Destino Mexicano Digi Pack vs1Destino Mexicano

‘Baroque Rhythms from the New World’
LCR 4632  Fuse Group


“La Compañia go the whole hog here …on fruitily satisfying combinations of shawm, cornett, dulcians and sackbuts, backed up by bass viol, guitars and percussion …excellent recorded sound”  Gramophone, UK

“What characterizes the ensemble’s sound is its rhythmic vivaciousness .. La Compañia’s performances, which are consistently idiomatic, light, colourful and rhythmic” International Record Review, UK

“two recordings by the Australian ensemble La Compañía, directed by the cornettist Danny Lucin …They are well played, with tasteful ornamentation Early Music (Oxford Journals) OUP, UK

“one finds oneself nicely rocking out …The recording quality of the disc is outstanding, and one will feel literally swept away by the jaunty rhythms of the music” Fanfare, US

“this superb Australian-
based ensemble has 
done it again …its approach is in its unique blend of precision and flexibility …is imaginative and engaging throughout” Limelight

“Again, the playing is refined: perfect in intonation, balance and blend. …This recording is a delight …and excellence of performance which it offers is outstanding.” Historic Brass Society, US


Having touched briefly on New World repertoire in their previous release ‘Ay Portugal’, Melbourne-based ensemble La Compañia go the whole hog here with a disc of music from late-Renaissance Mexico (with two Peruvian exceptions). Consisting of catchily cheerful villancicos and other short pieces on lightly borne sacred subjects by cathedral musicians of European origin such as Gaspar Fernandes, Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla and Juan de Araujo, but reflecting local styles, preoccupations and even languages, this is the kind of South American repertoire that Isabel Palacios’s Camerata de Caracas enjoyably brought to light in the 1990s (A/00), and which has since been successfully promoted over three CDs by Ex Cathedra (8/03, 6/08). (It should not to be confused, however, with the more staid stuff of Florilegium’s ‘Bolivian Baroque’ discs.)

Ex Cathedra inevitably give works like Araujo’s Ay andar, Zéspedes’s Convidando está la noche and the ubiquitousHanacpachap cussicuinin a choral slant but La Compañia’s approach is more small-scale and intimate, with emphasis on the wind instruments which, according to the booklet-notes, were preferred to strings in the New World. Several of the works are performed without voices on fruitily satisfying combinations of shawm, cornett, dulcians and sackbuts, backed up by bass viol, guitars and percussion. The latter certainly help give the syncopations and hemiolas of this music a steady swing, and if the performers here do not exude quite the sense of joyous freedom that their Venezuelan counterparts brought to it (I have seen Palacios conduct Fernandes’s earthyDame albriçia mano Anton pretty much with her hips), they will still make your body move. The technical standards are also better – the two light-voiced and penetrative singers are certainly superior, if less colourful – and so too is the excellent recorded sound.
Lindsay Kemp 

Gramophone, UK

IRR_CoverThis is the third disc by the Australian ensemble La Compañia: the first was
‘El Fuego’, the second the infectious ‘Ay, Portugal’ (both on ABC Classics). This new recording is not simply just as good, but even better. What characterizes the ensemble’s sound is its rhythmic vivaciousness, essential not only in the Baroque villancico but also in its instrumentation, which, while colourful, is never overdone, something that seems to be a constant temptation in the performance of Iberian and Latin American secular repertoire of this time.

Much of the music here is actually quite familiar: there is the obligatory Qechua-texted Hanacpachap cussicuinin, and favourites by Gaspar Fernandes such as Dame albriçia mano Anton and Tururu farara con son, Padilla’s A la xácara xacarilla and, for a magnificent ending, the wonderful Convidando está la noche by Zéspedes. These works have been standard repertoire for quite a while, and have been recorded many times by groups such as those to be found on K617’s ‘Caminos Barrocos’ series, directed by Gabriel Garrido, and the Boston Camerata, well before the sudden wave of interest generated later by Ex Cathedra’s recordings, so performances need not only to be of the highest quality but to have something new to say. This is certainly the case with La Compañia’s performances, which are consistently idiomatic, light, colourful and rhythmic. The two solo voices, those of soprano Lotte Betts-Dean and tenor Daniel Thomson, are excellent, neither too heavy nor too light, but with just the right touch of Iberian warmth.

