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LLIBRE VERMELL DE MONTSERRAT
LLIBRE VERMELL DE MONTSERRAT

New recording of one of Jordi Savall’s first performances of this wonderful work, recorded at the Church Santa Maria del Pi, Barcelona, in November, 2013, as a tribute to Montserrat Figueras. ‘As in the past, today in the 21st century and for generations to come, these songs and sacred dances will continue to move us deeply, thanks to their eternal message of spirituality, love and beauty.’


25 YEARS LA CAPELLA REIAL DE CATALUNYA
25 YEARS LA CAPELLA REIAL DE CATALUNYA

In 1987, after 13 years of intense research, concerts and recordings with the ensemble Hespèrion XX, the decision to send our children to school in Catalonia led to us spending more time there and gave us the opportunity to contact and select various Romance language-speaking singers from Catalonia, Spain and other countries. Convinced of the defining influence that a country’s cultural roots and traditions inevitably have on the expression of its musical language, Montserrat Figueras and I founded La Capella Reial with the aim of creating one of the first vocal ensembles devoted exclusively to the performance of Golden Age music according to historical principles and consisting exclusively of Hispanic and Latin voices.

Taking as our model the famous medieval “Royal Chapels” which inspired the great masterpieces of religious and secular music of the Iberian Peninsula, this new “Capella Reial”, which in 1990 took the name La Capella Reial de Catalunya thanks to the sponsorship of the Catalan government, was the fruit of many years of research and performance in the early music field. Together with Hespèrion XX – founded in 1974 – and with the primary objective of deepening and broadening research into the specific characteristics of Hispanic and European vocal polyphony before 1800, the ensemble has been distinguished by an approach to performance which combines attention to the quality of the vocal sound and its appropriateness to the style of the period, as well as the declamation and expressive projection of the poetic text, and above all a respect for the deeper spiritual and artistic dimension of each and every work.

Under my direction, and with Montserrat’s close artistic collaboration, the ensemble rapidly built up an intense concert and recording activity, regularly appearing at the world’s major early music festivals from the time it was founded. Its repertory and principal recordings, collected in more than thirty CDs, range from the Cantigas of Alfonso X the Wise and El Llibre Vermell de Montserrat to Mozart’s Requiem, and include the Golden Age Cancioneros and the great composers of the Catalan, Spanish and European Renaissance and Baroque, such as Mateu Fletxa, Cristóbal de Morales, Francisco Guerrero, Tomás Luís de Victoria, Joan Cererols, Claudio Monteverdi and H.I.F. von Biber, as well as the Sephardic song repertory, the music from the Mystery Play of Elx, the ballads from Cervantes’s Don Quixote and 15th century Hispanic music from the age of Queen Isabella I of Castile and Christopher Columbus.

Some of the highlights of the ensemble over the past twenty-five years have been its participation in the soundtrack of Jacques Rivette’s film Jeanne La Pucelle about the life of Joan of Arc, as well as the operas Una cosa rara by Vicent Martín i Soler, and Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, staged at the Liceu opera house in Barcelona and at leading European concert halls and opera houses such as the Teatro Real in Madrid, the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Teatro Regio in Turin, the Palais des Arts in Brussels and the Bordeaux Opera House. In 2007 La Capella Reial de Catalunya performed Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and the Vespro della la Beata Vergine during the Edinburgh Festival. Over the last few years the singers of La Capella Reial have partcipated in a number of major recording projects, including The Route to the Orient, on the life of St Francis Xavier, The Forgotten Kingdom, on the epic struggle and extermination of the Cathars, the Grammy Award winning The Borgia Dynasty, on the famous members of that Renaissance family, Joan of Arc, Erasmus of Rotterdam and, more recently, the DVD of Bach’s B minor Mass, recorded at the Fontfroide Festival in 2011.

We are delighted to celebrate the ensemble’s 25th anniversary in a creative new way by launching our Vocal Research and Performance Academies designed for young professional singers, which we hope to be able to offer regularly once or twice a year. This intense pedagogical work is carried out in conjunction with the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya (ESMUC), Barcelona City Council, the European Union, Fundació Banc Sabadell and our own foundation, Centre Internacional de Música Antiga (CIMA). Our forthcoming projects include J.S. Bach’s Magnificat in D, G.F. Handel’s Jubilate, Vivaldi’s Gloria, C.P.E. Bach’s Oratorio Die Israeliten in der Wüste, 16th and 17th century Christmas choral music, and the cycles War & Peace I: 714-1714 and War & Peace II: 1714-2014. At the same time we shall continue to perform around the world emblematic projects such as Jerusalem and Pro·Pacem, veritable historico-musical “oratorios” advocating Peace and intercultural dialogue.

