Frederick A. Binkholder, Artistic Director

Program Notes for Bolivian Baroque


My first exposure to the Baroque literature of the Bolivian missions, or
Música en las Reducciones Jesuitas, came about by the gift of a music
score from a former student. Little did I realize that this simple act of
thoughtfulness would introduce a decade-long area of study and performance.
Also, that my new interest would allow me to collaborate with the world’s leading
expert (and musical preservationist, scholar, editor, and promoter) of this literature.
In 2007 one of my students, Christopher Grodecki from Chamber Singers at
Georgetown, graduated and began the discernment process for entering into the
Society of Jesus, or the Jesuit order. Part of this process was for the new candidates
to visit various communities of the society in locations throughout the world.
One of these locations was the missions in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. While in Bolivia,
Chris (now Father Grodecki SJ), purchased a copy of Father Nawrot’s edition of
Giovanni Battista Bassani—Missa a la Fuga de San Joseph—and presented it to me as
a gift. He knew of my passion for “new” music, so what could be better than
Baroque choral music from the Bolivian jungles? I became incredibly curious
about the genesis of this work, and how the music of the Italian Bassani ended up
in Bolivia. And more importantly, why had I not heard of this music before, and
who had put together this exhaustively researched and scholarly edition?
As I began to prepare the mass for performance with my students, I showed it
to my colleague, Anthony Deldonna, who is the head of the music department at
Georgetown. Anthony explained that he had been in the graduate program at
Catholic University with Piotr. He then contacted him and invited him to attend
the performance and speak on his work with the music of the Bolivian Jesuit missions.
Not only did he attend, but also lectured and coached the ensemble. So,
with this fortuitous turn of events, I joyously started on another long musical
journey in the literature of this period. I have felt quite privileged to work with
Modern Musick on many of these endeavors, and to interpret and perform the
Missa a la Fuga de San Joseph, Missa San Xavier, Missa Palantina, and the Villancicos
en honor a San Ignacio de Loyola along with many other selections from the archives
of the Moxos and Chiquitos. Tonight, the Chorale helps me to add to that list
with the North American premiere of the Vísperas generales by Roque Ceruti
from the Biblioteca Nacionales de Bolivia, transcribed and edited by Father
Nawrot. We are honored to have him with us today.
—Frederick Binkholder


The collections of Bolivian manuscripts come from the period of Spanish
colonization. They can be categorized into three groups: a) music from
Spanish cathedrals and parishes in America, b) music from convents, c)
music from Christian missions or the so-called Jesuit and Franciscan reductions
which survived only in Bolivia. Chiquito Indians preserved approximately 5,500
pages of Baroque music from Jesuit reductions from the period between 1690 and
1767 when Jesuit missionaries founded their missions among local populations. In
turn, the music collection from reductions preserved among the Moxo Indians
consists of over 7,000 pages. The archive of these documents is one of the most
unique and original collections of early music. The analysis of the surviving
documents proves that recorded music originates from several sources. Some
manuscripts contain music that was brought from Europe and performed in the
missions, others include works composed by the missionaries, while the third
group comprises works composed by local Indian musicians and composers.
Research results show that Indians were not passive recipients of music
brought to the missions, but recreated it in a new manner according to their own
musical inclinations, capabilities, and preferences. Not only did Indian musicians
want to imitate their European counterparts, they also created their own, wholly
distinct music.
Research results present the musical culture of the South American missions in
the 17th and 18th centuries in a new light, belying the popular opinion that the
culture brought by the missionaries destroyed the culture of the native population.
As a result of this research, names of many European baroque composers have
been discovered. At the same time many previously unknown authors from
among the evangelized Indians were also brought to light. The reconstruction effort
resulted in the publication of many newly discovered religious and secular
pieces. Some were composed for solo artists or small ensembles while others represented
great musical forms, such as masses, vespers, cantatas, or operas requiring
many vocal and instrumental performers.
—Piotr Nawrot SVD


Hanacpachap Cussicuinin –Anonymous (1631)

“Hanacpachap Cussicuinin” is an anonymous hymn to the Virgin Mary, written in the Quechua language but in the style of the European Baroque. The historical importance of this work lies in the fact that it was, as far as we know, the first piece of vocal polyphony to be published in the New World. It is highly significant that the text of this earliest published polyphonic piece was in the Quechua language, as it epitomizes the priorities and functions of the evangelistic movement in Peru (and Latin America as a whole).
Published in Lima by Franciscan friar Juan Pérez Bocanegra in 1631, its author remains anonymous. While Bocanegra claimed that he wrote the text—which would have been feasible considering he was fluent in both Quechua and Aymara, a skill which had garnered him an appointment as diocesan examiner—many scholars believe it may have been the work of an indigenous musician. While today the Chorale will only be performing two verses, the complete
text consists of 20 verses, and it was written for use in processions on Lady Days as parishioners entered their churches.

Visperas Generales - Roque Ceruti (1686 1760)
At the beginning of the second half of the 17th century, La Plata became one of the most attractive cities in the world. Not only did the metal trade find root in La Plata, but a grand musical culture flourished there. The best composers and musicians from the famed cathedrals elsewhere in South America like Cuzco, Arequipa, Lima, Quito or Potosí—sought employment in La Plata.
In its music academy founded in the 1660s, people from all ethnic groups and social strata learned plainchant and polyphony, which ultimately led the polyphonic music repertoire of the Diocese of La Plata to become the most legendary across the Americas. In modern-day La Plata, Sucre, there are nearly 1,400 works stored in the National Library and Archives of Bolivia. While composed in Peru, Rogue Ceruti’s Visperas Generales (along with his other 19 compositions housed in the archives) exemplify the Baroque tradition present in both Bolivia and South America as a whole.