Lesser-known works are also included: the group’s investigation of Fernandes,
for example, does not stop at the pieces mentioned above, but includes rarely performed villancicos such as Si nos enprestara oy Dios and A no teneros mi Dios. This is certainly a step in the right direction,

given that more than 250 such works by him survive. Fernandes, in fact, is the star of the show: it would be wonderful if a future recording project could be dedicated exclusively to his music. In the meantime, I shall return to ‘Destino Mexicano’ often and with tremendous pleasure.
Ivan Moody

International Record Review, UK

After Ay Portugal the ensemble again receives the TOCCATA Tipp …once more they succeed due to the rhythm and joyous compositions, however this is supported by their skill, high musicality the ensemble’s expertise. Their fluency and their lively interpretations give a fascinating insight to this period.
Robert Strobl

Toccata Alte Musik Aktuell, Germany

OUP-Early Music 11:14To start with, two recordings by the Australian ensemble La Compañía, directed by the cornettist Danny Lucin. The medium here is essentially the wind band (cornetts, sackbuts, dulcians) with viola da gamba, guitar, percussion and vocal soloists… The soloists on La Compañía’s more recent recording Destino Mexico: Baroque rhythms from the New World (La Compañía Records LCR 4632) are the soprano Lotte Betts-Dean and tenor Daniel Thomson. This CD focuses even more on Fernandes’s villancicos, some of them, such as Pois con tanta graça, performed instrumentally. They are well played, with tasteful ornamentation.
Tess Knighton

Early Music (Oxford Journal) OUP, UK

Danny Lucin’s playing is a joy to hear. His bright and clear sound blends perfectly with the voices of Lotte Betts-Dean and Daniel Thompson. The precision of their intonation is notable. The music on this disc is characterized by lively and intricate rhythms which are performed in an exact fashion without any hint of tension. The performers are clearly comfortable in the midst of this complexity. Julian Bain and Glenn Bardwell provide the bottom and as with Lucin’s playing, they are precise in intonation and blend perfectly with the vocalists. The total ensemble shapes phrases as one with delicacy and charm.

Of note is one work by Gaspar Fernandes (1570–1629) entitled “Andres, Where are the Cattle?” The text is seemingly sweet and simple, yet raises an interesting theological question which goes unanswered. An instrumental rendition of another work by the same composer, “For in Such Grace (This Child is Born)” is exquisite in how in its rhythmic complexity such a powerfully reserved concept of grace is understood in the incarnation of Christ. It is wonderful how La Compania is able to present this.  Another instrumental, “Joy of the Heavens” (anonymous) is beautiful yet ominous in the scoring of the lower voices (including shawms played by Mitchell Cross and Brock Imison). Again, the playing is refined: perfect in intonation, balance and blend. The last track is a work by Juan Garcia de Zespedes (ca. 1619­–1678) “The Night is Beckoning” which celebrates the birth of Christ by beginning with a slow section which is reminiscent of “Lo, How a Rose” and then breaks into a festive section in which Lucin’s improvisation captures the tremendous joy of Christ’s birth.

This recording is a delight. The combination of cultural assimilation and excellence of performance which it offers is outstanding.
James Miller

Unknown UnknownUnknown

Historic Brass Society, US

Fanfare: The Magazine for Serious Record Collectors; May/Jun2014, Vol. 37 Issue 5, p546

Save for Baroque New Spanish composer Juan de Araujo (1646–1712), it is probably a good bet that few if any have heard of the remaining musicians recorded on this disc…

The main genre was the villancico, a sort of narrative work of which individual instances could be combined together to form a larger musical entertainment. Of course, beginning even in the 18th century it began to be equated with Christmas music, but here the use is broader and more generic. Danny Lucin seems to have worked from the notion that this genre was the perfect one within which to insert a performance practice that reflects the folk rhythms and indigenous rhythms and instru- mentation. There has been debate about this, but there is nothing awkward or primitive in these works as performed by La Compañia—just the opposite, for early Baroque pieces the jauntiness and nice harmonies are infectious. Indeed, the opening gambit is the chaconne “A la vida bona” or to the good life. With its almost calypso-like rhythms and the weaving of the two voices describing the joys of life, one finds oneself nicely rocking out. The Nahuatl piece by Franco has a cornett and sackbut doing some nice counterpoint in the introduction, sort of like a Lutheran chorale (the real Luther ver- sion) gone mad. The voices have a weaving integrated contrapuntal line, and thus, native or not, Franco demonstrates he was well aware of part writing. The Fernandes “Tururu farara” has jazz-like rhythm for the fanfares, and it seems like an early Renaissance piece gone native with a nice per- cussive backdrop. And if this is not enough, the Gutiérrez “A la xácara xacarilla” throws the dance rhythms of the jacarilla, a popular Peruvian pastime, into the mix. Fernandes’s “Fransiquiya donde vamo” sounds very much indebted to the madrigal, but with a nice lyrical line (in imitation, as well) that is jagged, rhythmically active, and quite effective. When one figures in the vocal duet, a more interesting texture results with the various parallel harmonies. With “Hanacpachap cussicuinen,” we seem far from the Viceroyalty of New Spain and almost transported back to the realm of the Incan emperors, though of course with thoroughly European instruments. The steady beat of the drum gives it a march-like quality, and one might fantasize about litters of royalty being carried about. The final piece by Garcia seems as if it could have been written by someone more familiar with the Choralis Constantinus tradition of Heinrich Isaac, a nice benediction hymn which surprisingly devolves into a rather rollicking native dance…