JORDI SAVALL
In Memoriam Montserrat Figueras
Bellaterra, February 2013

Translated by Jacqueline Minett


CANÇONS DE LA CATALUNYA MIL·LENÀRIA. Planys & Llegendes
CANÇONS DE LA CATALUNYA MIL·LENÀRIA. Planys & Llegendes

“Song is the essence of popular art.”
Joan Amades

The musical heritage of the thousand-year-old land of Catalonia is composed of an extraordinary body of both cultivated and popular music, a part of which is preserved in manuscript or printed sources from the 9th to the 19th centuries, while another part has been preserved by oral tradition. In our earlier recordings we have focussed largely on the former: Canços de Trobayritz (1978), El Cant de la Sibil·la (the Song of the Sibyl in Catalonia, Majorca, Valencia, Galicia, Castille, Occitania, Provence, etc.) (1988-2010), El Llibre Vermell de Montserrat (1979), music from the Montecassino (2001) and the Duke of Calabria (1996) Songbooks, the Ensaladas of Mateu Flecha (1987), the Cançons and Fantasias of Lluís de Milà (1995), the Masses of Joan Cererols (1988), the Fantasias de Joan Cabanilles (1998), the arias and operas of Vicent Martín y Soler (1991), and the songs of Ferran Sor (1991). In this recording (which brings together works recorded in 1988, 1990, 2002 and 2004) we present some of the most beautiful songs from this intangible heritage. We have selected eleven outstanding melodies, including examples of the most beautiful and representative laments, legends and lullabies, adapting them in new musical versions. The majority are performed by Montserrat Figueras, with the collaboration of Francesc Garrigosa (in Comte Arnau), Arianna Savall (in Mareta and El cant dels Aucells), Ferran Savall (in El cant dels Aucells), and, finally, with La Capella Reial de Catalunya (in Els Segadors), as well as a few other pieces performed as instrumental versions by the soloists of Hespèrion XX.

Every nation’s music is a reflection of the spirit of its identity, which starts off being individual, but over time is shaped into an image of a unique collective cultural space. All music transmitted and preserved through the oral tradition is the result of a happy survival, followed by a long process of selection and synthesis. Unlike certain Oriental cultures, which have evolved chiefly in the context of an oral tradition, in the West only those types of music commonly referred to as traditional or popular have survived as a result of this unwritten means of transmission. «Of all the various manifestations of popular art, song is undoubtedly the one with the greatest ethnic and psychological value; through it may be glimpsed and studied the most profound and unplumbed manifestations of the soul of a people», wrote the eminent folklorist Joan Amades in his foreword to his 1935 anthology entitled Cançons populars, amoroses i cavalleresques which were collected between 1918 and 1922. «Popular song is the amazing work of all the people who experience and sing it: it belongs to everybody and to nobody in particular, everybody makes it his own and, changing and adapting it according to his own taste and understanding; and each one is free to change and put his own stamp on it because everybody is the legitimate owner of the song, while nobody can claim absolute ownership of it.» Poetry and music, two of the most sublime spiritual values, come together in song to form a unique art full of emotion and beauty, born out of necessity, and often out of an urgent need for comfort and human and spiritual warmth. An art form which acts as a truly indispensable balm for solitude, the loss of love, tragedy and all those moments in our lives when we need to find a little inner peace and harmony in the midst of our daily surroundings, as well as being a source of joy and happy collective celebration of key moments in our lives.

Music is the language of the soul, and as such it is the primary language of human beings. The newborn child, long before he can speak or understand any language, before he can comprehend the meaning of the first words his mother speaks to him, immediately grasps the full dimension of her love, thus receiving his first lesson in what it means to be human through his mother’s tenderness and the way she sings the words of her lullaby. This is possible because musical sound has direct access to the soul, where it immediately finds a resonance, because, as Goethe says, «Man carries music within him.»

Live music only exists in the instant in which it is manifested in the form of sound waves produced by the human voice or instruments, and it is precisely this limitation which makes it at once the most human and the most spiritual de totes les arts. Because of this, music is one of the most universal means of expression and communication, and the measure of its importance and significance is not determined according to the criteria of the evolution of language – in the sense of history and progress – but in terms of its degree of expressive intensity, inner richness and humanity. These are two of the most significant triumphs of 20th century philosophy of art, as witnessed by the formidable recovery and presence in our daily lives of the music of other periods and, increasingly, of other civilizations.

