Muy hermosa es María (available 13 december)

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Muy hermosa es María. Villancicos from La Real Audiencia de Quito


The loose papers discovered in the Archive of the Diocesan Administration of Ibarra by Jorge Isaac Cazorla in the north of Ecuador containing villancicos from the late 17century are the tip of the iceberg of an output which clearly must have been great. Everything within the historic centre of Quito, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, with its 40 churches & 16 monasteries and more than 5000 heritage buildings points to a rich musical heritage. Sadly many of the musical archives have been pillaged or lost due to natural disasters, moves, carelessness and other factors.

The Ibarra works are religious vocal music with instrumental accompaniment. Except for the Latin prayer for seven voices Sacro Sanctæ, the other compositions are villancicos in Spanish in the 17century Spanish tradition, with an unmistakable element of popular music. The religious metaphors used stereotyped characters speaking slang, making it easier for listeners at the time to understand and identify them. In the period when these works were sung (around 1700), the number of voices, complexity and length of villancicos began to increase and they continued to draw on popular genres, just as they had since the beginning of the Renaissance.

Little is known about the work of women during the colonial period as the patriarchal society has always focused on male composers. The Ibarra manuscripts support the idea of a rich musical life in the convents. The prolifi literary activity in Quito makes it very plausible to say that many of the texts preserved were sung ánd written by nuns as the parts found at Ibarra speak constantly of women. It is a key element for Música Temprana that through this CD the anonymous women of the convents receive the recognition they deserve.