What a find! Ramirez’s Misa Criolla, probably his most famous work, is a 1964 setting of the mass in Spanish for soloist, chorus and orchestra. In terms of grandeur, it doesn’t compare with the famous masses and requiems of the late romantic and early twentieth century, but it doesn’t need to. Instead the work is personal and reflective, with the settings paying homage to Spanish dance and folk music. A rather daring work considering the subject matter, this was one of the first mass to diverge from the traditional Latin as a result of  the lifting of regulations by the Second Vatican Council.

The opening Kyrie is lullaby-like in its meditative motion and softly caressing melody. Occasional buoyant interjections do not break the serenity as much as remind us of it. The Gloria that follows is undoubtedly the work’s highlight, and at six minutes, feels very much the central movement around which the others revolve. It has a bit of everything: sublimely calm passages reminiscent of Gregorian Chant are interspersed with rhythmic quasi a-capella sections clearly inspired by the folk tradition. This vibrancy continues into the Credo and Sanctus, making using of choral ostinatos and a wide variety of textures to create the dramatic arc of the mass. The Agnus Dei takes a more reflective and sombre tone, but it is nevertheless beautiful in its simplicity. This mass is very much for the choir, the orchestra doesn’t get a mention beyond the accompanying line. However, Ramirez is very much a composer of song, and it is through this that the work’s effortless joy is achieved.

Advertisements