The invention of musical notation, a phenomenon frequently linked to literary social circles, has enabled certain cultures, such as those of China, Korea, Japan and Western Europe, to develop, from ancient times, numerous systems de notation applicable in a wide variety of situations. On the contrary, other cultures, such as those of Middle Eastern countries (except Turkey) and South and South-West Asia, scarcely developed such systems, at least until a century ago. In the world of the “cultivated” music of Western Europe, musical communication based on unwritten forms survived until the end of the 17th century, albeit only in the context of practices associated with improvisation and the execution of bass continuo accompaniments, and later with circles of musical creation, always linked to the institutions of spiritual and worldly power (Church and Court), from the 17th century (England) and above all in the 19th century (Germany) to eminently bourgeois circles. Musical writing allowed a formidable development to take place in musical forms and instruments, but at the same time it contributed to all those forms of live music that are the daily accompaniment to the lives of the vast majority of people, in other words, popular music, becoming relegated to oblivion and to a status of secondary importance.

That is why the popular music of “Catalunya Mil·lenaria”, the thousand-year-old land of Catalonia, constitutes an exceptional case in Western Europe. It is one of the richest and most beautiful of all the living musical traditions of our time. The thousands of lullabies, working songs, laments and legends preserved in the various oral traditions, lovingly and perseveringly handed down from mothers and fathers to their sons and daughters from one generation to the next, are in fact true musical survivors, for they are all music which has had the privilege and, from our point of view, the good fortune, to survive the inevitable and constant cultural amnesia and the globalising delusions of mankind. The present recording is a fervent tribute to all those who have contributed with their love and perseverance to keeping this music alive and making it accessible to us all. Europe’s extraordinarily rich cultural and musical heritage is the result of the great diversity of cultures and languages that live side by side in our common geographical space. Preserving this cultural diversity is an essential means to promoting respect for difference and intercultural dialogue. In the words of Amin Maalouf, «Diversity is not necessarily a prelude to adversity.» On the contrary, it is obvious that the more beauty we can share, the greater our chances will be of embracing the future in a spirit of harmony and respect, because, to quote Dostoevski, «we are convinced that beauty will save the world.»

JORDI SAVALL
Bellaterra, February, 2011

Translated by Jacqueline Minett


TERPSICHORE
TERPSICHORE

TERPSICHORE
Apotheosis of Baroque Dance
Or the Art of Belle Danse

“Dance is the mother of the arts. Music and poetry exist in time, painting and architecture in space. But the dance lives at once in time and space. Rhythmical patterns of time and the organization of space are things that man created by means of the dance in his own body before he used stone and the word to give expression to his emotions.”
Curt Sachs, Introduction to World History of Dance, 1938

Long before it became an essential form of human corporal expression, dance had already been present in most organized societies from the dawn of the history of mankind. The earliest traces depicting the execution of dances are to be found in prehistoric times, in the Palaeolithic, when the existence of primitive dances was recorded in cave paintings.

In the majority of cultures in prehistoric times, dance was above all a feature of ceremonies and rites, often addressed to a higher being and acted as a channel of communication with the ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman gods. In conjunction with chants and music, it probably also enabled participants to enter into a state of trance, whose various purposes included warding off ill fortune, summoning courage before battle or the hunt, or as a cure for the bite of a venomous snake (the “tarantella”, for example, was used to remedy the effects of the terrible sting of the tarantula spider).

Combined with music, dance very soon became a language of communication and collective or individual artistic expression, indispensable in most celebration ceremonies, especially in the cycles of social life and its rituals, to mark adolescence, adulthood and marriage; in healing dances, personal celebrations and as an entertainment. It also figured in the cycles of religious and spiritual life: religious celebrations (the Sarabande, danced in the processions of 16th century Spain), pilgrims’ dances (the dance of death in the 14th century), dances as an expression of worship (in pagan rituals) and prayers (dances in honour of the Virgin Mary Llibre Vermell de Montserrat).