The recording quality of the disc is outstanding, and one will feel literally swept away by the jaunty rhythms of the music. This is one that will allow you to let your hair down and simply enjoy the music. No thought or focused analysis is needed, and the spirited music will carry you away to a time and a place outside the standard Baroque repertory. As an anodyne to everyday life, this performs admirably and should be in any collection that takes itself too seriously.
Bertil van Boer 

Fanfare, US

Aussie-based ensemble proves spicier than chili con carne

La Compañia’s previous recording Ay Portugal
 was always going to be a hard act to follow. But
 with Destino Mexicano this superb Australian-
based Renaissance and early baroque
 ensemble, formed by Danny Lucin in 1997, has 
done it again. Apart from a host of other mostly 
16th-century Spanish and New World
 composers, the colourful, distinctive 
music of Gaspar Fernandes (c1570-1629), who was maestro di capilla
at Puebla cathedral, is again featured here, only more so. And why not, with a collection of more than 250 of his villancicos still
 extant and ripe for plundering?

Lucin – again on cornetto – leads a wind 
band comprising such instruments as the 
shawm, dulcian and sackbut (not that far from 
the modern oboe, bassoon and trombone, if
 you like), with extra colour provided by viola
 da gamba, Renaissance and Baroque guitar, cavaquinho (a small stringed instrument from which the ukulele is descended) and percussion. The guest vocalists this time are 
mezzo soprano Lotte Betts-Dean and tenor Daniel Thomson, together they present a selection of secular and sacred villancicos and
related forms, ranging from Juan Aranes’
Chacona: A la vida bona (To the good
life) and Fernandes’ West African-Influenced negro or guineo Dame albrlçia mano Anton (Be joyful, brother Anton!) to indigenous language songs such as Don Hernando Franco’s Dios Itlaço nantzine (Beloved Mother of God),
written in Nahuatl.

Before writing this review I quickly 
perused my music collection for possible comparisons. Ex Cathedra’s New World Symphonies, LArpeggiata’s Los Impossibles and the Harp Consort’s utterly brilliant Missa Mexicana fell immediately to hand. Where La Compañia differs in its approach is in its unique blend of precision and flexibility. You could say the sheer exuberance of the Harp 
Consort’s approach is tempered by a smoother 
line and delicacy of colour. This is a double-edged sword, and its less positive merits – a certain emotional coolness – In the singing rather than the playing – which, it has to be said, is imaginative and engaging throughout.
Will Yeoman 

Limelight, editors choice

But as well as wreaking havoc on the Inca, Aztec and Mayan empires the Spaniards were jointly responsible for some hybrid Baroque music which combines their home influences of Moorish and western early music with the dance rhythms of the Amerindians.

This music from the new world, more especially the Aztecs of Mexico with a couple of diversions to Peru, makes for a highly entertaining and attractive 50 minutes or so from the Melbourne-based early music group La Compania.

Under their director Danny Lucin, and released on their own label, Destino Mexicano features the nine-piece on a variety of Baroque instruments — wind instruments cornetto, shawm, dulcian, and sackbuts, the viola da gamba, guitar and a host of percussion pieces. The tunes are all catchy and the ensemble is graced by two superb Melbourne singers in mezzo Lotte Betts-Dean and tenor Daniel Thomson.

The opening track, a crowd-pleaser whenever it’s performed, is Juan Aranes’ Chacona: A la vida bona, and this sets the tone for what is to come with its lively beat, nice cornetto lines from Lucin and crystal clear harmonies from the singers.

Most of the tracks are secular songs, called villancicos, sung in Spanish, although there is a track, Hancpachap cussicuinin, a processional piece in the Quechua language.

