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Jordi Savall in the New World

available at Amazon
El Nuevo Mundo: Folías Criollas, M. Figueras, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Hespèrion XXI, Tembembe Ensamble Continuo,
J. Savall

(released on August 10, 2010)
Alia Vox AVSA 9876 | 76'11"
Regular readers will recall that I have already previewed the upcoming performance by Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI by reviewing two recently re-released discs last month. Savall and his associates -- the voices of La Capella Reial de Catalunya, the instrumentalists of Hespèrion XXI, and the Mexican chamber group Tembembe Ensamble Continuo -- will present a new program in the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater (September 27, 8 pm) as part of the cultural celebrations for the 200th anniversary of Mexico's independence. The program of that much-anticipated concert will be drawn from Savall's new recording, El Nuevo Mondo, an assortment of creole folías, that is, dance music on repeating bass patterns that represents a mixture of European and Native American forms. Recommending this outstanding disc is a no-brainer, as it is not only of significant musical interest -- Latin American secular and dance music drawn mostly from 17th- and 18th-century sources, performed with historically informed performance expertise from both the musicological and folk music perspectives -- but also just sheer fun as listening.

The fascinating history of the learned European music created in the cathedrals and city streets of colonial settlements in the New World is of regular interest here at Ionarts, something that came on my radar screen during graduate school, because of the presence of the Latin American Music Center here at the Catholic University of America. This disc has the unlikely possibility of being recommended both by me and the folks at NPR Music, most of whose discussions of music on air cause me to turn off the radio. The performances are so infectiously vivacious, with the historical sources refracted through more recent folk music traditions, but never following that unfortunate assumption that folk music has to be crude or ugly in sound. These performances are both refined and subtle, while simultaneously being joyous, rollicking, even raucous. Improvisations are woven into the program, taking up some of the same patterns as the basis for historically inspired new creations. The vocal performances are all lovely, both from the traditionally "classical" singers like Arianna Savall, Furio Zanasi, Daniele Carnovich, and others and from those from more popular traditions, mostly on more recent traditional songs performed by members of Tembembe Ensamble Continuo. The most "inauthentic" part of the program, it should be noted, is that in some of the pieces new words have been fitted to historical music. This is not only a standard historical practice, yielding pieces known as contrafacta, but the new words give added meaning to the program, celebrating the union of old and new worlds in this music.

Jordi Savall will preside over La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Hespèrion XXI, and Tembembe Ensamble Continuo in this program at the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater later this month (September 27, 8 pm). It receives one of our warmest recommendations of the coming year, and tickets cost only $15.

1 comment:

Bill H. said...

I still recall from my undergrad daze that a History of Music in the Western Hemisphere (sic) before ca. 1800 tended to concentrate on the Moravians and New England fugueing tunes and hymns. What a revelation to follow the discovery and performance of musics from colonial Latin America over the last couple of decades. Even most people educated in art music have no idea that the first opera in the Americas was La Purpura de la Rosa, performed in 1701 in Lima, Peru. Or that Bach's Chaconne for violin can trace its lineage back to this era and hemisphere, musically connected with the "chaconas" that Savall and his Hesperion colleagues have helped give back to the world--reinforced by other groups such as the Harp Consort, Ensemble Elyma etc. This concert will be invariably memorable and fun!