It was during the Middle Ages that the earliest musical sources of religious dances such as the ball rodó, or circle dance, and the dance of death contained in the mss. of the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, and the first musical and choreographic sources of profane dances, such as the basses dances included in the 15th century Cervera manuscript, and above all in the stampite of the Italian Trecento manuscript conserved in the British Museum. It was at the various courts of the Italian peninsula in the 15th century, which at that time were divided into numerous small states, that the first “dancing masters” appeared, teaching not only dance, but also the rules of social etiquette. A fine example of those early traditions at the beginning of the Renaissance (1450) is conserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France: the manuscript De arte saltandi et choreas ducendi by Domenico da Piacenza, which is regarded as one of the earliest known treatises. Piacenza’s disciples Guglielmo Ebreo and Antonio Cornazzano transmitted and developed his art in the principal Italian cities, where they were employed by the Sforzas, Isabella d’Este and other nobles. The Italian dancer and researcher (and my very dear friend) Andrea Francalanci (1949-1993) – with whom we staged a magnificent production incorporating16th century dances at the Early Music Festival of Utrecht (1990), was the first to reconstruct the choreographies of the period, as well as the ballets from Monteverdi’s operas.

From the second half of the 15th century, when European culture was experiencing the impact of the discovery of Ancient Greek and Roman civilisation (which was to inspire the great flourishing of all the arts and thought known as the Renaissance), the new fashion spread rapidly through France and the majority of European courts. But it would be another hundred years before the first printed sources of collections of Danceries, such as Musique de Joye, were printed at Lyon by Jacques Moderne c.1550.

Some years later, a number of changes and major new departures occurred on the occasion of the various great celebrations held at the court of the kings of France: that of Henry IV at Fontainebleau, in 1601, to celebrate the birth of the Dauphin, in 1610 to mark the coronation of King Louis XIII, and in 1615 to celebrate Louis’s marriage. These events led to the creation of the blueprint for the Baroque orchestra (bringing together old instruments such as flutes, cornets, sackbuts, trumpets, violas da gamba, lutes, etc., and new instruments such as violins and the other instruments of the da braccio family, transverse flutes, large oboes, bassoons, harpsichords, organs, etc.) It was also at the court of Louis XIII that in 1628 the ensemble known as “the King’s 24 Violins and Large Oboes” performed the first concert by a typically Baroque orchestra.

In 17th century terms, the title of our recording should in fact read “Apotheosis of the Belle Danse”, as the word “baroque”, originally derived from a 16th century Portuguese word, was only used at that time by the pearl industry – as it still is by jewellers today – to refer to a kind of pearl which was not round, but irregular in shape. As Eugénia Roucher so aptly points out in her illuminating study “La Belle Danse ou le classicisme français au sein de l’univers baroque”, it was only in the mid-18th century that it began to be applied to furniture and works of art. In the field of music, however, it was apparently Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, André Campra’s librettist, who first used the term “baroque” (with reference to Rameau’s Dardanus): “Distillers of baroque chords / With which so many fools are smitten, / Take your overstuffed operas / To the Thracians and the Iroquois”, (quoted by Philippe Beaussant in Musical). And it was Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the author of most of the articles devoted to music in the Encyclopédie, who wrote in 1776: “Baroque music is that in which the harmony is confused, charged with modulations and dissonances, in which the intonation is difficult and the movement constrained.” He surely had in mind the music of his sworn enemy Rameau!

The programme for this recording focuses on the celebration of “Dance in the Baroque world” through two great 18th century composers: the Frenchman Jean-Féry Rebel and the German Georg Philipp Telemann.

Jean-Féry Rebel
(1666-1747)

 

Of all the Rebel dynasty, from whose ranks musicians served the king and the orchestra of the Opera for more than a century, Jean-Féry was the most famous, thanks to one of his most remarkable works, a veritable symphonic poem entitled Les Eléments: “simphonie nouvelle” of 1737, a work that we recorded in our CD-tribute to the Earth Tempêtes & Orages (AVSA9914). In 1700, he was admitted to the Royal Academy of Music, first as a violinist and, seventeen years later, as principal director of the Opera orchestra, thus acquiring a profound knowledge of dance and descriptive symphonies. Our recording aims to present all his principal works in the world of dance and choreographed symphonies. La Terpsichore (1720), which opens our programme and provides the title for this CD, is a masterpiece which constitutes a veritable apotheosis of the Dance. In Les Caractères de la Danse of 1715, Rebel tried his hand at the goûts réunis (the Tastes – French and Italian – reconciled), including two sonata movements composed in a more Italianising style. The result was a highly inspired work, perhaps intended for Mlle. Prévost but which later served to showcase the talent of the young Marie-Anne Cupis de Camargo, who danced it for the first time on 5th May, 1726, “with all the vivaciousness and intelligence one would expect from a young dancer fifteen or sixteen years old” (Mercure). Our selection is completed by the charming pastoral work Les plaisirs champêtres (1724) and the powerfully majestic Fantaisie (1729), both works which take the form of a grand “choreographed symphony”, whose various component parts are combined and linked in a single comprehensive dance movement. Thanks to his experience at the Opera and the Royal Academy of Music, as well as his own musical genius, Rebel created the first and most beautiful choreographed symphonies on dance, which were to remain as a vibrant testimony to the powerful imagination and inventiveness of a musician who is essential to our understanding of the richness and exuberance of Baroque dance.