Although this material is not entirely unknown there is always room for another recording, especially one as beautifully performed and refreshing as this one.
Steve Moffatt

Daily Telegraph

Fine Music 102.5Music of the 16th century acquires a new sound for listeners attuned to Baroque and Renaissance music of European origin in the latest recording by La Compania, an ensemble based in Australia whose spiritual home lies far away in the New Worlds of America and Mexico. It is a world described musically in songs and dances. in religious reflections and rural ruminations, such as the 15 examples recorded here, all but half of them ascribed to composer Gaspar Fernandes, obviously a leading light of his time. The nine musicians and two singers named in the ensemble use their sackbuts dulcians, voices. whatever. to create sounds that should be comfort- able for Baroque music fans and if the New World is not entirely familiar territory to start with, it is easy enough to get used to. The CD comes with a very helpful booklet which describes the historic background to these works, explains all the tracks and includes the words to all the songs. an excellent read even as you are getting used to how it all sounds. The musicianship is everything you would expect, and all in all this is a superbly executed and produced revelation for any- one not accustomed to music La Compania- style, who would like to hear more of it.
Phil Vendy

Fine Music 102.5

In 2012, the Melbourne-based Baroque group La Compañia released their album, Ay Portugal. An homage to fifteenth-century Portuguese music, it was a triumph – and I still enjoy listening to it. So it was with great excitement that I received their most recent release, Destino Mexicano. Subtitled ‘Baroque Rhythms from the New World’, it’s a fusion of classical Baroque as we know it and the rhythms of South America. When the Spanish invaded Mexico there was a melding of two worlds, not just in culture and peoples, but also music. In Destino Mexicano, La Compañia have focused on a particular song style from this melding, the villancico, a repetitive, secular song that uses dance rhythms with a sense of three beats, and in doing this have given cohesiveness to the whole album.

Although the liner notes are detailed with interesting background on each work, I found this recording was more something I put on just to listen without needing any academic knowledge. It was terrific to have on in the background as I cooked, finding myself cutting up vegetables and moving around the kitchen in time to their sprightly percussive dance rhythms. Lotte Betts-Dean and Daniel Thomson soar as the singing soloists, expertly accompanied by the rest of La Compañia. In the few instrumental moments, La Compañia acquit themselves with great aplomb, but it’s when the singers join in that the toes start tapping. Their harmonies blend so effortlessly that sometimes it seems like there are three solo singers, rather than just the two. If you’re a fan of Baroque music, but looking for something beyond Bach and Handel, this is a must. On the other hand, if you’re just a fan of some good rhythmic ideas, this will be extremely pleasing to the ears.
Kate Rockstrom

Readings, CD of the Month

…and it has just been announced as ABC Classic FM’s CD of the Week for next week! This latest gong is thoroughly deserved. La Compañia have been one of this country’s most exciting ensembles for a number of years now, their every move hailed far and wide. …I can say with some confidence that you will never have heard anything quite like this.
Hugh Robertson

Fish Fine Music, CD of the Week

Ay Portugal

‘Music from the Renaissance to the New World’
ABC Classics 476 4955

Australians explore music from Renaissance Iberia
La Compañia is one of Australia’s finest and best-known early music ensembles and Iberian music has already been in evidence in its repertiore (a previous disc on ABC is entitled ‘El fuego’). This is a collection of songs by Iberian composers having some Portuguese connection, energetically performed by a group including brass, woodwind, bowed and plucked strings and percussion, but that should not lead the listener to imagine a ‘Renaissance 
orchestra’ using an array of instruments just for the sake of it; scorings here are delicate and chosen with care. As a consequence, there is some lovely solo and duo playing from the nine members of the ensemble.

I am particularly pleased to see the inclusion of a number of works by the Portuguese Gaspar Fernandes, who worked in Guatemala and Mexico, and whose splendid, rhythmically energetic villancicos (which make frequent use of Creole and even Nahuatl) lend themselves naturally to the kind of vivid performances found here. The recording benefits hugely from the presence of the clarity and energy of soprano Siobhan Stagg: if her Portuguese pronunciation in the anonymous ‘Nao tragais borzeguis pretos’ is only a trifle eccentric (as is her Spanish elsewhere), more important is her infectious enthusiasm. Curiously, the (instrumental) performance of Machado’s ‘Dos estrellas le siguen’ is the slowest I have ever heard: it works beautifully but is somehow transformed into a gorgeously ornamented funeral lament.