At an early age, Ceruti was selected by the Marquis of Castelldosríus, Manuel de Oms y de Santa Pau, Viceroy of Peru (1707-1710), to direct the Marquis’ palace musicians in Lima. He worked there at least until 1717, where Ceruti composed many works. In 1728, he was named Chapel Maestro at the cathedral in Lima, where he remained until his death. It is supposed that his vespers originated from this last period of his life. In addition to the presence of his music in Sucre, his music also circulated in Cusco, Cochabamba and Montevideo.
In many ways, this performance of Ceruti’s Vespers can only go so far to represent this beautiful music as it was. The work presented at this concert is not Ceruti’s original, but rather the copy that was made in Sucre in 1775, 15 years
after the composer’s death. In addition, choirs were not as large as they are today and traditionally only one or two singers were assigned to each part. Also, the manuscript indicates only three instrumental accompaniments: two violins and one continuo. Written for four choirs, it’s evident that the choir 2, 3 and 4 bass parts were not sung, but instead played by the continuo. Rather than leave the majority of our basses with little to do during this masterful work, we have chosen to adapt the parts for our singers rather than maintain the continuo tradition.

Cantemus Domino and Gloria et Honore (from Offertoria Solenniora) – Jan Josef Ignác Brentner (1689-1742)
Johann Joseph Ignaz Brentner entered into the music history of the present-day Czech Republic mainly through four collections which appeared in print in Prague from 1716 to 1720. The sacred arias, choral offertories and instrumental concertos contained in them reflect period stylistic influences of Italian music, and together with the works preserved in manuscript, they provide a valuable glimpse of the music being composed at that time in Bohemia. In their day, Brentner’s compositions were quite widely disseminated, as he was one of the few composers active in Czech lands during the Baroque era whose compositions appeared in print at the time when they were written. Despite the location of their composition, Brentner’s work finds a place in this weekend’s program because they were
discovered in Jesuit missions in Bolivia, although it is unknown how Brentner’s music managed to travel to South America.

In 1717, the collection Offertoria Solenniora, the second opus by Brentner, was printed in Prague’s Old Town. It was a collection of six offertories for chorus, strings and continuo, two of which will be featured on this weekend’s concert.
Brentner’s music fuses a simple and direct melodic component, reminiscent of contemporary Moravian practices, with a complex and highly ornamented instrumental accompaniment more typical of Bohemian musicians. Although Brentner has never been a famous name, his music has proved enduring—it was still being performed in Prague in the mid-19th century, and they have never stopped playing it in Bolivia.

Soft Music – Kevin Siegfried (b. 1969)
Kevin Siegfried has been CHC’s composer-in-residence since 2014, and the Chorale has commissioned and premiered multiple works for him. A large portion of his compositional output has been dedicated to early American music,
particularly that of the Shakers. “Soft Music” is both a representation of that work and a personal project for Siegfried, written following the passing of a close friend.
“Soft Music” is an arrangement of a tune from The Social Harp (1855). One of the rarest of the country songbooks, The Social Harp contains 222 pieces, mostly folk tune settings from Hart County, Georgia. In the time between the Revolution and the Civil War, the singing of folk spirituals was as common among rural whites as among blacks. This was the music of the Methodist camp meeting and the Baptist revival, and white spirituals in fact are known chiefly because homebred composers sometimes wrote them down, gave them harmonic settings, and published them in songbooks.

Salve a 8 – Anonymous
The “Salve a 8” (Salve in eight parts) represents the baroque musical compositions of indigenous peoples in South America. Using the theory and compositional practices taught by the Jesuit missionaries, they would create new works for these developing religious ideals. However, as putting one’s name to a composition to God was viewed as boastful and arrogant, many native composers would leave their work anonymous.
Even after the Jesuit expulsion from South America in 1767, the baroque styled compositions of the Guarani, Moxo and Chiquitos peoples continued. Many liturgical compositions—and even operas—were created in the years to follow,
all of which are housed in the Bolivian archives.

Xicochi — Gaspar Fernandes (1566-1629)
Gaspar Fernandes was a Portuguese composer and organist active in the cathedrals of Santiago de Guatemala and Puebla de los Ángeles, New Spain (present-day Mexico). One of his most important achievements was the compilation and binding in 1602 of various choir books containing Roman Catholic liturgical polyphony, several of which are extant in Guatemala. To complete these books, Fernandes composed a cycle of eight Benedicamus Domino, one in each of the eight ecclesiastical tones or modes. He also added his own setting of the Magnificat in the fifth tone and a vespers hymn for the Feast of the Guardian Angels.

During his Puebla tenure, rather than focusing on the composition of Latin liturgical music, Fernandes contributed a sizable amount of vernacular “villancicos” (a type of popular song sung in the vernacular and frequently associated with rustic themes) for matins. This part of his output shows great variety in the handling of texts, which are in Spanish but also in pseudo-African and Amerindian dialects and occasionally Portuguese. “Xicochi” is one of
those “villancicos,” and it uses Nahuatl, the language of the indigenous Nahua people. The music departs from 16th century counterpoint and reflects the new baroque search for textual expression: the swaying of a mother’s arms is mirrored in the to-and-fro texture of the polyphony