Nationalism and the Rescue of Mexico's Musical Past: The URTEXT discs and Música del Nuevo Mundo (A Report)  

Dr. Thomas Stanford, President

Instituto de Identidad y Cultura

Universidad Anáhuac del Sur

México City

hen I enrolled in my freshman year at the University of Southern California in 1946, one of my teachers was Dr. Alice Ray, whose doctoral dissertation was on the masses for double choir of Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla. She told us of the musical treasures in the Mexico and Puebla cathedrals, and I participated in the first reading in three centuries of the Misa 'Ego flos campi' of this master.

I arrived in Mexico on the second of January of 1956, with a letter from Carlos Chávez in hand, and the intention of enrolling in the National University (UNAM). The existence of these archives was ever-present in my mind, but it was not until 1965, and the visit of Dr. Lincoln Spiess, that I was able to make the necessary contacts for access to them. My initial thought was to scour them for references to genres that would be relevant to my investigations at the time, which concentrated on traditional forms that I was documenting in the course of fieldwork in the Mexican provinces. But, upon beholding the sheer volume of these, it became immediately apparent that cataloging would be necessary. I had by then been working for the Mexican Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) since late 1956. For the next two years, assisted during nine months by Dr. Spiess, I cataloged the musical collections of the above-mentioned cathedrals and several other collections. Simultaneously I began transcribing representative works, a few of which appeared years later (1982ff) in volumes published by the UNAM: La música de México, Julio Estrada, general editor; and one in the Anales del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (XVIII, 1967, 235ff). In 1974, I published my El villancico y el corrido mexicano (México, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia), product of this research.

During the next two decades I felt as if I were sitting on top of a treasure. The cathedral archives had been microfilmed and I had prepared a card catalog of their contents. I received occasional phone calls and letters regarding them, and several dozen copies of the 150-some reels were sold to institutions and investigators abroad, the first in 1971 to Dr. Peter Gaffney, director of the Coro Hispano of Misión Dolores, San Francisco. These were lean years.

In 1989, finally, I was approached by Benjamín Juárez Echenique, director of the Conjunto de Cámara del Distrito Federal (Mexico City), and asked to assist in the rescue of Colonial and 19th century works for premier in the first Gran Festival Ciudad de México. I provided copies of works that I had transcribed years earlier, and the names of other works, together with roll numbers in the microfilm series. An album of two CDs was a by-product of the series of concerts: 450 Años de Música Mexicana (México, Departamento del Distrito Federal, 1989).

The next year, by conduct of the Departamento del Distrito Federal, I obtained funding for the capture of the rough copy of the catalog of the materials that I have processed in Mexican music archives, and this was concluded the following year. That same year I entered in the employ of the Universidad Anáhuac del Sur as a full-time investigator charged with the transcription of works in the microfilms and the preparation of these for concert. From that date to the present, we have organized various public concerts each year.

Shortly thereafter, we founded a nonprofit organization, Música del Nuevo Mundo, A.C., with Mtro. Benjamín Juárez as its head, that could serve us for the funneling of funds to the diverse projects that we are elaborating.

In 1993, with financial support from the cultural trusteeship of the Chase Manhattan Bank in Mexico, we produced an album of CDs containing Christmas works by Ignacio Jerusalem. In the concerts that paralleled the release of these, we mounted a Christmas cantata and various responsories from the Matins of the Virgin of Guadalupe, in addition to the works included in one of the discs. Urtext has released the latter, subsequently, as México Barroco II in a series.

In 1994, with funding from Celanese Mexicana, we produced another album, one disc of which contains the Gran Misa a 8 of Jerusalem, his Magnificat a dúo and a Te Deum (1829) by Francisco Delgado. This has now been released as México Barroco I in the same Urtext series. One of the associated concert performances was held at the Sala Netzahualcoyotl of the UNAM with great success.

This same year Urtext was founded, a record label filial of Peerless de México. The label is devoted to releases of works by Mexican composers of all historical periods, by composers in Mexico, and to performances of other repertoires by Mexican artists. The artistic assessor of the releases is Marisa Canales, well known flutist and wife of Benjamín Juárez, this latter being, probably, the foremost living Mexican orchestral conductor and another prime mover at Urtext. The records are released in very elegant presentations, and descriptives booklets with texts in four languages. They are on sale in the US and Europe.