This recording, engineered and produced by Thomas Grubb at the Catholic Church of St Fidelis, Moreland, is beautifully clear, with just enough reverberation to make both voice and instruments gleam.
Ivan Moody

Gramophone, UK

ToccataLa Compania previous CD release of renaissance music from the Iberian Peninsula was El fuego (ABC Classics, Toccata Tip 48/2010). The ensemble continues here in this style with works by Gaspar Fernandes (who worked in Guatemala and Mexico) Manuel Machado, Pedro de Cristo, Francisco Guerrero, Luis de Milan and Pedro de Escobar, this Renaissance music thrives on improvisation, rhythms and dynamic ornamentation requiring exceptional mastery of the instrument, matched by musicality.  And this is exactly what the Australians display. From the beginning an exciting pulse consistently demonstrated throughout, joyful ornamented music with such security in style that is only achieved by the masters in the field. In this way the quality of the composition is not merely conveyed but blossoms with the vast variation, in colorfully adorned sound enriched by sterling Interpretation.
Robert Strobl

Toccata, Germany

5 Star Review in Portugal’s premier newspaper    ….read more




Expresso, Portugal


Early music from Australia?  Yes, they have that now.  The continent’s highest-profile original instruments players belong to the ensemble La Compañia.  On the latest CD we travel in our thoughts from Spain and Portugal of the 16th century with the conquistadors to South America, the ‘New World’.  Numerous other ensembles on the scene have already cultivated this musical repertoire, but one seldom hears it as fresh and played with such musicality.
von Claus Fischer

MDR – German Radio top pick

Iberia desde las antípodas
Ecos ibero-coloniales por los australianos de La Compañía 

This publication takes us to the period in which Portugal became part of the Spanish crown and many of its composers undertook their work in Spanish territories of the old and new worlds. As well as these, there are works by Guerrero and Milan. The general tone of the repertoire is festive, with secular villancicos and sacred villanescas. Of the vocal works included in the disc, half are transcribed for instruments.

Various anonymous pieces from the Cancioneiro de Paris, 1523, compiled by Pedro Escobar, are new in this recording: villancicos of the Iberian court with the typical alternation of triple and duple time bars. We meet three villanescas by Guerrero, with their rich contrasts of rhythm and texture, two of which are performed instrumentally. Gaspar Fernandes worked as organist and maestro de cappella in the cathedral of Guatemala and, later, in Puebla. His are neo-hispanic villancicos, often based in vernacular languages, which are performed instrumentally. Manuel Machado, of Lisbon, worked for most of his life in the Spanish royal chapel. His compositions are polyphonic canciones for more than two voices and they are notable for their rhythmic richness and expressiveness. In fact one of the most beautifully performed works on the disc, endowed with great solemnity, is a transcription of Dos estrellas le siguen. Though from an earlier period, Pedro de Escobar also spent his career in Spain, while Pedro de Cristo is the only composer on the disc who never left his homeland.

This recording comes to us from Australia, which could create a certain prejudice – a dreadful mistake! La Compañía is formed from instruments typical of bands of travelling players, with cornetto, dulcian, sackbuts, vihuela, viola da gamba and percussion, and has been concentrating on this repertoire for several years. The result is some truly notable instrumental passages and a refined approach to this music, and a mastery of the festive and solemn registers. There is percussion throughout the recording, but it never comes across as strange. The soprano Siobhan Stagg has a lovely voice and handles the complicated Iberian rhythms with flying colours. It is clear that she has worked on the pronunciation, which is not without faults but in the circumstances is very acceptable. A praisworthy disc from the Antipodes.
Manuel de Lara

Diverdi, SPAIN


Intrepid Aussies journey from Spain to the New World
Under their director Danny Lucin, La 
Compañia perform these works on period wind instruments such as cornetti, sackbuts and dulcians, as well as the viola da gamba, 
vihuela, guitar, cavaquinho and percussion. Joining them is young Australian soprano and early music exponent Siobhan Stagg, winner of the 2012 Australian International Opera Award. Throughout, La Compañia’s relaxed and improvisatory yet passionate and precise playing is a delight, recalling the best of Hesperion XXI, The Harp Consort and L’Arpeggiata in similar repertoire. Listen to the rich textures of De Cristo’s Ay mi Dios, the grand, sombre march in Machado’s Dos
estrellas le siguen, and the wild strumming and percussion in the anonymous Nao tragais
borzeguis pretos. These contrast with more intimate vocal and instrumental items, such as the gentle Dipues vienes delhaldea and Yan am quero ser pastora (both anonymous) and the great Spanish vihuelist Luis Milán’s well-known Fantasia VIII, performed with exquisite delicacy of touch by Rosemary 
Hodgson, who elsewhere provides wonderfully percussive accompaniments. Impressive, too, is Lucin’s smooth, sometimes even jazzy cornetto playing and Stagg’s lively, often cheeky interpretations. With her light, flexible yet darkly-centred
 soprano she proves herself a veritable 
Antipodean Montserrat Figueras. Fernandes’s 
Botay fora, with which the recording ends, features Stagg at her most refined, soaring over the rhythmic thunder of a solo side drum before luxuriating in various combinations of drum, winds and harpsichord. “Forget the deep sorrow,” she sings, “No need to pray by the cradle/because I will sing you a song/to enlighten the world.” And indeed, all one’s sorrows are swept away. Brava!
Will Yeoman



