Newberry Consort’s lively Mexican Christmas

This is a live recording of a December concert given by the Newberry Consort. The program blends two strains of 17th Century Mexican music. One is the European-inspired sacred music of the church. The second is the folk-inspired music of the streets. This recording captures the raw energy and exquisite beauty of the performances.

The Newberry Consort performs the music of the church. Most Mexican Baroque composers, such as Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla and Gaspar Fernandes, emigrated from Europe.  They brought their European traditions with them and wrote in a conservative style.

Although their polyphony was inspired by Palestrina, they weren’t immune to native culture. There are some Mexican folk rhythms in their compositions (suitably muted, of course).

As always, the Consort sings with a warm, blended sound and purity of tone. Their performances nicely balance the European and Mexican influences of these sacred compositions.

The EnsAmble Ad-Hoc performs the music of the masses. This villancico ensemble uses folk instruments, such as the Baroque guitar.  They also dance as they sing. It’s a ragged, raucous sound that’s electrifying.

The ensemble also performs music of the Mexican Baroque composers. In their hands, though, these works are transformed. The folk elements, downplayed in the Newberry Consort performances, are celebrated.

The Newberry Consort and EnsAmble Ad-Hoc present two sides of Mexican Baroque music. But they’re not disconnected. That’s the real genius of this program. The performance styles may be contrasting, but there are many similarities.

This is one of the most imaginative and entertaining early music Christmas albums I’ve heard. Heck, make that most imaginative and entertaining album, period.

A Mexican Christmas
Newberry Consort; EnsAmble Ad-Hoc
Navona Records nv6375

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