March 13, 2004 – Review

Seldom-heard music by Mexican composers gets warm receptionBy John von Rhein, Tribune music critic
Reprinted from the Chicago Tribune

Saturday’s concert by Ars Antigua, part of the Friends of the Windows series at Quigley, combined rare sacred works from the Mexican Baroque with contemporaneous pieces from Cuba, Germany, Italy and Spain. All were by women composers, several of them nuns daring to compose at a time when the Roman Catholic Church forbade women distracting themselves from their religious duties by writing and performing music.

Joining Ars Antigua leader Jerry Fuller (playing a Mexican version of the contrabass) were singers and period instrumentalists from Indiana University Southeast at New Albany, where this music is archived. All but one of the motets and cantatas take the Nativity as their subject. Skilled and committed performers that they are, Fuller and friends made living art out of them, and the resonant chapel bathed the music in an appropriate aural glow.

Two instrumental canzonas by the German Maria Paterina (known as La Contessa) and motets by the Italians Chiara Cozzolani and Maria Peruchona made a lovely effect. Even so, the hit of the concert were pieces drawing on Mexican folk instruments and rhythms – a hymn to the Virgin by Sister Juana Ines de Castro (which De Runggs sang in the Aztec tongue) and the catchy “Son de La Ma Teodora” by Teodora Gines, an African slave who had been brought to the New World.

The Ars Antigua season will continue Tuesday and May 30.