El Mundo Kicks off Houston Early Music Season, 10/12

Grammy-nominated ensemble El Mundo will kick off the Houston Early Music season with a program of 17th- and 18th-century Spanish, Italian and Latin American music at Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church on Friday, October 12, at 7:30 p.m. Part of the Hispanic Heritage Series, the program is titled "The Kingdoms of Castille" and will feature music from the group's CD of the same name, nominated for a Grammy Award last year.

Directed by world-renowned guitarist and lutenist Richard Savino, El Mundo will take listeners on a musical journey from the Castilian courts and cathedrals to Spanish-influenced Italian cities like Naples and on to the New World, where classical tradition blended with indigenous dances to create a unique Hispanic style that still exists today.

Spanish music during the Baroque period was a rich mixture of Christian, Arabic, Jewish and Gypsy influences. They helped shape the form of such resilient vocal genres as the villancico, popular on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as the chaconne, originally a suggestive dance that may have come from South America.

Singing villancicos, as well as other works, will be such well-known vocalists as Nell Snaidas, Paul Shipper and Jennifer Ellis-Kampani. There will also be instrumental works, including a chaconne and other lively dances. These will be performed by violinists who include Houston-born Adam LaMotte and Lisa Grodin, cellist William Skeen and harpsichordist Matthew Dirst, along with Savino on guitar and theorbo.

In his review of the "Kingdoms of Castille" CD, Fanfare music critic Bertil van Boer said El Mundo "is crisp and clean in performance, with tempos that keep the music alive and rhythmically active." He praised the group for giving "probably the best performance of these works to date," calling the program "entertaining" and "delightful."

Besides a short symphonia by Domenico Scarlatti, the concert will feature music by Andrea Falconieri, Virgilio Mazzocchi, José Marin, Francesco Manelli, Juan Hidalgo and other composers from the Old and New Worlds.

This will be the fourth visit to Houston by El Mundo, which was founded in 1999 in San Francisco by Savino, a professor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and at the California State University at Sacramento. He has directed the Aston Magna Academy and Music Festival many times, as well as the Connecticut Early Music Festival, and is the recipient of a Diapason d'Or, the French equivalent of the Grammy.

El Mundo will present "The Kingdoms of Castille" on Friday, October 12, at 7:30 p.m. at Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church, 4930 West Bellfort St., Houston, Texas 77035. Part of the Hispanic Heritage Series, the program will be preceeded by a talk with ensemble members at 6:45 p.m.

Full season subscriptions to the Houston Early Music 2012-2013 season can be purchased at HoustonEarlyMusic.org. A mini-pass option is also offered. Individual tickets are $35, $30 for seniors, and $10 for students, and admission is free for children under 15. For more information, email info@HoustonEarlyMusic.org or call 281-846-4222.

Exploring history through music is a Houston Early Music hallmark. The group presents the world's finest period ensembles and soloists, bringing to life music from the Middle Ages through the Renaissance to the Baroque and Classical periods and providing unique programming and concerts performed with historical instruments and styles true to the period.

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