Savall and Hesperion XXI often return to the same material, almost obsessively; yet this repertory - the interface of early Iberian art music and the traditional - sustains endless re-visiting and re-interpretation; there can never be one definitive interpretation of this endlessly rewarding music, as Renaissance and Baroque composers knew - producing as they did endless variations on traditional themes which had woven their way from the popular sphere to the realm of 'art' music. Some of these bass melodies are presented here - the 'Follia' and 'Canaries' -and it is wonderful that Savall has the artistic freedom to perform versions of these again and again on his own label, Alia Vox.
It is extremely difficult nowadays to reproduce the sound castrato singers where capable of doing at their time and, too often, one finds voices that are too nasal or merely good falsettos. But in many of the performances in this CD one can let the imagination wander and almost imagine you are in the 18th century. In particular, the performance of James Bowmann is outstanding. Also very special the performace of Charpentier 'Salve Regina' by Gerard Lesne and the others; this of course enhanced by the exquisite sensibility of the director Jordi Saval. Also, the duo of Derek Lee Ragin and Ewa Mallas-Godlewska in 'Son qual nave ch'agitata' is so exquisite it brings tears to your eyes. (Carmen E. Alvarez)
Each year the magical setting of the gardens of the Castle of Versailles (one of the most visited sites in France and, indeed, Europe) are the setting for a fairy-tale fountain display. Devised during the reign of Louis XIV, this impressive spectacle set to music reflected the power and the majesty of the King himself. This year, the musical programme has been entrusted to Jordi Savall, who has selected some of the finest treasures from the Alia Vox catalogue. This is a landmark album, a unique selection performed by the leading specialists in the repertoire, those same artists who popularised this music and contributed to the success that it enjoys today.
This interpretation is a perfect match to Savall's equally beautiful Art of the Fugue. Here you find even more variety in the blend of instruments. I am not going to have only one version of this music and my first recommendation is Münchinger's more emotional recording on Decca. When it comes to colourful instrumentation, however, Savall is the winner, and the direction & playing needs no justification, it is simply wonderful, even if I doubt this folk music style reflects the spirit of the baroque era.
This release is titled as Elizebathan Consort Music, Vol II and we have already savoured the flavours of that previously immensely successful release which reads like a roll-call from the 'greats' of English 16th century music. This time Jordi Savall and his splendid Hesperion XXI have devoted a whole CD to the talents of Anthony Holborne, a rather obscure figure but one who evidently was held in great esteem in those days.
Although the first full consort of viols did not arrive in England until 1540, there were actually several intriguing examples of what are now called "consort" music from before that time. Of course, the homogenous viol consort became supreme, and the present program (also featuring some 2-lute arrangements) focuses on the first part of that repertory. This developed at Elizabeth's court in the 1570s & 1580s, among professional musicians, but based on relatively restrictive models. Some pieces in the present program are composed freely, heralding the next step in consort development which, along with the small output of Byrd, allowed the English consort idiom to fully flower. Of course that was followed closely by the even larger and more famous repertory of consort music by composers such as Gibbons which was eventually geared more toward amateur players.
The name of gambist and conductor Jordi Savall's new Alia Vox Diversa label may seem puzzling, inasmuch as it's hard to imagine anything more diverse that the existing Alia Vox catalogue, covering music that spans half the globe. The unifying factor seems to be that Savall himself is not present; the leader of the Euskal Barrokensemble here is multi-instrumentalist Enrike Solinís, a member of Savall's Hesperion XXI. The music is for the most part not "Baroque" but covers a wide range of music associated with the Euskel Antiqva, the Basque legacy.
Over 1,000 years, from the Byzantine Empire to the Napoleonic Wars, Venice played a key role in shaping the Western music. Jordi Savall and his ensembles pay a tribute to a place that fully profited from its priviliged links with the Orient while hosting geniuses like Monteverdi, Gabrieli and Vivaldi. As you have come to expect from Alia Vox, this CD-book is lavishly illustrated and documented.
Morales's five-part setting of the Requiem is one of the masterpieces of the 16th century and was actually published twice during his lifetime. The 'Missa pro defunctis' follows the customary pattern of the time. Each section begins with a unison Gregorian intonation, which then continues as a cantus firmus in the upper part as the other voices spin a polyphonic texture underneath. The work avoids obvious madrigalisms, but maintains an austere, meditative texture, which is both spiritual and moving.