Yle – Radio 1, FINLAND

La Compania (Ay Portugal) is one of the best and most renowned Australia’s early music ensembles. Founded in 1997 it brings together leading musicians who are experts in playing on period instruments. This results in “old” Renaissance music, presented on this CD being played in a very exciting way so that it is transported into the “new world”, the twenty – first century. Cornetto, dulcian, sackbut, viola da gamba, vihuela de mano, renaissance guitar is supported throughout by percussion – also of the era, and takes us to sixteenth-century Portugal with a perfect interpretation of musicians from the period. Masterful improvisation, ornamentation, surprising combinations of sounds makes a really exciting experience for the listener of this old and otherwise seemingly incomprehensible music to the modern ear. The CD covers Iberian composers, often anonymous, which is powerful in itself – in this embodiment to further gain in the capacity of energy. There are also more subtle pieces – for example, solo or in a duo pieces performed apart from the full nine piece ensemble, presented in accordance with traditional historic performance practice. Particular attention is the focus of works by Gaspar Fernandes (c1570 – 1629) a composer who worked in Guatemala and Mexico. It is necessary to emphasise the full clarity and expressive soprano – Siobhan Stagg. The recording was made in St. Fidelis Church in Moreland (Australia) – its acoustic reverberation further heightened the effect. Everything is in its full splendour. Excellent.
Alina Madry – Audio Video

Music Island, Poland – CD of the Month

Pleasing, evocative performances of a charming and haunting repertoire.

In the 16th century Portugal was one of the leading nations of the world as far as exploration was concerned and indeed in the Sciences as well as the Arts. As Michael McNab’s well set- out and clear booklet notes tell us, in August 1578 King Sebastiao I was killed in battle along with most of the nobility. As a consequence Portugal was annexed into the Iberian Kingdom of Spain under Philip II. Many of country’s indigenous artists vanished into the South American kingdoms. Others became part of a conservative backwater, continuing to compose in the ‘stile antico’, as did Pedro de Cristo as heard on Hyperion CDA66512 Masterpieces of Portuguese Polyphony.

This CD does not consist of sad music reflecting on past glories. Hispanic syncopated rhythms, flexible and dance-like and especially associated with South American church music, can be heard on this CD. They are helped on their way with a liberal presence of colourful percussion. Other groups have successfully tackled this repertoire as well. I especially like another Hyperion disc recorded by Ex Cathedra, Fire Burning in Snow (CDA67600) but there are any number of other possibilities.

Of the seventeen tracks providing the somewhat measly playing time offered, only eight are for the gorgeous voice of Siobhan Stagg – very pure, versatile and rich. Despite her Irish name she, like this excellent group – La Compañia – are Australian and are making a name for themselves in that country in the early music world. Despite that however several pieces which could have had sung text of the type found in Machado’s beautiful Dos estrella le siguen have the substitute of Danny Lucin’s cornetto playing. This is the next best thing to the human voice as it was often said at the time, especially when the instrument is played so musically and with such beautifully shaped phrasing. Even better is when both Lucin (who directs the ensemble) and Stagg mix as in Escobar’s Pásame per Dios. He breaks up the six verses with a solo passage and then for the second half plays a descant over the voice. A down-side to Stagg’s performance is that although I am no real expert her Portuguese does not seem to be especially clear and her Spanish, which I know much more of, is distinctly inconsistent. That said, I loved her voice and have twice gone to sleep with her and it, as it were, ringing in my ears on a stereo unit in the room.

Let me select a few other favourite highlights. There is some lovely solo wind section playing throughout. I especially enjoyed Guerrero’s Niño Dios d’amor herido. It’s often the anonymous songs that felt so pleasing largely because they are simple and affecting. Their folk-like melodies have an instant attraction. In this category I would place Yan am quero ser pastora which speaks of Titian-style lovers placed in a lovely idealised pastoral locale. This song is in fact a villancico, a very popular form that can be used for sacred or secular compositions. The form is “generally ABA with several stanzas” (McNab) “but which display a good deal of flexibility … in how often the refrain is used”. A good example is another lovely anonymous pastoral setting Dispues vienes delhaldea.

