Lawes's "sets" are actually suites for five or six viols with an organ playing "underneath" them. Each shortish set is broken into even shorter parts: Fantazy, Aire, Paven, etc.–and while the formula remains essentially the same, the textures and harmonies are constantly changing, with dissonances and conversations between and among the various strings giving the works great variety. On these two beautiful CDs (the first devoted to Five parts, the second to Six), Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI play on a pair of violins, four viols, and organ, offering great contrast and flavor and making us aware of just how energetic and fascinating counterpoint can be. The colors the six (or seven) musicians get from their instruments and the interplay among them is fantastic; the playing is superb. Fans of any type of chamber music will want to hear what this underrecorded composer who died too young (43) added to the genre. It's as if he created a new language, one that seems to have been waiting to be heard. A lovely, thoughtful couple of hours of music-making.
This remarkable recording, which juxtaposes 13th- and 14th-century Spanish and Italian monodic instrumental pieces with similar ones from various living Eastern traditions, reveals the extraordinary extent to which they share a common musical language. Indeed, as a Persian or Moroccan dance is followed by an Italian istampitta or Spanish saltarello, an innocent ear would often struggle to decide which piece originated where - proof that to travel in space is to travel in time.
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.
The name of the Balkans has an unusually graphic etymology: having discovered the beauty of this pivotal part of Europe, which stretches from Italy to the Bosphorous, and the ruggedness of its people, who put up fierce resistance to invasion, the Turks chose to describe the region with the words Bal (Honey) and Kan (Blood). Honey & Blood: never was there so apt a metaphor! So much richness and drama packed into such a small area is guaranteed to fire the imagination of historians and artists, especially musicians. Thanks to the magic of an ambitious programme built around the cycles of life, Jordi Savall invites us to travel the length and breadth of a region which has always had more than its share of human and historical drama. 230 minutes of music scan the full range of human emotions illuminated by 1001 different musical traditions, all of which nevertheless spring from a common source. "The future belongs to those with the longest memory", wrote Nietzsche. Once more, Jordi Savall brilliantly demonstrates that music is a key component of the collective memory that enables us to face our future. This lavishly documented CD-Book, translated into 12 languages, is a must for any self-respecting collector.
Hespèrion XXI was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2001 for their double album Diáspora Sefardí, a collection of vocal works and instrumental pieces dating from the 15th century when the Jews were expelled from parts of Spain. The Sephardic Diaspora refers to this Jewish exodus in 1492 when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella commanded that all Jews who refused to convert to Christianity be expelled from Castile and Aragon in modern-day Spain. An estimated 100,000 Jews fled to North Africa, lands of the Ottoman empire (particularly Turkey and Greece), and other European countries such as France, Italy, and Portugal. These exiles brought with them unique culture, language, and traditions. The resultant marriage of influences from the Sephardic Jews’ old and new homes is reflected in Hespèrion XXI’s two-disc set, Diáspora Sefardí. The selections on the album depict not only surviving traditions of medieval Hispanic music but also the influence of sophisticated musical forms which developed in the Ottoman empire during the 16th century.
The subject of Jordi Savall's latest historical exploration is the life of the 16th-century missionary Francisco Javier, better known outside the Spanish-speaking world as St Francis Xavier. He was one of the founders of the Jesuits, and travelled widely through the east, eventually reaching Japan and the islands of China, where he died. Savall's compilation uses the historical staging posts of Javier's life and times, from his birth in Navarre to the start of his missionary travels as the scaffolding for a typically imaginative and exotic sequence of musics, which begins in the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella and ends with the traditions of Japan and China. Like its predecessors, which were centred upon Christopher Columbus and Don Quixote, the musical performances by Savall's ensemble Hesperion XXI and his usual lineup of soloists, complemented here by Japanese performers, is packaged lavishly within the covers of a glossily illustrated 264-page book with texts in five languages. The multilingual presentation doesn't make it easy to find one's way around, but the discs themselves are vividly performed, and their variety is beguiling.
Catharism was the name given to a Christian religious sect that appeared in the Languedoc region of what is now southern France and flourished in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Cathars saw matter as intrinsically evil. They denied that Jesus could become incarnate and still be the son of God and thus, the Catholic Church regarded the sect as dangerously heretical. Faced with what they saw as a rapidly spreading cancer, the Church called for a crusade, which was carried out by knights from Northern France and Germany and was known as the Albigensian Crusade. This campaign, and the inquisition that followed it, eradicated the Cathars completely. It also had the effect of weakening the semi- independent southern principalities in the area, ultimately bringing them under direct control of the King of France.
Mare Nostrum (Latin for Our Sea ) was a Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea, one of the most important focal points of cultural, political and intellectual growth and exchange and dialogue in the history of humankind. In this lavishly illustrated CD-book, Jordi Savall and the musicians of Hespèrion XXI invite us to explore the facts, myths and legends of the Mediterranean and the sway it has had over many peoples and cultures from Morocco to Israel, from Spain to Lebanon. Also featured on the recording are soprano Montserrat Figueras and Israeli singer Lior Elmaleh, one of the leading representatives of the new generation of performers of Andalusian music.
Alfonso Ferrabosco the younger (b. Greenwich, c. 1575; bur. Greenwich, March 11, 1628) was an English composer and viol player of Italian descent. Although he gained access to the royal court as early as 1592, it took him almost 10 years to come to the attention of the queen, but in 1601 he became a member of the royal consort of viols. Ferrabosco marks the true beginning of the English Baroque. When Elizabeth I died in 1603, her successor James IV appointed Ferrabosco as music teacher to Henry, Prince of Wales and Ferrabosco continued to work in the king's service, becoming Composer of the King's Music in 1625, in 1626 succeeding John Coprario in the post of official court musician. The respect shown for him by his contemporaries proves that Ferrabosco was the court musician of his day, borne out by the fact that he was also the most copied.
The first volume of Orient Occident - released in 2006 - turned out to be a landmark in Jordi Savall's discography. For the first time, the maestro explored an extra-European repertoire, demonstrating the same musicological expertise he had shown with composers like Marin Marais. The album soon became a best seller. The second volume in this exploration focuses on Syria, alternating instrumental and vocal pieces. Musicians from Syria, Lebanon and Israel play alongside Hesperion XXI and illustrate the artistic and humanist process we have come to expect from Jordi Savall.