The origins of the Songs of the Sibyls date back to the 6th century BC. Semi-divine beings, their oracular powers enabled them to predict the future. The myth of the sibyl was appropriated by the early Christians to prophesy the second coming of Christ, heralding the last judgment and the end of the world. This mythological element survived as late as the Middle Ages and even the Renaissance. Originally sung in Latin, the Songs of the Sibyls were traditionally performed by a young boy disguised as a woman during Matins on Christmas Day or during Holy Week in France, Italy and especially the Iberian Peninsula from the 10th century.
Who doesn't love a lullaby? As a tribute "to all mothers and children", singer Montserrat Figueras offers this unusual program of 18 such songs from diverse sources and anonymous composers–Portuguese, English, Greek, Catalan, Hebrew, Sephardic, and North African–as well as pieces written by the likes of Byrd, Mussorgsky, Reger, Falla, Milhaud, and Pärt (two lullabies composed for this recording). Accompaniments show the stylish hand and always-tasteful imaginings of Jordi Savall and the instrumentalists of Hesperion XXI–viols, guitar, flutes, psaltery, harp–and, in three tracks, the piano of Paul Badura-Skoda. Although the liner notes prime us to expect very simple, repetitive tunes, Figueras transforms these ostensibly sleep-inducing songs into high, mind-and-ear-engaging art, embellishing, shaping, and imbuing them with deeply felt expression, sometimes wistful and at others fervent, but always delivered as if in intimate, personal touch with her listener(s).
This disc of Iberian and Latin American Renaissance music is a reissue cleverly disguised as a new release. It compiles music from several recordings by Catalonian visionary Jordi Savall, his luminous-voiced collaborator Montserrat Figueras, and his Hesperion XXI and Capella Reial de Catalunya ensembles, dressing them up with a new set of rather philosophical booklet notes on themes of change, of intercultural tolerance, and of the evolving nature of Christianity in the Iberian realm and in New Spain. Some might call this a cynical ploy, but actually Savall has always been moving in a circle, so to speak, spiraling inward toward a deeper musical understanding of the historical themes touched on here: the lingering effects of the legacy of medieval Iberia and its "mestissage" or mixture of cultures, the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Charles (Carlos) V (did you know that he was both the first monarch to be called "His Majesty" and the first to be honored with the claim that the "sun never set" on his empire?), and the relationships between cultivated and popular styles, both in Iberia and the New World.
This reissue in the Heritage Series - the original album was released in 1988 - enables us to hear the unique Montserrat Figueras singing a repertoire she embodies like nobody else : the traditional songs of Catalonia. This performance is the natural continuation of her exploration of the great works connected to Catalogne,eg: the Song of the Sybille or the Red Book of Montserrat (Gregorian manuscript): on this shore of Mediterranean Sea, traditional and "classical" repertoires are connected in a very intimate way. This album is a landmark of in the career of Montserrat Figueras: her innovative style of interpretation, characterised by great fidelity to the historical sources combined with an extraordinary creative and expressive power, sounds at its best.
This album takes off from where a previous Jordi Savall release, Villancicos y danzas criollas (Creole Dances and Villancicos), left off. Now Savall, aided by his wife and lead vocalist Montserrat Figueras, as well as several of his longtime co-conspirators, has formed a new group, Tembembe Ensamble Continuo, specifically devoted to the Latin American Baroque repertory heard here. The album is accompanied by an impressive 172-page booklet, with all texts in the original language, generally Spanish but with mixtures of Native American and African speech, English, French, Castilian Spanish, German, and Italian, and booklet notes (in all those languages plus Catalan), including an overview of the genres involved plus a historical essay on the culture of the Spanish-colonized Latin-Caribbean region.
This album, originally recorded in 1992, was remastered in 2008 and issued as part of the Heritage series of Jordi Savall's Alia Vox label in a nifty combination of reissue and improvement. The album certainly qualifies as one of the greatest hits of Savall (whose role here is as gambist, with a small ensemble of northern European players ) and his wife, soprano Montserrat Figueras, who is the star of the show. Figueras' vocals are as usual a central attraction, with their incredible combination of suppleness, accuracy over a wide range, expression, and Iberian gutsiness. But the program here, though somewhat removed from the Iberian core of the Figueras/Savall repertory, is equally compelling.
PRO PACEM is a new CD-Book project that makes a plea for a world without war or terrorism and for total nuclear disarmament. It presents a sound mosaic that takes the form of a living dialogue of spiritually expressive vocal and instrumental music from a variety of repertoires from East (Armenia, Turkey, Sepharad, India, Israel and China) and West (Greece, Spain, England, Portugal, Italy, Estonia and Belgium).
In AliaVox’s release of the album Entremeses Del Siglo De Oro: Lope de Vega y su tiempo (1550-1650), which translates to “Intermission [music] of the Golden Century: Lope de Vega and his era,” we find soprano Montserrat Figueras and the group Hespèrion XX, Jordi Savall conducting, bringing us some of the finest examples of period music that I know of. The voice of Montserrat Figueras has the limpid and pure quality of a fine recorder, that is, each note is nearly as possible free from embellishment that became part and parcel of vocal training in the following centuries. The ensemble playing of Hespèrion, a group I’ve known for ten years, has never sounded better. Hats off to Jordi Savall. The music itself is akin to entre-act music written for the Elizabethan theater, most notably Shakespeare’s plays. You’ll note the similarity of the Spanish word entremeses and the English word intermission.
This album gathers highlights from Montserrat Figueras career for the Astrée, DHM, EMI and Alia Vox labels. 5 of the 35 tracks have already been reissued in a portrait album released in the 1990s by Astrée, La 'Voix de l Emotion'. Jordi Savall wanted to keep the same title for this much more comprehensive double album, in tribute to the late Montserrat Figueras, his wife and collaborator of 43 years. 35 year-career: 35 tracks a dazzlingly clear soprano voice, a line of the purest silk, as strong as it was delicate.