Los Ministriles in the New World. Mainly secular instrumental works written in the Spanish Empire.
Piffaro.
Navona Records NV5875 TT: 69:19
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A delight. To an extent far beyond that of France and England, Spain imported much of its music to its New World colonies. Much of it came in the form of Church musicians who provided the musical liturgy -- masses, motets, and the like -- for the new missions and cathedrals. Occasionally, this music gets revived, and we discover lost gems. However, especially as colonial courts and settlements grew, so did a demand for secular music, particularly dances and ceremonial pieces. If you know Spanish Renaissance music, most of the pieces will have a familiar sound – not surprising, since most of the composers trained in Europe. Occasionally, particularly in the villancicos (essentially songs of the peasantry), one hears new rhythms, African or indigenous. As far as I know, little of the music attempts more than entertainment, but passing the time pleasantly is woefully underrated. Fortunately, we don't need to listen to Bruckner all the time.

Piffaro, a collection of terrific musicians, will get your toes tapping and bring smiles to your face again and again. The performance level of Renaissance players has risen amazingly in my lifetime. Gone are the days when modern musicians took instruments off museum walls or played instruments made from Bakelite. Each member of Piffaro deserves individual praise for such bright, sharply-etched playing.

As is its custom, Navona provides a disc with "enhanced" content. You can, of course, play it on your CD machine (yummy sound, by the way), but if you insert it into the hard drive of your computer, you can get extra goodies, including album wallpaper and ringtones. This is also the only way you can access full liner notes. I'm of two minds about this. Navona probably wants to save trees and printing costs, both laudable. Yet not everybody who might be interested in this has a computer. Because I do, I think Navona's practice is neat.

S.G.S. (September 2013)