Vásquez, the Maestro de Capilla of Málaga Cathedral. He left Europe and settled in Puebla, Mexico, where he became the Maestro de Capilla at the cathedral, working there for many years, and writing over 700 compositions.

Padilla’s compositions are full of intricate polyphony. We are performing four of his inspiring compositions in our concert.

The rousing compositions Deus in Adjutorium, Mirabilia Testimonia Tua, and Missa Ego Flos Campi clearly show their heritage in European sacred music, but every now and then, unusual textures and rhythms add a surprising indigenous twist. Then in complete contrast, I guarantee you'll be surprised by the final item in our concert, Tambalagumba. Padilla also inspired composers who would themselves become important figures in the music of New Spain. This includes our next composer, the Mexican-born Zéspedes.

Puebla Cathedral, Mexico

Juan García de Zéspedes (ca. 1619 – 1678)

Juan García de Zéspedes, was born around 1619 in Puebla, Mexico, the only composer in our concert not born in Europe.

As a young boy he sang as a treble in the choir at Puebla Cathedral. Under the guidance of Padilla, he absorbed the rich musical heritage of the cathedral and learned his craft. Then in 1664, Zéspedes succeeded Gutiérrez as the interim maestro, a position that became permanent in 1670.

Zéspedes’s compositions spanned a wide spectrum, from sacred pieces to secular works infused with vibrant folk music elements. We will be performing his Convidando está la noche, a piece which exemplifies this fusion between European and indigenous musical traditions.

Lima Cathedral, Peru

Juan García de Salazar (1639 – 1710)

Juan García de Salazar was born in Málaga, Spain. His musical journey led him to Lima Cathedral, Peru, where he composed many sacred choral works.

Our offering from Salazar however, will not one of these typical sacred compositions. Instead we'll be performing a most playful piece which goes at a break-neck speed, Salgar el Torillo Hosquillo.

This could not be more different from the staid European sacred style!

Juan de Araujo (1648-1712)

Our next destination is much further south. Born in Spain, Araujo crossed the Atlantic at a very early age when his father moved to Peru. He was educated at the University of San Marcos in Lima, where he studied composition under the guidance of Tomas de Torrejón y Velasco. He then became Maestro de Capilla at Lima Cathedral.

Clearly this man had an urge to travel, as we know he also journeyed to Panama and Guatemala.

On his return to Peru, Araujo became Maestro de Capilla first at Cuzco Cathedral, nestled in the Andes, and then at La Plata Cathedral (now Sucre Cathedral) in Upper Peru (modern-day Bolivia), where he stayed until his death.

His compositions, are characterised by intricate polyphony and beautiful harmonies. We are performing three of his compositions.  Dixit Dominus is an stunning triple-choir piece which blends indigenous rhythms with European influences to create a rich tapestry of sound. In contrast, Los Coflades de la Estleya and Ay Andar are pure New World in feel and rhythm. The contrast between these pieces demonstrates a remarkable diversity and flexibility in his work.

Cuzco Cathedral, Peru

Domenico Zipoli (1688-1726)

Our journey ends in Córdoba, Argentina. Born in Prato, Italy, Zipoli’s early musical training set the stage for a remarkable career. He was a pupil of the organist Giovani Maria Casini in Florence, then studied under Alessandro Scarlatti in Naples, then in Rome under Pasquini. With such a beginning you would expect this man to have a conventional European career.

However, his life took a very different turn when he travelled to Spain, joined the Jesuits, and journeyed to Paraguay where he taught music among the Guarani people. He completed his Jesuit training in Córdoba in modern-day Argentina, although never became an ordained priest. He died tragically young from an infection. We will be performing Zipoli's beautiful Beatus Vir, a stunning arrangement for virtuoso Soprano Solo and choir.

The fountain at Santa Catalina Jesuit Monastery, Córdoba Argentina

The little-known gems of Latin American Baroque music

One thing is certain, the Baroque music of Latin America is quite remarkable, and in my opinion, utterly gorgeous. So, I have to ask myself, why is it that this wonderful music is rarely performed? Why is it that these composers have not received the recognition that their European contemporaries continue to receive?

Their music deserves to be know, shared and performed! If you're at all intrigued to find out more, and experience these beautiful compositions for yourself, I invite you to join Kingfisher Chorale, and the Musical & Amicable Early Music Ensemble on April 13th, at St John the Baptist Church, LE2 3AD.

Come and listen, and decide for yourself whether these composers indeed deserve to be named alongside the giants of European Baroque music. I certainly think they should be.

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