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Harmonia Early Music

Latin American Colonial Music

This week on Harmonia we take a look at New World dances.

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The most popular 17th-century music that came from the New World to Europe was based on dance types. Every emotion could be expressed through movement, from the Chacona to the Xacara. This week we take a look at New World dances.

Sometime during the second half of the 17th century, Francesco Corbetta composed a chaconne for solo guitar. Arguably the greatest guitarist of the period, he based his composition on a model that was imported decades earlier from the New World. The chacona, among other dances, inspired numerous composers well into the 18th century.  Taro Takeuchi performs on the 2003 Deux-Elles recording, Folias!

Watch a YouTube video of a piece entitled: Spanish Baroc Sounds and Dances for 6 dancers and 6 musicians, by 17th Century composer, J.A. Arañes:


Music from the New World took little time in spreading throughout 17th-century Europe. Dance music was the most popular and its champion was the guitarist. The Spaniard Luis de Briceño, who published a guitar tutor in Paris during 1627, was a particularly effective exponent. Ensemble Le Poème Harmonique performs on the 2004 Alpha release, Anthoine Boesset: Je meurs sans mourir.

The chacona also arrived in Italy and took little time in getting its own national identity. Claudio Monteverdi was the first to give the bass line a distinct and memorable rhythm in his duet Zefiro Torna of 1732. His contemporary Tarquinio Merula also wrote an equally memorable piece when he composed his own Aria di Ciaccona entitled Su la cetra amorosa. Ensemble Anthonello, with soprano Midori Suzuki performs this aria on the 2002 CD release from the Symphonia label, Ciaccona: Joy of Music in 17th Century Italy.

Spanish guitarists were particularly keen when incorporating the most attractive dances. One finds a mix of African, Old and New World dances. Baroque guitarists Paul O’Dette, Pat O’Brien, Steve Player, harpist Andrew Lawrence-King and percussionist Pedro Estevan perform music of Santiago de Murcia on the 2008 Harmonia Mundi release entitled Jácaras!

With the publication of Luz Y Norte in 1677, Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz sought to teach the art of the Spanish guitar and harp. He included in his tutor dances taken directly from South America and Africa with instructions on how to play them on the guitar, harp, and even the keyboard. The Harp Consort, directed by Andrew Lawrence-King, performs music by Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz on the 1996 recording, Spanish Dances.

Our new release this week features the baroque oboist John Abberger, principal oboist of the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. The CD is devoted solely to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and focuses on concerto arrangements.

Bernard Gordillo

Bernard Gordillo was born in Managua, Nicaragua, and raised in New Orleans. He holds degrees from Centenary College of Louisiana, the Early Music Institute at Indiana University, and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (London). Bernard also writes and hosts the Harmonia Early Music Podcast.

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