Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Naxos: Roberto Sierra: Cantares / Loíza / Triple Concierto (Trío Arbós, Cornell University Chorus and Glee Club, Xalapa Symphony, Marcelletti)

Naxos 8.559876

Roberto Sierra
(Cornell University)

Naxos Records

Roberto Sierra’s refined compositional voice is subtly combined with contemporary musical techniques and his Puerto Rican heritage in the three works recorded here. Cantares, commissioned by the Cornell University Chorus and Glee Club to celebrate the university’s sesquicentennial anniversary, evokes ancient Peruvian, Aztec and Afro Caribbean voices lost in time. The virtuoso Triple Concierto transforms the popular Caribbean rhythms of salsa, bolero and merengue into complex contemporary expressions, while the polyrhythmic layers of Loíza conjure a Puerto Rican town known for its strong African traditions.

About This Recording

When I was asked to write Cantares (2015) my initial impulse was to compose music that would evoke lost voices in time. I searched for texts that dated back in history and memory, and the inspiration for the first movement was drawn from a 17th-century manuscript book of prayers that contains the hymn Hanacpachap cussicuinin written in Quechua, and published in 1631 in Cuzco, Peru. This early attempt at musical syncretism is fascinating and triggered in my mind many questions about how this music may have unfolded. In the end I decided not to reconstruct the sound or the way the hymn would have been played, but rather create my own modern reflection on a beautiful text and four voice polyphony written around 400 years ago. The text combines both ideas and concepts from the Quechua culture and the Christian concept of the mother of God.

Canto Lucumí traces its ancestry to Afro-Cuban ritual music of West African origin. The text consists of incantations that have been phonetically transcribed into Spanish. The meaning of the words is sometimes obscure, but what really interested me was how they sounded and their fascinating rhythmic quality. The floating nature of the music and the use of extended vocal techniques of sibilant noise and percussive sounds enhance the mystery already embedded in the original texts.

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