Throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as the new, centralized power of the absolute state was established in most European nations, royal courts all over Europe became the very heart of cultural and artistic life in their respective countries. They assembled an elite of aristocratic courtiers who were expected to master the principles of poetry, dance and vocal and instrumental music, as much as they were supposed to follow a strict and complex etiquette in all aspects of daily social interaction, adopt a luxurious and ever-changing fashion code, or sustain a refined conversation with a lady.
Twenty years after his work on the soundtrack of Jacques Rivette's movie Jeanne la Pucelle, Jordi Savall returns to this powerful subject matter and presents a new set dedicated to the mother figure of the struggle for French independence. The music on Joan of Arc - Battles and Prisons provides the perfect atmosphere for Savall's fresh look this historical icon. Alongside works by composers from the time of Joan of Arc (Guillaume Dufay, Josquin Desprez, Johannes Vincenet, Johannes Cornago, etc.), the set also features compositions and arrangements by Jordi Savall. The biographical program of the set is further illustrated through spoken dialogue. The accompanying 500 page, six language hardbound book is richly illustrated and provides historical perspective as well as texts and translations. The result is an amazingly vivid portrait of a troubled time.
Coinciding with the 500th anniversary of the birth of Saint Francis Borgia, Fourth Duke of Gandia, Jordi Savall and Alia Vox offer a visually lavish and artistically comprehensive new release entitled Dinastia Borgia. Savall’s latest musicological/historical quest focuses on music from the time of the Borgia dynasty, including works by composers such as Isaac, Dufay and Morales, from Pope Alexander VI/6 and two of his children, Cesare and Lucrezia, through to Francis Borgia, Jesuit priest and, perhaps, composer. For five centuries, scholars have studied and debated the role of the Borgias in Renaissance history. Although their name is synonymous with Papal corruption and they were undoubtedly malevolent and immoral, as patrons of the arts, the Borgias were also instrumental in the period’s explosive growth of culture.
Farnace was apparently one of Vivaldi's favorite operas, because he mounted numerous productions in various cities, and wrote six versions of the score, more than of any of his other operas. The conventions of operatic vocal characterizations that came to be standard – higher voices in the sympathetic roles, and lower voices in villainous roles – had not yet been established, and Farnace features a baritone and contralto in the heroic roles, with a soprano as the villain. Soprano Adriana Fernández shines as the wicked Berenice, who is redeemed at the very last minute. She has a full, creamy voice that she deploys appealing agility and warmth. As Tamira, contralto Sara Mingardo sings with power, authority, and deep feeling. In the title role, baritone Furio Zanasi is appropriately heroic, with a rich, refined timbre and the expressive depth to create sympathy for the conflicted protagonist, but he doesn't always have the necessary strength at the bottom of his range. One of his arias, the lyrical and poignant "Gelido in ogni vena," is among the composer's loveliest creations.
Farnace was apparently one of Vivaldi's favorite operas because he mounted numerous productions in various cities and wrote six versions of the score, more than of any of his other operas. The conventions of operatic vocal characterizations that came to be standard higher voices in the sympathetic roles and lower voices in villainous roles had not yet been established, and Farnace features a baritone and contralto in the heroic roles, with a soprano as the villain.
Jordi Savall is strongly devoted, perhaps more so than any other conductor, to Franz Josef Haydn's Seven Last Words of Christ on the Cross in its orchestral version, the original incarnation of this masterwork; the familiar string quartet and less familiar solo keyboard and oratorio versions came later. Savall, as is his wont, strongly responds to any music with a historic connection to his native Spain; the commission for the Seven Last Words arrived from José Sáenz de Santmaría of the confraternity of the Hermandad, and it was first performed in Cádiz, the oldest continuously inhabited city in Western Europe.
The Misteri d'Elx (Mystery Play of Elche) is a religious drama performed annually in the southeastern Spanish city of Elche (or Elx in the local dialect) since medieval times. The play reenacts the Assumption of Mary in a two-act musical production, entirely sung, that takes place over two successive days in August. The Mystery Play is a major European tourist attraction, and UNESCO in 2001 named it a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. With typical boldness, Jordi Savall and La Capella Reial de Catalunya plunge into a slice of the musical past that is rewarding yet raises complex issues in performance. Here, however, the group is not resurrecting a half-buried tradition but rather dealing with one that is living.
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.
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.
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.