Christmas music in Latin American art-music tradition during the colonial period means mostly villancicos. Consequently, villancicos form the bulk of the present collection. The works transcribed here are seventeenth-century examples of standard forms of villancicos, and various other types, such as negro or negrilla, jácara, calenda, gallego, all with some folk music character. Twelve of a total of seventeen examples come from the Mexican Sánchez Garza collection, outstanding for its holdings of music manuscripts of Hispanic American and Spanish composers of the period. This collection was partially catalogued by Robert Stevenson in Renaissance and Baroque Musical Sources in the Americas (Washington, D. C., 1970). This catalogue is reproduced here. Four of the remaining items come from the Puebla Cathedral archive, and one from Madrid Biblioteca Nacional. Some of these examples were transcribed with realizations of the basso continuo (a typical feature of Baroque music) as part of the volume II of Tesoro de la música polifónica en México, as yet unpublished. For no apparent reason, the author omits here these realizations which are essential for modern performance.
The anthology includes pieces by such notable Spaniards as Sebastián Durón and Juan Hidalgo, by the Portuguese Fray Francisco de Santiago and Fray Gerónimo González (Gonçalves de Mendonça), and by the celebrated Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, Juan García, José de Loaysa y Agurto, and Antonio de Salazar, among others, all active at Puebla or Mexico City. The selection of works indicates very pertinently the stylistic differences cultivated by Peninsular and New World composers. Particularly welcome by the historian or musicologist is the scholarly material that precedes the musical text itself. This material comprises a critical summary of the previous studies on the origins of Mexico’s traditional Christmas music, a bibliographical introduction to the Baroque villancico in both Spain and Mexico, an excellent appraisal of performance practice problems posed by the repertory, and copious biographical information on the composers represented in the anthology. The transcriptions of the villancicos texts should be appreciated by anyone who has had little or no exposure to pseudoNegro or Galician dialects used in the many negrillas and gallegos written in colonial Hispanic America. As in his previous publications, the impressive command of the author on bibliographical matters dealing with his subject is made quite evident. Considering the scarcity of colonial music available in modern editions, and the qualitative sampling presented here, this volume should be greeted with enthusiasm.