Bailar Cantando: Fiesta Mestiza en el Peru

Hespèrion XXI, Jordi Savall

Bailar Cantando: Fiesta Mestiza en el Peru
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Bailar Cantando: Fiesta Mestiza en el Peru

Hespèrion XXI, Jordi Savall

The twenty pieces comprising the musical collection in the Codex Trujillo del Perú are an exceptional case in the history of the indigenous music of the New World. This collection of tonadas, cachuas, tonadillas, bayles, cachuytas and lanchas offers a glimpse of the repertory native to the traditions of the country, as indicated by the text of one of the cachuas sung “al uso de nuestra tierra” (“according to the customs of our land”) and in particular the songs and dances favoured by the popular classes who lived in the “Viceroyalty of Peru” at the end of the 18th century.


Many regulars at Readings will know of Jordi Savall, the viola de gamba player and truly awe-inspiring early music specialist from Spain. Since the 1970s, Savall has been revolutionising period music one obscure manuscript at a time. Having explored the Celts and the famous Baroque musicians, he has now cast his eyes to Peru. This is the first complete recording ever of this manuscript, created by a Spanish bishop in 1782, known as the Codex Martínez Compañón (c.1782–1785). It’s a bright manuscript of 1411 watercolours and twenty musical scores depicting life in his diocese of Trujillo in Peru.

Like many of Savall’s chosen manuscripts, it’s a funny blend of styles. Clearly recognisable as Baroque music at times, at others the influence of Indigenous folk tunes is evident. The fusion of these styles is where the true magic happens. Adding interest, too, is the inclusion of some of the languages common in the region, the colonial Spanish but also the languages of the Indigenous Quechua and Mochica people.

As always the musicianship of Hespèrion XXI with Savall at the helm is superb. You never, ever need to worry about the precision of these recordings. Everything they do is perfect, and if it’s not – it’s done on purpose to show off some aspect of the style of the era. Over fifteen years in the making, this album is meticulously researched and presented. It is a fascinating look into an era of music people almost never get to hear outside of Peru itself. If you need a gift for the classical music lover who has everything, this is perfect.

Kate Rockstrom is a friend of Readings.

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