The 1991 French film Tous les matins du monde (All the Mornings of the World) attracted an audience of unexpected size for a story about French Baroque viol music, becoming a runaway hit in France and Germany and even gained wide distribution in the classical-chary U.S. The commercial ramifications grew with the release of the film's soundtrack, featuring early music giant Jordi Savall on viol; the soundtrack achieved platinum sales levels in its initial release. The film's story, built on a very few sketchy facts about the reclusive seventeenth century viol player known only as Monsieur de Sainte Colombe, drew viewers with its modern resonances touching on the conflict between art and popular success, and partly with its dramatic lighting reminiscent of the paintings of Louis le Nain. The soundtrack has a few pieces with vocals or with a small ensemble of other players.
Le Concert Spirituel was essentially a Parisian concert series held at the Tuileries Palace, begun in 1725 as an opportunity for musical performances during Lent and other Holy Days when secular musical activities like opera were forbidden. The concerts continued until 1790, just after the beginning of the French Revolution. The music of French composers filled most of the programs, but German and Italian music was occasionally heard, and this CD includes five pieces by Corelli, Telemann, and Rameau that were known to have been played at the concerts. Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations, one of the many stellar ensembles he is responsible for founding, play these works with such surging vibrancy that anyone who thinks of the Baroque as a period of stiff formality would be disabused of that notion on hearing these performances.
This double album is an invitation to explore the forces of nature, so vividly depicted by the composers at the turn of the XVIIth and XVIIIth centuries. With this stunning (and first) recording of Jean-Fery Rebel’s Les Elements, Jordi Savall displays his unmatched vision of the baroque orchestral repertoire, proving that authenticity and timbral beauty aren’t mutually exclusive. New recordings of works by Locke, Vivaldi, Marais, Telemann and Rameau - a splendidly varied and expressively wide-ranging selection - is a welcome addition to the existing landmark recordings made by Savall in this repertoire.
This is an SACD reissue on Alia Vox of a CD originally released in 1996 as Astrée 8717. Fans of Savall know that his conducting reflects similar values to his viola da gamba solos: a nuanced view of phrasing, exceptional attention to the beauty and clarity of textures, and a knowledge of appropriate embellishments. These qualities can be found in some of the outstanding slow movements on this disc, most notably “Love’s a Sweet Passion” from act III of The Fairy Queen . Savall’s version takes 3:06 to play; by comparison, Goodman/Parley of Instruments (Hyperion 67001) gives it to us at 1:34; and Gardiner/English Baroque Soloists (Archiv Produktion 992902) is not much longer. It isn’t that Savall’s Le Concert des Nations plays twice as much content, but that they inflect far more, slowing for embellishments to the theme, pausing at the climax of a phrase, or at its conclusion. It’s anyone’s guess which approach is more authentic, but I find Savall’s phrasing, along with a slightly lower pitch and predominance of darker string instruments, mines the natural melancholy of Purcell’s piece to greater advantage without danger of anachronism.
Jordi Savall, performer, researcher, and promoter of early music, has become known for beautifully produced thematic collections organized around topics as diverse as the worlds of Miguel Cervantes, Christopher Columbus, and Caravaggio, performed by his ensembles Hespèrion XX (and XXI), and La Capella Reial de Catalunya, and recorded on his own label, Alia Vox. This immensely ambitious project, Jerusalem: City of the two peaces: Heavenly Peace and Earthly Peace, consists of two SACDs and a sumptuous book in eight languages, French, Spanish, English, Catalan, German, Italian, Arabic, and Hebrew, that includes a wide assortment of intriguing essays.
There’s very little to say about this recording save throwing yet more encomiums Jordi Savall’s way: as with his other Bach recordings, this is a success. The warmly dark, coppery sound for which these forces are renowned is here in its full glory; Savall’s pacing is neither frenzied nor laborious; the audio clarity is stunning. Because Savall is such a renowned gamba player who has recruited great fellow string players to his projects (note one Fabio Biondi on violin), you might overlook stellar playing elsewhere in the ensemble. But there’s no way to ignore the wind section in the opening movement in the first suite: the exquisite phrasing and pitch-perfect tones demand to be heard (and heard repeatedly, at that), and the masterful playing becomes even more delightfully apparent in the extended oboe and bassoon solo in the same suite’s Bourée.
Jordi Savall, viol player, conductor, expert in early music performance practice, and founder of the ensembles Hespèrion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya is responsible for what must be one of the most creatively and sumptuously packaged recordings ever produced. This two-SACD set gathers vocal and instrumental music from the era of Cervantes' Don Quixote, some of it directly related to the novel. Savall and Manuel Forcano selected and adapted sections of the novel and interspersed the music and readings, allowing the listener to follow the events of the novel accompanied and surrounded by appropriate music.