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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.