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.
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 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.
In the semi-darkness within a grotto beneath the church of Santo Rosario in Cadiz, the bishop pronounced one of the seven Last Words of Christ, then, during the ensuing silence, the orchestra played… Commissioned from Haydn in 1786, these seven mystical sonatas, with their sombre melody, take their inspiration from the rhythm of each of the seven Words. Preceded by a noble Prelude and followed by an impressive Terremoto (Earthquake), there have been various versions (piano, string quartet, vocal), but here they are presented in the original version and with all the glowing colours of the Concert des Nations.
Intellectually concentrated, emotionally intense, technically difficult, and spiritually sublime, Henry Purcell's Fantasias for the Viols are exactly the sort of music that Jordi Savall was born to play and play superbly. And with his group Hesperion XX, they play them as superbly Savall does. The depth of tone of the instruments, the brilliance of the technique, the rigor of the interpretations, the soulfulness of the understanding, and the transcendence of compassion are nonpareil and the performances achieve a level unmatched by any other.
Like the Renaissance itself, Music for the Spanish Kings begins with a strutting fanfare and ends with a melancholic sigh. Attaining his usual high standards, Jordi Savall has fashioned a poignant and varied musical portrait of the century encompassing the reigns of three Spanish kings: Alphonso I (1442-58), Ferdinand I (1458-94), and Charles V (1516-56). Montserrat Figueras' rich mezzo-soprano voice carries over half the pieces on the first disc. Her stunning vibrato imparts a troupadour's sadness to the cancions.