Hombres de Maiz: the Italian spirit in Mexican music

Hombres de Maiz: the Italian spirit in Mexican music

HOMBRES-DE-MAIZ-evidenzaTraditional repertoires from Mexico and Italy are often remarkably alike, and many have kept tunes, harmonic structures and names that date back to the Italian Renaissance. Here, Ensemble Lucidarium combines Italian folk songs and dances with their 16th and 17th century models, while Barbara Ceron Olvera performs the music of her native Veracruz in a joyful musical melting-pot that preserves ancient sonorities while remaining surprisingly close to modern sensibility.
A contemporary Viborita from Veracruz that shares a harmonic structure with Bergamasche from the 16th, 17th and 20th centuries; the Ruggiero, in versions from the Santa Barbara ms. (an 18th century fakebook), the Laudario di Chiavenna, and in its traditional Mexican incarnation, entitled El Guapo.  Traditional Matuzinas transcribed in the Veneto in the 1970’s, a Matacino from the 16th century, and a Matachino from the Yaqui repertoire; rounded out by vocal music from the Italian and Mexican traditions.


Fanfare Magazine – Henry Lebedinsky
The Lucidarium Ensemble’s latest CD, Hombres de Maiz (People of the Corn), explores the crosscurrents in popular music—the music of the poor—from Mexico and southern Italy, two parts of the world linked by the political, religious, and cultural influence of Spain and the mission work of the Jesuits. While Lucidarium is primarily known as a group specializing in Medieval and Renaissance music, this album features works from the 15th through 20th centuries that illustrate the unique folk traditions of each country and the common threads that they share.

Like a good concert program, this disc is arranged in four acts, each organized around a common theme—the ostinato bass of the bergamasca, the world turned upside-down, Matachin and other warriors, songs of the earth—and each filled with a delightful variety of music performed by a group of people who have a lot of fun doing what they do. Each of the four sections moves seamlessly back and forth across the Atlantic, mixing Spanish, Italian, and native languages as well as rhythmic and musical forms. The Italian duets, selected from 17th century Venetian carnival music by Francesco Ratis, are true gems, sung by Gloria Moretti and the young French soprano Marie Pierre Duceau. Their voices weave in affectionate harmony over infectious dance rhythms, supported by treble instruments and plucked strings in just the right balance. They blend impeccably, reminding me of the late Monserrat Figueras singing with her daughter, Arianna Savall. Barbara Ceron’s nasal and yet throaty renditions of Mexican traditional music are powerful and heartfelt. She accompanies herself on the Veracruz harp, its bright clarity a perfect match for her voice. The three ladies join to sing the Campanian traditional song Cicerinella, with Duceau and Ceron joining Moretti for the choruses. Simply marvelous. My only regret is not hearing more from Bettina Ruchti. Her Baroque violin shone briefly in a feisty anonymous variation set on the Ruggiero bass, and I am left wanting more. Marco Ferrari’s clarinet playing is smoky and lyrical, and blends beautifully with rich tapestry of the accompanying instruments.

The sound is clear, close, and honest, and contributes to the illusion of a live concert performance. This album is meticulously researched, well conceived, and expertly presented. The liner notes by Francis Biggi lay out the concept behind the program in just enough detail. It achieves what, in my opinion, too many recordings of Medieval and Renaissance music do not, presenting an engaging and thoughtful concept in an elegant and entertaining way. Lucidarium captures the vibe of a concert on this disc. It is not an aural catalog of ancient and obscure repertoire, but a living, dancing presence. This disc is one of the few that I’ve heard recently that makes me want to jump up and dance—and hear this ensemble live in concert as soon as possible. Kudos. Henry Lebedinsky

American Record Guide – Arianna Crawford
… It is really a terrific program, and I’m enjoying it as much as I’ve enjoyed anything in a long time.

American Recorder Society Magazine – Tom Bickley
Ensemble Lucidarium co-directed by recorder player Avery Gosfield and string player Francis Biggi, is a large ensemble that clearly works and plays well with wisely-chosen guest artists. These two discs provide much entertainment and substance.
Hombres de Maiz bears a descriptive subtitle meaning “the Italian soul in Mexican music.” Research into the influence of Jesuit missionaries to the Yaqui people raised questions about the streams of Italian music entering vernacular Mexican music. The result is thoroughly ear-catching. Much of the repertory sounds familiar to fans of Renaissance dance music.
The disc contains 27 tracks divided into four sections: “The Bergamasca and its travels, ”Songs of world upside down,”“Matachin, Matazi and other warriors,” and “Songs of the earth. ”These titles evoke a dream-like quality of inter- weaving, and well-written notes confirm that the repertory choices were informed by childhood experiences of singers Barbara Ceron (from Mexico) and Gloria Moretti (from Italy).
The disc Una musa plebea has a rougher, but no less charming, sound. Many of the recordings of the poetry performed by the Tuscan and Corsican guest artists were done live in the hometowns of the poets. There’s a bracing quality to the audio as well as to the performances, and the gentle contrast between audio and studio recordings works well. All in all, this disc reminds me of the European audio collage radio theater tradition known as “hörspiel ” (hear play).
Both discs by Ensemble Lucidarium demonstrate a great sense of energy and vitality as the group “lives into” the music, and the sound will appeal to most people who enjoy the pop/vernacular edge of Renaissance music. It may even appeal to a larger audience in the folk music world.

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4 novembre 2014 Discography

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Lucidarium is an irresistibly fun group, a light-hearted collection of friends out to relish each other’s company by making music together. That unbuttoned ethos is a welcome intrusion in the concert hall, one that will hopefully infect other performers.

Basler Zeitung

Next to their stylistic confidence and saddle-sure historical interpretation, Ensemble Lucidarium shows us just how contagiously vivacious the reconstruction of medieval sounds can be.


The six members of Lucidarium let their listeners dive into a completely enchanting world… The musical poetry of the Middle Ages was brought back to life in the most beautiful way possible

New York Times

… The Ensemble Lucidarium, an Italian group, in a program of vocal works (and a couple of high-energy saltarellos) on Wednesday afternoon, performed in a style free of vibrato and other forms of modern polish but plentifully adorned with florid vocal embellishments…

American Recorder Society Magazine

Anyone who arrived thinking of Medieval repertoire as “minor” or as music that ‘all sounds alike’ left with changed ideas.

The Arts Desk

There was a naturalness and relaxedness to their performance that was immensely pleasing.

Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace

… it was enough to be swept away, by the refinement and conviction of the performers, to a place where magic reigns.