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.
From the early 1630s onwards, Monteverdi had little by little become detached from his secular occupations – perhaps preparing to take his leave of earthly existence. But when he was already over 70 he set to work once more, publishing his eighth book of madrigals before offering the public a bulky collection of sacred works in the shape of the Selva morale e spirituale. Infinitely more ambitious than the comparable anthologies of his contemporaries, the work is here presented complete, enabling the listener to discover the whole range of Monteverdi’s output of sacred music, from madrigals and virtuoso solo motets to the most elaborate polyphony. In his preface evoking the multifarious “creatures” sheltered by this vast “moral and spiritual forest”, the father of Baroque music was merely emphasising the wonderful diversity of styles so characteristic of his wide-ranging genius.
The name of Louis-Ferdinand Hérold will always be associated with one work, in England at least, and that is his ballet La Fille Mal Gardée. Who can forget the famous Clog Dance in Frederick Ashton’s production, although having watched a German production on VHS some years ago I remember being shocked by its omission. Even allowing for the popularity of this ballet, Le Pré Aux Clercs, commissioned and premiered by the Opéra-Comique in Paris, is regarded as his greatest success; this despite the lead soprano walking out after its premier production.