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Second Sight - Music with Wilfrid Mellers

16. The rough and the smooth


Although my retirement from musical journalism has been tentatively -- if at the age of 88 hardly belatedly -- announced, I'm making a momentary come-back prompted by two magical CDs that effect complementary but widely different acts of rebirth. Missa Mexicana, performed by the Harp Consort directed by Andrew Lawrence-King, on Harmonia Mundi HMU 907293, revives a mass by a forgotten Spanish composer called Gutierrez de Padilla who, in 1629, migrated to Mexico to serve the Roman Catholic Church under the patronage of Archbishop Juan Palafox y Mendoza. The work chosen for resuscitation by the Harp Consort is basically a Roman mass with the normal Latin text; but each section is introduced and rounded off by secular songs (in Mexican Spanish) of considerable sensual vivacity, closer to vernacular traditions and even to pop music than to Holy Church. Apparently such slum-going was customary in seventeenth century Mexico -- though in this revamped performance some of the secular numbers were in fact written in the eighteenth century. The disc may or may not be 'authentic' in scholarly terms; but it wondrously establishes the identity of past(s) with the present, obliterating boundaries not only between chronological epochs, but also between categories of music-making that are sometimes falsely considered to be anachronistic, or even contradictory.

Missa Mexicana. The Harp Consort/Andrew Lawrence-King (c) 2002 harmonia mundi sa


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Copyright © 17 November 2002 Wilfrid Mellers, York, UK


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