A Night in a Peruvian Salon, with Baroque Chamber Orchestra and Karin Cuéllar Rendón

A preview by Betsy Schwarm, Frank Nowell and Susan Andre

In its Intercambio series, Baroque Chamber Orchestra is featuring a treasure trove of Baroque and post-Baroque music from Latin America. This summer, listeners can enjoy a virtual Night in a Peruvian Salon, https://vimeo.com/559785371 the most recent concert in the series, which is now streaming on demand through August 31, 2021. 

In a story similar to the discovery of Bach’s cello suites, a trove of musical manuscripts were discovered after having been forgotten in an attic for more than 100 years. These were the works of composer Pedro Ximénez Abril y Tirado (1784 – 1856). Born in Peru and serving for much of his career as maestro di cappella at the cathedral in Sucre, Bolivia (still the nation’s constitutional capital), Ximénez was the most notable and prolific Latinx composer of his time. His personal music library, recently discovered in Sucre, included compositions of Haydn and Beethoven. Imagine blending the rhythmic variety of Andean traditional music with European Baroque styles, and one has a sense of the delights in store in this program. 

Karin Cuéllar Rendón

For this program, BCOC is collaborating with Bolivian-born violinist Karin Cuéllar Rendón, whom BCOC Artistic Director Frank Nowell met through her work with Early Music America. Rendón shared with Nowell her enthusiasm for Ximénez’ music along with her depth of knowledge from her doctoral studies. She observes, “His music doesn’t sound like ‘only European’ or only ‘Peruvian.’ He was forging an identity and it is this hybrid that makes his music special.” The title was chosen because the works selected for the program date from a time when Ximénez was based in the southern Peruvian city of Arequipa, where he hosted intimate salons for the exchange of music, poetry and political discourse. 

Pedro Ximenez, Bolivian composer

The recorded performance by Rendón and her PXAT Quartet (named for the composer), includes two Ximénez compositions The larger work is his Cuartetto Concertante, op. 55, a string quartet written in the concertante style where each instrument is featured equally — inspired, Cuéllar points out, by the equitable values of the burgeoning political independence movement of the time. This will be paired with Ximénez’s semi-liturgical Meditaciones para el Quinario de la Pasión y Cinco llagas de Nuestro Dulcísimo Jesús Crucificado (Meditations for the Quinary of the Passion and Five Holy Wounds of Our Sweet Crucified Jesus), originally intended as instrumental interludes in Holy Week worship services. Rendon attests that, “in these ‘meditations,’ Ximenez introduces traditional rhythms such as the yaravi and huayño and other Andean dances, appealing, I argue, to the congregation’s familiarity with the genres in an attempt at inspiring patriotic feelings.” 

Frank Nowell

“The popularity of BCOC’s first two programs featuring Latin American Baroque music inspired our multi-year Intercambio series,” Frank Nowell observes, “One of the joys of expanding the repertoire is not only playing long-neglected composers, but finding the unique musical “voice” of each composer.”

A Night in a Peruvian Salon is available on demand now through August 31. The program will be available at no charge, though donations are always appreciated. Vimeo link https://vimeo.com/ 559785371 

Cathedral in Sucre, Bolivia, where Ximenez worked for many years

A Night in a Peruvian Salon will include Rendon’s spoken introductions to the music, as well as visual illustrations from the composer’s time, including glimpses of the sheet music. Visiting the ensemble’s YouTube channel – https:// www.youtube.com/channel/UCSOwL8oAOOGSL5VvrvEFXXg – would serve for familiarizing oneself with recent BCOC online offerings, though the Ximénez program will be on Vimeo. 

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