7 to 9 pm ET

Live Broadcast


Jonatan Alvarado and Ariel Abramovich: Huehuetenango

The Argentine early music specialists explore sixteenth-century Guatemalan musical manuscripts. 

7 to 9 pm ET

Live Broadcast



Jonatan Alvarado is an Argentine singer and guitarist specializing in early music currently living in the Netherlands. In collaboration with guitarist Ariel Abramovich (who appeared in our series a few seasons ago) Alvarado explores a beautiful, mysterious musical manuscript compiled in northwest Guatemala in the late sixteenth century. The manuscripts were used in Santa Eulalia, San Juan Ixcoi, and San Mateo Ixtatan in the department of Huehuetenango. Some of the pieces are signed by maestros de capilla Francisco de León and Tomás Pascual, and there are also anonymous pieces alongside compositions by the popular European composers of the time, including Claudin de Sermissy and Philippe Verdelot. 

This program explores the repertoire through a dialogue with contemporary European collections, including the famous Cancionero de Upsala, the tablature collections by Pierre Attaignant, with special emphasis on pieces that are exclusive to the Guatemalan books.


I. Liturgical Music for the Mass and the Office 
1. Virgen Madre de Dios Ms. 7, f. 5r (only alto and bass preserved)
2. Pleni sunt de la Misa sine nomine Ms. 1, ff. 14v - 15r
3. Antiphona Ad Magnificat: ‘Gloriose Virginis’ Antifonario 13 f. 7v Magnificat 8 toni Ms. 2, ff. 15v - 17r
4. Benedicamus Domino Ms. 3, ff. 33v - 34r Ms.
5, f. 23v; ff. 31v - 32r Deo Gratias 8/26 Based on Ms. 8, ff. 27v - 28r

II. The Manuscript no. 8 and its Motet collection
5. Paratum cor meum (‘Le content est riche’) [Claudin de Sermissy] Ms. 8, ff. 48v - 49r 6. Pater Noster Ms. 8, ff. 61v - 62r
7. O bone Jesu [Juan de Anchieta] Ms. 8, ff. 58v - 59r

III. Four Villancicos and one Romance
8. ¿Con qué la lavaré? ‘Morraleos’ [Juan Vasquez] Ms. 8, ff. 51v - 52r
9. Mulier quit ploras [‘Puse mis amores en Fernandillo’] [Juan Vasquez] Ms. 8, ff. 21v - 22r
10. Acorranaternum Based on Ms. 2, ff. 7v - 8r Text by Juan del Encina
11. Romance [De Antequera sale el moro] Ms. 2, ff. 1v - 2r
12. Dame acojida Ms. 4, ff. 21v - 22r Copla from the Cancioneiro de Belem, ff. 66v; Daza, ‘El Parnaso’, f. 96v - 97r

All editions made by Jonatan Alvarado, except # 2. by Richard O. Garven; and # 3. by Paul Borg. All tablatures made by Ariel Abramovich, except # 12 from ‘El Parnaso’, by Daza

Jonatan Alvarado - Tenor
Ariel Abramovich - Vihuela in ‘sol by Martin Haycock (2011) Vihuela in ‘la by Francisco Hervás (2021)
Gus Abreu - Cinematography and editing
Isaac Palacín - Recording, music editing and mixing
Daniel Abalo - Light design Beatriz Fontán - Production
Samuel Diz - Coordination Recorded at the Chapel of San Vicente, in Tui Cathedral May 20th, 2021



Alvarado started studying guitar in his native Mercedes in the province of Buenos Aires, and studied also composition and conducting in the Universidad Nacional de La Plata, where he became familiar with early music. He graduated in voice and lute from the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, where he studied with Rebecca Stewart. Alvarado is music director and co-founder of the ensemble Seconda Prat!ca, dedicated to renaissance and early baroque Latin American music, and founding member of Da Tempera Velha, a group specializing in Spanish early music. He collaborates frequently with early musci ensebles such as La Chimera, Club Medieval, Sollazzo Ensemble, and Armonia Concertada. He has appeared in the most important European stages, including the Ambronay, Sablé, Royaumont, Laus Polyphonie Antwerp, Utrecht, Estocolmo, and Resonanzen Vienna Festivals, among others. His first solo CD, Pajarillos Fugitivos, weas released by Ayros and nominated to the International Classic Music Awards. Upcoming recordings include the debut of Da Tempera Velha, which will revisit the famous Cancionero de Palacio, and an album dedicated to early 20th-century Argentine popular music with Jessica Denys.

