Review By Penguin Guide,January 2009
The Missa Criolla draws on Argentinian folk tunes and idioms, but in most respects is wholly original. The opening Kyrie and closing Agnus Dei are lyrical and reflective, the central Gloria, Credo and Sanctus are dynamic and full of dancing rhythms. The Mass is written for tenor celebrant, chorus, percussion, Andean instruments, including a notched flute or quena, a charango (small guitar), double bass and percussion, with a pair of tom-toms in the Credo. The closing section brings a haunting, reflective passage for quena and charango. This genuine crossover music of real quality, but it is obviously difficult to perform live, as it needs a group of specialist performers who are immersed in the idiom, which is exactly
The Navidad Nuestra (‘Our Nativity’) is a Creole tableau in six episodes (with a Spanish text by Félix Luna), telling the Christian Nativity story from the annunciation to the birth of Jesus, the venue relocated to northern Argentina, and ending with the family’s flight. Ramirez again bases his music on dances and songs from the Argentinian folk tradition, this time even more unashamedly popular: the second part of the work, La Peregrinación (‘The Pilgrimage’), has become famous on the hit parade.
The music of the Missa Luba comes from the Belgian Congo, and was arranged by a missionary, Father Guido Haazen, from the improvisations of the local singers and musicians, so the accompaniment consists entirely of local percussion sounds which create the rhythmic framework for the poplar melodies. The performance here is entirely choral and has a haunting, lyrical core. With such excellent, idiomatic performances and good documentation, this is a disc to recommend unreservedly if you enjoy exotic, folk-derived music.