Giulio Caccini (c.1550-1618) was born in Rome, and soon took up an important musical post in Florence under the Medicis. He was widely famous, and apparently a very controversial figure, having boasted of inventing the solo chordally-accompanied song. His two collections entited Nuove Musiche of 1602 & 1614 are certainly important to this development, and Caccini was one of a handful of composers to first work in this new style. However, it had become common practice to perform older madrigals in this way via intabulations, so any notion of invention is hazy at best. Nonetheless, Caccini's detailed ornaments given to the printed vocal part are a landmark in composition.
Jordi Savall (born 1941), one of the world's leading players of the viola da gamba, founded the ensemble Hespиrion XX in 1974. Savall's goal — and that of co-founders Montserrat Figueras, Hopkinson Smith, and Lorenzo Alpert — was to explore lesser-known repertories of the European Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque periods; their special love has been early Spanish music. The group has toured over five continents and produced well over 50 recordings (many on the Astree Audivis label). The group's membership changes with the repertory of an individual recording or performance project, and with the particular orchestration envisioned by Savall.
Jordi Savall's exemplary performance of Handel's Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks is among the finest available on disc: refined and precise, but very big, with blood-stirring grandeur. This is just the kind of extroverted, rousing presentation that best highlights the music's open-air ceremonial function. Savall's Le Concert des Nations is essentially a chamber orchestra with double or triple winds, but the sound he elicits from the group is majestic and surprisingly powerful. The playing is crisp and the rhythmic articulation bracing, but the sound is never brash. In fact, more often than not it is seductively sensual, a heady integration of precision and supple, shapely phrasing. Handel left no authoritative edition of the score of Water Music and it has traditionally been divided into three suites, but Savall reorders the material into two suites, a decision that makes more sense in terms of key relationships and that sounds entirely satisfying.
Monteverdi's madrigals were the laboratory in which he sought the connections between music and the emotions, and none are more moving and evocative than those of his eighth and final book, the "Madrigali Guerrieri et Amorosi," (1638). This release offers only a selection, but puts the music's drama in gratifyingly high relief. It's a beautifully sung, ravishingly played and lushly recorded collection, "Madrigali Guerrieri et Amorosi," by Jordi Savall and La Capella Reial de Catalunya (Astree E 8546). Dynamics are supple, coloration is flexible and expressive dissonances are pointed up in a way that gives works like "Lamento della Ninfa" and "Gira il nemico" an unusually vivid edge.
This 68-minute program–a compilation of recordings made by Jordi Savall, Montserrat Figueras & Co. during the years 1976 and 2008 (including several selections originally released on dhm and Virgin Classics)–proved one of those purely pleasurable, effortlessly rewarding listening sessions that only rarely come along. We don't often review compilations drawn from multiple recordings made in different venues and over many years–they're so often programmatically disjointed and sonically varied; but in this case it doesn't matter. The music is compatible stylistically and these performers are so consistent in the quality and care and vitality of their performances that, well, what's 30 years or so?
Ostinato is an anthology which brings together the most representative works of the art of improvisation and of a musical form based on a unique concept of the basso, which is repeated sequentially throughout the compositions.
Jordi Savall, once more time, shares with us a beautiful program of instrumentals and chorals pieces from the middle age. Alfons X El Sabio Cantigas are the most popular music pieces about this period, but also really majestic. The sound of this album is really magic. A very good choice for a first approach…
Sixteenth-century Spanish composer Francisco Guerrero is featured in a reissued disc of motets for four, five, six, eight and 12 voices, with and without instruments. They come from a handful of collections published between 1555 and 1597 and show Guerrero’s skill in evoking a wide range of moods, joyful, sombre and contemplative in turn. Jordi Savall’s ensemble is well-equipped to project the skilfully wrought structures and expressive allure of the music. Some of the pieces fare better than others in respect of vocal texture and ensemble. Tenors and basses occasionally lack tonal refinement but, at their strongest the performances provide a radiant conspectus of Guerrero’s masterly motets.
"By the end of Middle Ages the monks of Montserrat had assembled a distiguished library. Unfortunately this was largely destroyed in 1811 during the Napoleonic wars. The most precious surviving medieval manuscript in the Scriptorium at Montserrat is undoubtedly the famous Ms. No. 1, known as the Llibre Vermell or Red Book of Montserrat, from the colour of the late 19th century velvet which covers the binding of the codex. The manuscript completed in 1399, originally contained about 172 double pages, or folios, of which 35 have been lost. Included in the Llibre Vermell are ten musical works - possibly more originally - by a number of unknown composers."