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.
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 album is a tribute to Armenia and to the Armenian musicians who have played alongside Jordi Savall and his wife Montserrat Figueras over the past several years. The repertoire, culled from Hesperion XXI's fascinating live programs, ranges from lively to contemplative. All of the unique and powerful music on Armenian Spirit is beautifully played using traditional instruments including the duduk, an ancient double-reed instrument with a deeply moving sound quality. Jordi Savall illuminates this music with a faultless musical flair, driven by his endless curiosity and supreme musicianship. The disc is accompanied by a lavishly documented and richly illustrated booklet.
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.
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.
Jordi Savall once again enriches our view of a region teeming with history: the Balkans. Following on the success of Spirit of Armenia, Alia Vox, a label acclaimed for revealing hidden gems from the vast history of music, presents Balkan Spirit - a collection of music that sheds light on a little-known repertoire that conveys the whole spectrum of human emotions. Presented with both the iconographic richness and quality packaging that Alia Vox is famous for, this journey of musical discovery is another important milestone in the discography of Catalan master Jordi Savall and his ensemble Hesperion XXI.
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.
For the uninitiated, the music on Jordi Savall's new Villancicos y danzas criollas disc is a revelation, gleefully crossing lines between sacred and secular, artistic and popular, and, most strikingly, European, African, and Amerindian. The selections included originated between the early 1500s and the early 1700s, and, unlike those on the Harp Consort's similar Missa Mexicana disc, come from Spain as well as the New World. Indeed, the two recordings together offer a perfect introduction to this fascinating, unfailingly enjoyable and often comic repertory.