From 18 October to 20 November 2001

A project on a national scale in France

Born of the "Rencontre des deux Mondes" event, everybody has heard of the "Chemins du Baroque en Amérique latine", an ambitious project launched in 1987 by Alain Pacquier and Lionel Lissot to enhance awareness of the immense heritage of baroque music in Latin America. This programme has since travelled around the world. Over half a million compact discs distributed in around 50 countries under the K.617 label (now distributed by Harmonia Mundi) and an impressive number of cultural exchanges and cooperative ventures supported by Fondation Paribas (now BNP Paribas Foundation), the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Association Française d'Action Artistique, have popularised this programme. Recently, it has won two prestigious awards: first, in Latin America, the "Premio Hans Roth" award in Bolivia, commemorating the name of the legendary architect who devoted more than 25 years of his life to the cause of saving the ancient Jesuit missions in Chiquitos and Moxos ; second, in Europe, the "Grand Prix du Mécénat Culturel Européen", awarded jointly to BNP Paribas Foundation and K.617 last autumn.

And yet there was another stage to go, or rather another cape to round, as the Spanish and Portuguese discoverers and sailors used to say. With similar audacity, the subsequent successful completion of this stage took the form of one of the most exciting events in the history of music: the "rediscovery" by French musicians themselves of a musical heritage they still all too often view as reserved for "specialised" groups of musicians. From these developments sprang the idea of the National Latin American Baroque Music Month, held in France from October to November 2001. During this event, all the music scores rediscovered over what will soon be a 15-year quest were made available to French music ensembles, both professional and amateur, who were curious about this music ... and eager to share it!
Indeed, the concept of this National Month was based on the principles of sharing and discovering. From 18 October au 20 November, several music ensembles from Latin America criss-crossed France to meet choral societies, choir schools and chamber orchestras, from Colmar and Dijon in the east, to Rennes in the west, and Aix-en-Provence in the south. The French music groups concerned presented their respective audiences with "their" vision of these masterpieces composed between the 16th and 18th centuries in the sanctuaries of the altiplano in the Andes. Over 35 French towns and cities were visited during this baroque music tour of France, which featured around 60 events.

This joint project was probably the finest initiative taken by all those who tirelessly organised the "Chemins du Baroque". As a souvenir, the K.617 record company has produced a remarkable set of four CD recordings (all conducted by Gabriel Garrido). Contained in a magnificent wooden box decorated with a polychrome angel sculptured by Bolivian craftsmen, the four CDs contain all the baroque operatic works rediscovered in the New World.

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