Cinco de Mayo, which takes place Thursday, is all about celebrating. It marks the day in 1862 when Mexico defeated the French army in the Battle of Puebla. It's also an excuse to bring out lots of the Mexican music, and we don't mean just Mariachi and Norteña music.
The Montreal early-music ensemble Constantipole offers something different on “Early Dreams,” a collection of music by the Spanish composers whose works were popular in 17th- and 18th-century Mexico. But instead of a dutiful, musty revival of this era, the musicians here add sounds and textures from the Mediterranean, the Middle East and beyond.
Constantinople is no stranger to cultural cross-pollination. Founded in 1998 by Kiya Tabassian, an Iranian-born performer on the setar (a Persian lute with a long, rounded neck), the ensemble also includes his percussionist brother, Ziya Tabassian, and Pierre-Yves Martel, a viola da gamba player. Guests regularly fill out the ranks, in this case Enrique Solinis, a Spanish baroque guitarist, and Francoise Atlan, a French singer and musicologist who lives in Morocco.
The group’s wildly eclectic and exotic approach is heard throughout this collection. Santiago de Murcia’s Marionas is richly embellished with percussion and setar filigree, sounding more than a little like strains of 60's psychedelic folk. Strong Arabic influences are found in Lucas Ruiz Ribadayaz’s Premiers Songes as well as his Las Fuentes Mi Voz Socorran, with its intricate vocal lines. Atlan’s clear and warm voice is displayed to particularly great effect in La Petenera / La Serena, a sultry flamenco-tinged song. Several numbers also feature texts by Latin America's first major poet, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (1648-1695), including de Murcia's infectious Afuera, Afuera, Ansias Mias, featured here:
Constantinople & Francoise Atlan
Available at Arkivmusic.com
From Q2's The New Canon:
Composer and singer Corey Dargel’s double-disc set, Someone Will Take Care of Me has a little bit of Schumann in its DNA. The pairing of two Dargel works—Thirteen Near-Death Experiences and Removable Parts—match Dargel’s soft, blushing tenor with chamber orchestrations courtesy of (respectively) members of the International Contemporary Ensemble with percussionist-composer David T. Little and pianist Kathleen Supové. And overall the effect is akin to 19th-century hausmusik, though the house in this context is more likely a loft in a converted Brooklyn factory than a Victorian manse.
Beneath the fresh and at times puckish synth-pop skin of Dargel’s music, however, beats the heart of a 21st-century Schubert. The music may be more downtown than Dictherliebe, but it’s hard not to be reminded of the German romanticism in texts like Die Schöne Müllerin in ardently tortured Dargel lyrics like “This cavity in my chest/Once was my heart.” On the same token, however, you don’t expect Dargel to wander off into a brook anytime soon—he follows up that opening line to Why Not Take All with “But I’ll be better off now that it’s gone/Everyone else seems to get on/Just fine without one.” This is Goethe for the stylish nihilist generation.
One of the key components to this recording—along with Dargel’s oeuvre on the whole—is that the composer performs his own work. As he told the online magazine NewMusicBox.org last year, “the singer-songwriter approach to art song composition is a natural and refreshing alternative to the hegemony of traditional art song and operatic performance.” Indeed, there may be no umbilical chord tying the artist to his art in this case, but there is still an unshakable connection that allows these two song cycles to pack a significant wallop.
Someone Will Take Care of Me
Corey Dargel, vocals, synths; Kathleen Supové, piano; International Contemporary Ensemble; David T. Little, drums
New Amsterdam Records
Available at Arkivmusic.com