Too, in 1995 we succeeded in obtaining support from the government of the State of Puebla, by the offices of the governor, Manuel Bartlett, for a series of records containing works deriving from the music archive of the Puebla Cathedral, as well as several of field recordings taken by the present writer and students of his Ethnomusicology Workshop at the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH). The next year we produced a first record in this new series, México Barroco / Puebla I, of the 1653 Christmas matins of Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla. This was a first for recordings in Mexico in the employ of period musical instruments. This disc was succeeded the same year by two more, México Barroco II and III, with masses by Fabián Ximeno and Padilla, interpreted again by Angelicum (for Puebla de los Ángeles, the full name of that city). This ensemble was founded by maestro Juárez ex profeso for the recordings and the associated concerts, and is characterized by its employ of 16th and 17th century instruments and performance practice.

This year we have produced two records more, and are presently working on two more. To be released shortly are one containing the Misa de la Batalla of Fabián Ximeno (based on an abridged version of the famous Jannequin chanson found in one of the choirbooks of the Puebla archive); and another with a mass by José San Juan (1711-?). The latter is a Spanish composer who disappeared from the Iberian Peninsula around 1745 without a trace; we are tempted to think that he might have arrived in Mexico, since his works, of great quality, are present in both the Mexico City and Puebla cathedral music collections. A third CD is being prepared to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the founding of the Biblioteca Nacional, and is comprised exclusively of works by Ignacio Jerusalem: villancicos, loas, psalms, antiphons and a hymn. The fourth is of the 1652 Christmas Matins of Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla, with guitar, harp, regal and bajón accompaniment. 

In August of this year, an Institute has been founded at the Universidad Anáhuac del Sur: Instituto de Identidad y Cultura. It agglutinates investigators in the newly formed Facultad de Humanidades in the fields of music, architecture, anthropology, communications and plastic arts for the present, but is intended to eventually cover other fields, such as history and philosophy. The goal of this Institute is to promote an appreciation for the cultural legacy of Mexico among its citizens, through programs of research and public relations (concerts, publications, lectures, congresses, etc.). With co-sponsorship of the University of the Vatican, as well as other local institutions, we are presently organizing a congress entitled Mexicanidad / Historia, Cultura y Religiones. To be held at the Colegio de la Paz (Vizcaínas), it is hoped that this congress may become a yearly event.

We have various discs pending. I am presently transcribing a Maitines para la Santísima Trinidad by Antonio Salazar; and we have the Lamentaciones de Miércoles Santo of Ignacio Jerusalem, as well as his Christmas cantada and numerous other short works, already prepared. These are projected for the first semester of 1998. The next Christmas Matins of Padilla will be the 1651 cycle, to be performed in the Holiday Season 1998.

It has been an extremely gratifying experience working with Mexican church archives. Of course, there are works of scarce merit to be found here; but it is not at all difficult to unearth masterpieces from among them. In fact, church musicians in Mexico commanded salaries that were roughly double those paid in the Iberian Peninsula. This, undoubtedly, was a principal reason that composers of the rank of Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla and Ignacio Jerusalem y Stella, to mention only two, were readily willing to sign the contract of no return in Seville, and make the trip across the Atlantic.

Personally, I have mostly concentrated on the transcription of the works of Jerusalem. We have at our disposal microfilms of more than 220 of his compositions. My transcriptions, to date, account for about a third of them. We are in the process of copyrighting these, and it is our intention to make them, as well as transcriptions of works by other authors, available on loan to interested parties (scores and parts). I fancy an Opera Omnia of Jerusalem, one of the most singularly Mexican of the composers who served in the churches here, despite his Neapolitan birth; also one of the most prolific.

There is another matter that I think convenient to mention here: The music archives of the cathedrals of Mexico City and Puebla are fully microfilmed, and copies of these films may be obtained from the Biblioteca Nacional de Antropología e Historia / INAH in the Museum of Anthropology, Calle Gandhi s/n, Bosque de Chapultepec, México, D. F. Correspondence should be directed to Lic. Connie Méndez, head of the Audiovisual Archives. Recently, the cost has been 500 pesos per 100-ft. reel. Queries as to the content of the microfilms and the localization of specific works in them may be directed to me, either at home: (525) 543-7656, early morning or late at night, or at the University: (525) 628-8864, mornings. I have the soon-to-be-published catalog in a database that can be consulted readily while on the phone.