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Born in Santa Fé on the Rio Paraná north of Buenos Aires, Ariel Ramírez began teaching in a rural mountain post when he was 19. There he became fascinated with the music of the Indians, gauchos, and creoles, which has since been the inspiration for most of his music. He studied folk traditions formally at the Academy of Vienna and the Institute of Hispanic Culture in Madrid in the early 1950s.

When Ramírez returned to Argentina, he started collecting Andean folk songs, many of which he subsequently published and recorded. He has composed over 400 songs in popular styles, some of which have been recorded by artists such as the tenors Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, and José Cura.

In 1963, after the Second Vatican Council authorized vernacular mass settings, Ramírez created his widely popular Misa Criolla on a Spanish translation of the traditional liturgical text, including folkloric interpolations such as the "lara, lara" passage in the Credo. Each movement of the compact mass is based on specific folk material, particularly dance rhythms: the austere vidala-baguala of northern Argentina for the Kyrie, the carnavalito and yaraví from the same area for the Gloria, the obsessive chacerera trunca from central Argentina for the Credo, the syncopated Bolivian carnaval cochabambino for the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei is composed in the characteristic style of the southern pampas.

The vocal writing is light and lively, distinguished by numerous call-and-response passages, such as the carnavalito sections of the Gloria. (The choral arrangements are by Jesús Gabriel Segade, who conducted the first Philips recording in 1964.) The idiomatic orchestration enlists keyboard, guitar, and bass with a trio of percussionists.

-- John Henken is the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Director of Publications.