There is five-part villancico by the still all-too-little-known, but rather original, Gaspar Fernandes entitled Tieycantimo chocquiliya which uses a creole text. Note the snazzy Lombardic rhythms reminding us that some of this music was heard outside church for dancing and dramatic entertainments and at festivals like Christmas. This piece is played instrumentally as is Fernandes’ Xicochi conetzintie which is the Nauhati language of the south American Nahua peoples. Pity we don’t get to hear this unusual language in performance. As in the previous piece, percussion is strongly used as are instruments like the cavaquinho. The group also add the related vihuela and/or a guitar. Wind instruments are employed as they were at the time even in church. These include the sackbut and dulcian which is a sort of bassoon which was especially popular.

The booklet and the disc are within a compact cardboard casing with that excellent essay. Composer biographies and photos are present and correct as well as texts that are well translated into English alongside the original. The recording is clear and intimate and well balanced. Good fun throughout.
Gary Higginson


MusicWeb International – Recording of the Month


We’re pretty lucky in Melbourne to have access to musicians of this calibre. Although we’re about to lose Siobhan Stagg to the UK for a while, you can hear this Melbourne born virtuosic soprano on the latest disc from early music group, La Compania. When listening to this disc, the word that popped into my head was ‘groovy’. In every track there’s a terrific groove that gets your toe tapping, even on the more lyrical songs. This is a seriously good disc that is well worth repeated listens.
Kate Rockstrom

Readings – Top Classical Recordings 2012



El fuego

‘Renaissance Music from Italy and Spain’
ABC Classics 476 5955

Right from the opening piece Chacona “A la vida bona” by Juan Arañés (from the Libro Segundo de tonos y villancicos, Rome 1624), the group gets into it and sets the bar high. You rarely hear this music performed so cheekily and so free and when you do, it’s from the best period ensembles here in Europe. The Australians not only keep up but are able to sail elegantly ahead…  The high musicality of the performers and the quality of their performance is especially evident in the more solemn renaissance pieces, which are always played in an exciting and pulsating manner. 

The finale of this super recording, Flecha’s fuego can hardly be extinguished so hot and blazing is the musicianship and the interpretation. This is an interesting Renaissance cd and with it the ensemble La Compania has played it’s way to the top.

Robert Strobl

TOCCATA Alte Musik Aktuell

This wonderful disc is a real departure for the early music community in Australia. Few performers have ever attempted to commit to disc this very adventurous and challenging Spanish repertoire. Sara Macliver’s silvery soprano is ideally suited to it, though, and her colleagues in La Compañia support her admirably. The group’s founders Danny Lucin and Mitchell Cross have created a group which ventures into almost unchartered waters for Australian early music performers, and the results are something they can be proud of.

ABC FM CD of the week

This gifted group of early-music experts, directed by Danny Lucin, performs on period instruments or reconstructions. Sackbuts, cornetti, dulcians, viols, vihuela and Sara Macliver’s soprano combine to give a brilliant recreation of instrumental and vocal music by Willaert, Merulo, Guerrero and Anonymous. Right from the opening chaconne, La Compañia sets a high standard in accuracy and shaping on these treacherous instruments, taking the listener on a romance-flavoured tour, winding up with the title track, a semi-religious, semi-dance piece memorable for its juxtaposition of the temporal and the spiritual. A memorable ABC Classics release.

The Age

In El Fuego, the Australian group La Compañia performs another CD of loud and soft consort music, this time from Spain and Italy. The opening Chacona: A la vida bona by Juan Arañés (d c.1649) captures La Compañia’s delight in the interesting phraseology that this music invites, emphatic hemiolas in this instance, and their seductive use of percussion-castanets here. The unification of the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon and the riches from the discovery of the New World led to an increase in wealth and patronage mirrored in the growth of musicians employed; instrumental groups were employed in cathedrals, typically cornetts, shawms, trombones and dulcian. Francisco Guerrero, maestro di capella at Seville, is represented by two exquisite villancicos de navidad- which were commonly performed in the cathedral porch as a Christmas diversion. In A un niño llorano, describing the Christ child crying in the freezing cold, La Compañia does not shy away from orchestrating in a musically satisfying manner on the pretext of lack of specific evidence; thus it opens with voice with plucked accompaniment, to which is added strings and then brass. The disc takes its title from the extended concluding item-El Fuego by Mateo Flecha, which juxtaposes markedly contrasting moods: lively rhythmic dances with more reflective sections. In this piece and throughout the disc, the excellent soprano Sara Macliver captures the contrasting rhetoric of the words with consummate skill.

