Jeffrey writes… “I struggled through tropical storms and suffered the terrors of the unknown … Nevertheless, I found the girl from Ipanema, enjoyed the freshness of the caipirinha, and thrilled at the skills of Flamengo star Ronaldinho! I relished the austere beauty of a Gregorian mass in the lavishly gilded interior beauty of the monastery of São Bento in Rio, the throbbing energy of popular street music preparing for Carnival and the vibrant contemporary scene. I was tantalized by the prospect of Amerindian and Afro-Brazilian cultures, the unbelievable journey by sixteenth-century explorer Francisco de Orellana into the Amazon, the river of darkness, and the controversial and irreverent writings of seventeenth-century Baroque poet Gregório de Matos. Brazil is a massive country of huge contrasts. Its extraordinary cultural wealth is a treasure-house of staggering depth and sensational delights. So where to start? The excitement and anticipation of exploration is perhaps a reward in itself.”
A cornucopia of choral music as entrancing as its composers are obscure.
“Jeffrey Skidmore is not the first musician to be charmed by the cultural riches and musical heritage of Brazil, and he won’t be the last, yet his visit has culminated in an unexpectedly touching and beautiful portrait of Brazilian early music that is sure to surprise even the most intrepid musical explorers. ‘Brazilian Adventures’ is striking not only for its tender approach but also for the focus on later historical styles than one normally associates with these performers. The two Masses are contemporary with late Haydn and yet incorporate many late-Baroque features while also hearkening towards a softer, more intimate early Romantic sound. The movements of both Masses are framed and separated by a selection of motets hinting at the huge variety of Brazilian music that still awaits modern performance.
“Missa pastoril para a noite de natal by José Maurício Nunes Garcia (1767-1830), a priest from Rio, is scored for three castratos, two falsettists, tenor and three basses. The great surprise of this Mass is that it was also orchestrated for a rich ensemble of violas, cellos, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, horns, timpani and organ. An exquisitely simple pastoral theme infuses the work with a delicate wistful air to which the performers of Ex Cathedra respond beautifully. There is some wonderful clarinet-playing throughout and a sensational ‘Laudamus te’ solo from soprano Katie Trethewey. Skidmore’s notes invoke sunshine-filled Christmases and this is an image that certainly shines through his interpretation.
“Missa a 8 vozes e instrumentos by André da Silva Gomes (1752-1844), a Lisbon-born chapel master in São Paulo, is quite different both in composition and in performance. It has a festive flair and Skidmore brings out a buoyant and altogether brighter quality, emphasising the greater use of Baroque styles. There are some charmingly naïve and boyish-sounding soprano solos from Elizabeth Drury which, along with the trumpet-writing, further emphasise the exuberance of Baroque melody in this beautiful Mass setting.” (Gramophone)
“Ex Cathedra conductor Jeffrey Skidmore has gathered late 17th to early 19th century choral music from five Brazilian cities for this disc, and they make for some really worthwhile discoveries. Most memorable is the Missa Pastoril Para a Noite de Natal by José Mauricio Nunes Garcia, which would have sounded uplifting drifting out from a grand Rio de Janeiro church into a humid Christmas Eve night in 1811. The recurring clarinet theme is something of which Mozart might have been proud. From São Paulo there is the Missa a 8 Vozes e Instrumentos by André da Silva Gomes, with its spirited Gloria and ebullient solo strings. Like everything here, it is sung cleanly and played elegantly by Ex Cathedra. One could almost be in Vienna or Salzburg, but two versions of a vernacular song, all “ai, le, le” refrain and dancing drum accompaniment, remind us that we’re a long, long way away.” (The Guardian)
“brought beautifully back to life … a first-class introduction to Early music from colonial Brazil” (BBC Record Review)
“a programme that projects the joyful vitality of the best in early Brazilian music. Atonement and penitence are overshadowed in the album’s two Mass settings and assorted miniatures in favour of sensual lyricism – often naïve, always charming… performed with such conviction and love.” (Sinfini Music *)
“the standard of performance achieved by Ex Cathedra is very high indeed … delivered with great style and conviction … There’s a genuine air of discovery… [Jeffrey Skidmore] deserves our thanks not just for discovering the music but, much more importantly, for bringing it so vividly to life through these excellent performances.” (www.musicweb-international.com)
“Practically all of the 12 singers of Ex Cathedra have challenging solo spots, every one of them producing an excellent sound and a clear understanding of such performance aspects as ornamentation. The chorus is similarly excellent. Jeffrey Skidmore is one of the most inspirational directors around, and his motivation produces extraordinary results. South American music is clearly something of a personal passion, and the programme note reflects his many travels and meetings with musicians there. He states that ‘The programme is a tribute to the many musicians I met on my travels and to the army of musicologists who are seeking diligently and passionately to bring this music to the world’s attention. They believe it is important and has an urgent relevance if their country is to find its true spiritual and musical soul.’ If that is not reason enough to buy this CD, then the inspiring music and outstanding performances certainly should be.” (www.andrewbensonwilson.org)