French composer Marin Marais (1656-1728) was remarkably prolific, writing nearly 600 compositions for viola da gamba, as well as many operas. One of his major collections of music for the gamba is Suitte d'un Gôut Etranger, a collection of 33 short works written, according to the composer, "to stretch the skill of those who do not like easy pieces." Jordi Savall, the most acclaimed gamba player of the late twentieth and early twenty first centuries, who is responsible for bringing many of Marais' works to light, plays with extraordinary virtuosity and expressiveness.
If he were so minded, Jordi Savall might hand copies of this CD out to new acquaintances as the musical equivalent of a calling-card. True, he appears here only in the guise of soloist, whereas a more complete portrait would need to include samples of his work as director and conductor; but as an illustration of the range of the viola da gamba, this generously filled disc is exemplary. And although the calling-card might not be handmade, it is the nearest thing to it, since Alia Vox is Savall’s own, newly established label.
The 1991 French film Tous les matins du monde (All the Mornings of the World) attracted an audience of unexpected size for a story about French Baroque viol music, becoming a runaway hit in France and Germany and even gained wide distribution in the classical-chary U.S. The commercial ramifications grew with the release of the film's soundtrack, featuring early music giant Jordi Savall on viol; the soundtrack achieved platinum sales levels in its initial release. The film's story, built on a very few sketchy facts about the reclusive seventeenth century viol player known only as Monsieur de Sainte Colombe, drew viewers with its modern resonances touching on the conflict between art and popular success, and partly with its dramatic lighting reminiscent of the paintings of Louis le Nain. The soundtrack has a few pieces with vocals or with a small ensemble of other players.
There are more than one dozen recordings of Monteverdi's great masterpiece, the Vespers of 1610, a distinction reserved for very few works and composers from the late 16th and early 17th centuries. With this kind of attention, you'd think that this substantial work for choir, soloists, and instruments would be more easily accessible–but it is in fact a structurally complex and musically intricate compilation of hymns, antiphons, and psalms, concluding with a magnificent setting of the Magnificat. Most recordings can't seem to overcome the strategic and technical problems of presenting such a three-dimensional work on a recording. But this one is different: the music literally comes alive and grabs our attention. If you're in the market for Monteverdi's Vespers, look no further. This is the most dynamic, dramatic version on disc.
Luis de Milan’s instrument was the Spanish vihuela, shaped like a guitar and tuned like a lute, for the existence of which his book El Maestro (1536) is the earliest known evidence, and one by Antonio de Santa Cruz (seventeenth century, undated) the last. When it was born, and when and why it died, remain unclear. El Maestro was both a collection of pieces and a thoughtful tutor book, containing much valuable information on the music of the time and on the manner of its performance; in some fantasias it is indicated which passages are to be played ‘broadly’ and in time, and which are to be delivered more quickly.
Vigorous and colourful medieval dances revealed by Jordi Savall! The Estampie is a medieval dance consisting of four to seven sections, called puncta, each of which is repeated (in the form aa, bb, cc, etc…).The more widely accepted etymology relates it to stamper, to stamp the feet. Illuminations and paintings from the period seem to indicate that the estampie involves fairly vigorous hopping. The earliest reported example of this musical form is the song "Kalenda Maya" (track 3), supposedly written by the troubadour Raimbaut de Vaqueiras (1180-1207) to the melody of an estampida played by French jongleurs. In this irresistible album, Jordi Savall explores a Royal manuscript from the French National Library.
Le Concert Spirituel was essentially a Parisian concert series held at the Tuileries Palace, begun in 1725 as an opportunity for musical performances during Lent and other Holy Days when secular musical activities like opera were forbidden. The concerts continued until 1790, just after the beginning of the French Revolution. The music of French composers filled most of the programs, but German and Italian music was occasionally heard, and this CD includes five pieces by Corelli, Telemann, and Rameau that were known to have been played at the concerts. Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations, one of the many stellar ensembles he is responsible for founding, play these works with such surging vibrancy that anyone who thinks of the Baroque as a period of stiff formality would be disabused of that notion on hearing these performances.
A homage to the memory of victims of the slave trade. This new multicultural project from Jordi Savall and his musicians on The Routes of Slavery (1444-1888) marks a world first in the history of music and of the three continents involved in the trade in African slaves and their exploitation in the New World, which are brought together through the early music of the colonial period, the musical traditions of Mali and the oral traditions of the descendants of slaves in Madagascar, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico. This 'Musical Memoir' is accompanied with historical texts on slavery, beginning with the early chronicles of 1444 and concluding with texts written by the Nobel Peace Prize-winner Martin Luther King shortly before his assassination in 1968.
Samuel Scheidt (baptized November 3, 1587 – March 24, 1653) was a German composer, organist and teacher of the early Baroque era. Samuel Scheidt published 4 collections entitled Ludi Musici between 1621 & 1627, whereas only the first publication (from which the present program is taken) survives complete. Scheidt continues to be the most significant of the early North German instrumental composers.
Jordi Savall has brought us yet another treasure on his own Alia Vox label, this time a mixed bag of music by Reformation Era composers and a handful of slightly earlier works. It’s all taken from a concert program Savall gave last year under the aegis of “greatest hits of the court of Charles V”. The composers presented are mostly court musicians for that Holy Roman Emperor, but Josquin and Heinrich Isaac also are included, the latter as a nod to Charles’ grandfather, Maximilian I, who was responsible for getting Charles the crown. Savall combines his first-rate instrumental ensemble, updated to Hespèrion XXI, with his own vocal group, La Capella Reial de Catalunya. The results are captivating. Savall’s musicians are tops in the field, and their collective talents, constantly on display in this varied program, are simply a joy to hear.