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CD Feature/ Albalonga & Anibal Cetrangolo: "Venetian Composers in Guatemala and Bolivia"

img  Tobias
If you thought that globalisation was a contemporary phenomenon, this album will force you to think again: 18th Century Italian composers were among their country’s most popular export items, generating sales across the globe as part of international marketing campaigns. While the distribution networks were not as tightly knit and effective as today, being “Big in Bolivia” certainly paid off for the likes of Baldassare Galuppi and Gioacomo Facco.

It isn’t even too far fetched to claim that, maybe, the Remix was not invented by the burgeoning DJ culture of the 80s, but by Spanish missionaries in South America. It was them, after all, who snapped up copies of the Venetian originals and then commissioned local writers to adapt the pieces for their liturgies. Their talents, however, were not always best spent on lyrical musings or music. “The new verses, fitting for their new religious function, were often routine and written by poets who boasted little familiarity with the metrical and strophic demands of the two-part arias”, conductor Anibal Cetrangolo writes in the liner notes – an understatement actually with regards to sometimes crude metrics.

So is this disc just a historical discovery? A document uncovering the interrelatedness of musical scenes long before the advent of Radio, TV and the Internet? A verification of the borderless qualities of the arts? Hardly. When the IMLA (Italian Music in Iberian Archives) purchased the scores to these pieces from Guatemala and Bolivia in the late 1970s, they were driven just as much by scientific thirst as by their musical hunger. They, of course, knew the originals, often written for an operatic context, and were excited like little children to find out what had happened to them thousands of kilometres away from home.

The answer to that question is unsurprising, yet deeply satisfying: The beauty of the music has survived through all transformations. Questions of poetry aside, the elegance, splendor and richness of Galuppi’s arias still shines as regally as ever and Facco’s tone has remained recognisably meditative and serene. The former’s “Gira volando la sacra esfera” hypnotically circles around the same ten lines of text for nine minutes, relying on a stirring balance between repetition and variation. In comparison, the latter’s “Bella rosa” creates the effect of time standing still, the ensemble reduced to minimal Harpsichord dabbers and quietly entwined violin lines.

All throughout, Albalonga and Cetrangolo lay down a reduced and compact sound. A 12-piece involving Trumpets and Horns, they only really unleash their lush and rich sonics in the final contribution, Antonio Gaetano Pampani’s “Oy gustoso el corazon”. It is a festive resolution to an album celebrating a rarely succesful union of concept and creativity. Let’s hope the forces of 21st century globalisation can award it the attention it deserves in the here and now.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: ARTS Records

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