The balletto L’innamorato, published in Venice by the Italian, Giovanni Giacomo Gastoldi, became an international bestseller, reprinting over 30 times, and strongly influenced the ballets of Thomas Morley. La Compañia performs it with vocal verses interspersed with instrumental ritornellos decorated with copious light-hearted divisions. Italians linked to St Mark’s feature strongly with music by Adrian Willaert-who was maestro di cappella between 1527 and 1562-his pupil Nicola Vincentino and Claudio Merulo, who was the first organist from 1564. Throughout this disc variety is maintained by a carefully orchestrated approach. Anything with a dance element is given percussion to add colour; this is used imaginatively even including the ‘clutch and ring’ effect on the triangle derived from late 20th-century populist music in the anonymous Ben venga maggio.

Oxford Journals Robinson L, The Spice of Life Early Music.2008; 36,3: 482-485

La Compañia was established in 1997, with Danny Lucin and Mitchell Cross as its musical directors. Based in Melbourne, and drawing on a number of Australian instrumentalists specialising in early music, La Compañia has worked pretty extensively in concerts and festivals in Australia. This is the band’s second CD; the first – which I haven’t heard – issued in 2000, was Music of the Spanish Renaissance (Move Records MD 3225). That CD presumably had a somewhat narrower focus than this second CD, a relatively loosely conceived anthology.

On seven of the nineteen tracks, the soprano voice of Sara Macliver is featured. She sings with a kind of pert charm in the anonymous ‘Niña y viña’ and uses the top of her voice with great purity in Manuel Machado’s delightful ‘Dos estrellas le siguen’ which, with its relatively minimal accompaniment is a lovely contrast to the very busy music surrounding it on many of the other tracks. In the lengthy piece which gives the CD its title, ‘El fuego’ by Matheo Flecha, the elder, she handles the changing moods very effectively, though perhaps neither she nor the instrumentalists of La Compañia quite persuade us of the intensity with which the fires of sin burn in the opening of Flecha’s but at the piece’s conclusion she sings radiantly of the saving ‘pure water’ of the incarnate Christ.

As an instrumental ensemble, La Compañia can offer a rich palette of colours and tones. Danny Lucin brings an attractive vocal quality (without exaggeration) to much of his work on the cornetto; the sackbuts of Glenn Bardwell and Bob Collins are played throughout with precision and appropriate power. Rhythms are lively and properly insistent – not least in the suite of anonymous dance music, compiled from a variety of Florentine sources, which draws on popular songs such as ‘Ben venga maggio’ and ‘En questo ballo’.

It is good to hear Pedro Guerrero’s remarkable ‘La perra mora’, with its metre of 5/2, which and Antonio de Cabezón’s version of Maistre Gosse’s ‘Je fille quant dieu me donne de quoy’, both of which elicit some expressive playing from all concerned.

Indeed, there’s nothing here that isn’t well worth the hearing. If I have a reservation it is the miscellaneous nature of the programme, in which it is hard to discern real continuities or patterns of development. Good as Michael McNab’s booklet notes are, they don’t really persuade one that there is any very precise unifying factor in the proceedings. But perhaps it doesn’t have to be like that. If you simply want a miscellany of solo vocal and instrumental music from sixteenth century Spain and Italy this would be a pretty enjoyable one to have.

MusicWeb International

Music from the Spanish Renaissance

Move Records

La Compañia is set to broaden the horizons of early music in Australia with their exciting new CD, Music of the Spanish Renaissance. Featuring the expressive voice of soprano Vivien Hamilton and a variety of period instruments including cornetto, shawms, recorder, sackbuts, vihuela and percussion. Generously filled with seventeen tracks, this recording pays tribute to some of the great Spanish composers of the period and captures the joyful spirit of the 16th century minstrel band. The music is rhythmic, colourful, exciting and above all, spontaneous!

A feast for the ears

Sunday Herald Sun

The music is extremely attractive … helps you set the scene of drums, sackbuts and cornetts … The playing seems confident, assured and competent… If you find that they are performing near you I would strongly recommend a concert outing

ABC 24 Hours

this CD is well worth buying . there are some great tunes on this disc that cover a wide range of feeling . to hear any of these instruments played at this level is a real treat

Australian Trombone Journal

much rhythmic excitement is created by the wonderful percussion and improvisational inspirations of other players . many timbres are used . a fresh sonority to me.

Early Music Society of Victoria

A thumping good recording. Buy one

Early Music News, NSW

The appeal of the music is high … the musical preparation is thorough and the recording well-balanced and forward.

Sydney Morning Herald

an excellent ensemble performing an unusual and beautiful repertoire … I heartily recommend that you buy yourself a copy

Early Music Queensland

an attractive mix … the performances here are a constant delight … a gem of a recording

Canberra Times