Destino Mexicano by La Compañia

In 2012, the Melbourne-based Baroque group La Compañia released their album, Ay Portugal. An homage to fifteenth-century Portuguese music, it was a triumph – and I still enjoy listening to it. So it was with great excitement that I received their most recent release, Destino Mexicano. Subtitled ‘Baroque Rhythms from the New World’, it’s a fusion of classical Baroque as we know it and the rhythms of South America. When the Spanish invaded Mexico there was a melding of two worlds, not just in culture and peoples, but also music. In Destino Mexicano, La Compañia have focused on a particular song style from this melding, the villancico, a repetitive, secular song that uses dance rhythms with a sense of three beats, and in doing this have given cohesiveness to the whole album.

Although the liner notes are detailed with interesting background on each work, I found this recording was more something I put on just to listen without needing any academic knowledge. It was terrific to have on in the background as I cooked, finding myself cutting up vegetables and moving around the kitchen in time to their sprightly percussive dance rhythms. Lotte Betts-Dean and Daniel Thomson soar as the singing soloists, expertly accompanied by the rest of La Compañia. In the few instrumental moments, La Compañia acquit themselves with great aplomb, but it’s when the singers join in that the toes start tapping. Their harmonies blend so effortlessly that sometimes it seems like there are three solo singers, rather than just the two. If you’re a fan of Baroque music, but looking for something beyond Bach and Handel, this is a must. On the other hand, if you’re just a fan of some good rhythmic ideas, this will be extremely pleasing to the ears.

Kate Rockstrom