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Jordi Savall and Cervantes

Jordi Savall, Don Quijote de La Mancha: Romances y Musicas, released in France, Fall 2005As I mentioned last January, Cervantes published the first part of his great novel Don Quixote 400 years ago this year. The government of Spain set up a pilgrimage route for fans of the book to follow the course of its hero's wanderings. Now another Ionarts musical hero, Jordi Savall, has given us another way to get closer to the real life of Don Quixote. As described in an article by Sébastien Lapaque (Jordi Savall au service de Cervantès, December 3) for Le Figaro, Savall has restored "to the admirers of Cervantes the soundtrack they were missing when they read his book." Here is an excerpt (my translation):

The 2-CD set Romances y Musicas that appears today is the fruite of thorough research: Quixote's musical universe restored to its original splendor, chapter by chapter. Those who know the book's first lines by heart ("In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind"), who have shivered with joy entering Barcelona in the footsteps of Rocinante ("to the sound of chalumeaux and drums"), and cried for their hero killed by sadness can learn of this work with nothing but emotion. "How can we have gone so long believing that Quixote was a mute work?" wonders Jordi Savall. "The romances we find throughout the book and not literary pieces, they are sung pieces. Cervantes integrates the beautiful music of his time everywhere into his narrative. It came down to us to restore it to its complete form, not forgetting any of the romances, songs, and madrigals cited in the book." While passing through Versailles to give a concert at the Centre de musique baroque, Jordi Savall spoke passionately about this work of resurrection, where the romances restored to their scores are interspersed with short readings that give the whole thing a seductive narrative energy. [...]

Far from the image of an extravagant man defying the windmills, Jordi Savall sees Don Quixote as an authentic tragedy in which music is charged with expressing an ineffable sadness. That's the case with Cristobal de Morales's heart-rending Circumdederunt me, which played on the organ announces the death of el ingenioso hidalgo; or the song that accompanies the recitation of the "good fortune and sorrows of the Distressed Duenna." There are clearly more comic moments in the recording, too. The sunny happiness of the dancing song that follows the recitation of the sorrows of the Distressed Duenna enlarges the Spain of the Golden Age to the dimensions of a Mediterranean colored with joy. "In some places, I used Sephardic melodies that matched exactly with the text. That was a way for me to show the value of Spain's vast musical riches in the time of Cervantes."
As far as I can determine, this album is not yet available in the United States, but I will definitely be looking to review it when it is. In the meantime, we look forward to being able to hear Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI live this coming March, in a concert of Folias and Pasacalles at Shriver Hall in Baltimore, on March 19.


Anonymous said...

Soooo.... what's a picture of El Greco has to do with any of this then?.

Charles T. Downey said...

Well, you would have to ask the people who made the CD packaging. I presume that the image was chosen because it was a portrait of a knight, by El Greco as you noted, made in Spain around the time that Don Quixote was published.

Charles T. Downey said...

Also, see my 8-part review of this set, from a year later.

I didn't really notice it before, but it looks like the El Greco painting was manipulated to make the face even narrower. Do you agree?