This is another extrardinary CD from Los Otros who, true to their name, like to bring out the ‘otherness’ in early music. Here they explore the repertory for plucked strings (with some percussion and viol) hinted at in a little known treatise for the cittern by Sebastián de Aguirre from late 17th-century Mexico. The pungent sound of the metal-stringed cittern is the centrepiece, but there is plenty of contrast offered by the viola da gamba and treble viol, the chitarrone and Baroque guitar as well as the Mexican xarana, apparently similar to a Baroque guitar.
Aguirre’s treatise, and the other sources drawn on here by Sanz, Martínez y Coll and Holborne (his Spanish Pavan), afford the melodies and/or harmonic patterns that form the basis of what seem to be genuinely improvised (or as near to genuine as can be captured on disc) versions. There is no doubting the musical skills and imagination of these four players and even if some moments work less well, or some choices (I’m not so taken by the combination of cittern and triangle in Aguirre’s La Oleada) are less convincing, the overall impact is mesmeric for its sheer brilliance and inventiveness. You’ll never have heard a version of the Folias like this one, and the elaborations of other well-known 17th-century dance patterns such as the Marizápalos or Canarios reveal the extent to which these musicians are at one with the harmonic and melodic idiom of the period yet can let their musical imaginations roam freely. An intriguing and very enticing CD.