A native of Buenos Aires, Abramovich began studying guitar in his teens and later discovered his passion for jazz and popular Latin American music under the tutelage of Norberto Pedreira, Quique Sinesi, and Miguel de Olaso, who exposed him to Renaissance music. While still a teenager, he devoted himself exclusively to the repertoire for lute and sixteenth-century vihuela, with Dolores Costoyas and Eduardo Egüez. In 1996 he moved to Switzerland to study with Hopkinson Smith at the Schola Cantorum Basel. In 1998 he founded the duo El Cortesano with alto José Hernández-Pastor. In 2008 Abramovich embarked upon a duo project with leading British early music tenor John Potter, revisiting English lute song from the late sixteenth to the early seventeenth century. Over the last few years, they have presented numerous performances throughout Europe with several programs, culminating in a recording of their own arrangements of Renaissance vocal polyphony (ECM, 2011). In 2013, he founded the duo "Armonía Concertada" with María Cristina Kiehr, dedicated to sixteenth-century Italian and Spanish music for voice and plucked strings. The duo's first album, Imaginario: de un libro de música de vihuela, appeared in 2019. With Jacob Heringman he has released Cifras Imaginarias, an album dedicated to lute and vihuela tablatures. Abramovich is also a member of Da Tempera Velha. Since relocating to Seville in 2000, Abramovich has dedicated his focus to these collaborative projects: he has presented programs with French lutenist Eugène Ferré, Scandinavian soprano Anna Maria Friman, flutist and director Michael Form, and Argentine lutenists Evangelina Mascardi, Mónica Pustilnik, and Dolores Costoyas, among others. 

This concert is part of GEMAS, a project of Americas Society and Gotham Early Music Scene devoted to early music of the Americas.

Program Notes

The Latin American Music Library at Indiana University preserves a 15-volume collection of polyphonic music and Gregorian chant from the current Department of Huehuetenango, in northern Guatemala. Originally compiled between 1582 and 1635, these rare books are testimony to the musical practice of a remote community, surrounded by the highest mountain ranges in Central America, and therefore far from the great colonial urban centers, its imposing cathedrals with their choirs and their studios…

The Huehuetenango archive is the result of several interruptions: the European invasion interrupts the history of the original inhabitants, while their own artistic production interrupts the European monopoly on Renaissance musical history. Eventually, the missions themselves are interrupted and the function of these manuscripts changes completely, reaching us as remnants of a musical culture whose dimension and variety can only be intuited.

The quantity and quality of pieces represented in this collection - more than 350 works - make it an unavoidable repertoire for anyone interested not only in understanding the circulation of printed and handwritten music in colonial America, but also the complex and mysterious ways in which European ways of music making were manifested through native minds, hands, and voices. Indeed, the Guatemalan manuscripts contain much of the music in vogue in the mid-sixteenth century in Spain, France, and Italy. One of the manuscripts in particular, number 8, preserves an impressive number of Parisian chansons and Florentine madrigals, all of them without their original texts and most often under Latin names, which reveals the appropriation of originally secular vocal music for instrumental, and perhaps liturgical use. Manuscript number 1 contains no fewer than three Masses of the seven that are preserved in this collection. Two of them by Ceballos and Morales, both renowned Spanish composers, and the rest apparently composed by Guatemalan composers. Practically all the volumes contain polyphonic psalms to be sung during the prayers of Vespers and Compline, as well as the corresponding Gregorian antiphons, alongside all sorts of hymns and short responses for various celebrations.

The repertoire in vernacular is best represented in manuscript number 7, with works composed by what is considered the first native composer whose written work is preserved: Tomás Pascual. It was also he who compiled most of these volumes, as evidenced by the signature in his own handwriting on several of the books. These novo-Spanish works alternate with Christmas carols by great peninsular names such as Juan Vásquez and Mateo Flecha, as well as with highly popular sacred works in Spain during the first half of the sixteenth century, by court composers such as Urrede, Ribera, Escobar and Anchieta.

The panorama is completed with numerous anonymous motets found only in this archive, perhaps indications of the variety and quality reached by the musical production of the native communities.

The Project

Although the previous description shows a monumental and highly relevant collection, there are only a handful of albums featuring music from this collection. Carried out by groups specialized in colonial American music, the interpreters have generally paid attention to the works in Spanish and Nahuatl of manuscript 7, obviously locally made, with the intention - genuine and valid - to value the production of the native musicians. However, considering that practically all this repertoire has already been recorded and included in concert programs, our intention is rather to paint a global panorama of the sound universe of this community: what they composed, of course, but also what they liked to sing outside of their own production.

We understand these codices not so much as a mere compilation or thoughtless imitation of all the music that came into their hands, but as privileged testimonies of an aesthetic taste and creativity, whose only record exists thanks to these manuscripts. We are guided by a different vision than that prevailing in the discussion about this archive, which tends to grant European authorship to those anonymous and unique pieces that are considered the most musically sophisticated. We believe that such a stance limits the ability of these objects to reveal the historical potential of the communities that created them, the sophistication, and the artistic and intellectual curiosity that emerges from these documents.

We then seek to reveal the invisible lines that unite the music they chose to copy, their own or that of others, through an eclectic selection, combining local works with foreign works of diverse scale and function, as they alternate in the manuscripts. For this we draw inspiration from contemporary sources such as the numerous court songbooks from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the publications for vihuela and voice published between 1536 and 1576, many of which contain a repertoire consistent with Guatemalan manuscripts.

In this way, we seek to value this archive as a source of equal relevance to other more established and explored ones, celebrating the sensitivity of its composers and compilers; their ability not only to receive knowledge and to safeguard it - which is no small thing - but also to contribute creations of great value to the musical context of their time.

Jonatan Alvarado and Ariel Abramovich


The MetLife Foundation Music of the Americas concert series is made possible by the generous support of Presenting Sponsor MetLife Foundation. The Spring 2021 Music program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.