Founded in Philadelphia in 1980, Piffaro performs 15th- through 17th-century music. Under the artistic direction of Joan Kimball and Robert Wiemken, the ensemble has released 16 CDs since 1992, including four on the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon/Archiv Produktion label, as well as on Dorian Recordings and Parma/Navano. In 2011, Piffaro produced Music in New Spain, a Center-funded project that explored the historic music resulting from Spain's encounter with indigenous civilizations in Central and South America during its 16th-century imperial expansion. In 2015, Piffaro received Center support to present The Musical World of Don Quixote, a music and movement performance offering audiences a distinctive interpretation of Miguel de Cervantes' four-century-old classic, Don Quixote.
Piffaro, the Renaissance Band, produced two programs exploring contrasts among Iberian musical cultures in the mid-17th century. The first, performed with Choral Arts Philadelphia, recreated music from a Marian Vespers as it would have been celebrated in Lisbon during the reign of John IV. This Vespers followed the rubrics of a service, with the appropriate psalms, hymns, motets and antiphons by 17th-century Portuguese composers, including Rebelo, Melgàs, and Correa. The second program featured Spanish theater music by Juan Hidalgo. Songs, dances, and selections based on musical cues from the plays of Lope de Vega (and reconstructed by Piffaro member Grant Herreid) were performed by soprano Ellen Hargis; dancer and violinist Julie Andrijeski; and plucked string players Patrick O'Brien, Scott Pauley, and Daniel Swenberg. Piffaro was also joined by cornettist Kiri Tollaksen, and wind players Mack Ramsey and Erik Schmalz.