More information about Rebel can be found in the article by Catherine Cessac reproduced in the notes accompanying this CD, which provides us with an in-depth introduction to the life and work of a composer who has been neglected for far too long.

 

Georg Philipp Telemann
(1681-1767)

Of all the great European composers of the Baroque period, Georg Philipp Telemann was from his youth and throughout his life the one who was most deeply committed to French music and composed the largest volume of music in the French style.

The young Georg Philipp attended the Altstädtisches Gymnasium and the Magdeburg Cathedral school, where he received instruction in Latin, rhetoric, German poetry and dialectics. The German, French and Latin verse that he wrote and published later in his life bear witness to his vast general knowledge, which was enhanced by his command of Italian and English, which he continued to speak into old age.

At that time, public concerts were as yet unknown in Magdeburg, and so it was the secular music played at school, in particular, the Altstädtisches Gymnasium, where music was regularly performed, which acquainted him with secular music, in addition to religious music, and which played a key role in the musical education of the city.

Telemann soon showed a great talent for music and from the age of ten began to compose his first pieces, often in secret, using borrowed instruments. He owed his earliest known musical experiences to his kantor Benedikt Christiani. After only a few weeks of instruction in singing, he was able to replace his teacher in the more advanced classes. Urged by his mother to abandon his musical career, in 1701 Telemann enrolled at the University of Leipzig to study Law. However, the choice of the city of Leipzig, at that time the capital of modern music, can hardly have been a matter of chance. On his way to Leipzig, Telemann stopped off at Halle to meet George Frederick Handel, then aged sixteen. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

Telemann made two trips to Berlin, and in 1704, he was invited to succeed Wolfgang Caspar Printz as Kapellmeister at the court of Count Erdmann II von Promnitz at Sorau (actually Żary) in Silesia. Now aged 23, he took the opportunity during his time there to study and perform the works of Lully and Campra, a repertory on which he thereafter drew extensively for inspiration. In October 1709 Telemann married Amalie Luise Juliane Eberlin, a lady-in-waiting at the court of Countess von Promnitz.

However, it was thanks to his time spent at Hanover and Wolfenbüttel, where French music was played much more often than that of other countries, that he was able to further his knowledge of the French repertory, which led to his impassioned composition of numerous “Ouvertures/Suites à la française” (to date, more than two hundred such pieces by the composer are known) and to his becoming a true champion of this musical genre in Germany.

When he travelled with the court to Cracow and Pszczyna, he came to appreciate Polish and Moravian folk music, which he encountered both at the inns where he lodged and in public performances. Perhaps because he was seeking new challenges, or perhaps so that he would not need to depend on the aristocracy, Telemann sought a new position in Frankfurt, where in February 1712 he was appointed the city’s director of music.

In 1714 (three years after the death of his first wife), he married Maria Katharina Textor. In the years that followed, he published his first compositions. On a trip to Gotha in 1716, Duke Frederick II of Saxe-Gotha offered him the post of Kapellmeister.

In 1721 he arrived in Hamburg, where he was appointed to a lifelong position as music director of the city’s five principal churches. His fame is attested by the city of Leipzig’s offer of the post of kantor at St. Thomas’s church and school, a position which he did not accept and which was subsequently taken up by his friend Johann Sebastian Bach.

At the age of 56, he undertook his only major tour, travelling in the autumn of 1737 to Paris, where he remained for eight months as a guest of the city’s foremost virtuosi. When he left for Paris, a leading Hamburg newspaper announced that Telemann was going to report on “the current state” of French music, “which he had made so fashionable in Germany.” Telemann received an enthusiastic welcome in Paris and several of his works, notably the great Psalm 71, were performed in his honour at court and at the “Concert spirituel” series of public concerts. The most illustrious French virtuosi – the flautist Blavet, the violinist Guignon, the violist Forqueray and the cellist Édouard – gave concert performances of his quatuors.

Finding that his quadri (Paris Quartets) had been published there in a better quality edition than the original, he sought and obtained a royal publishing privilege for a period of twenty years. A second series of quadri was published under the title of Nouveaux Quatuors no. 7 – 12. These works, performed by the leading instrumentalists of the day, earned the composer widespread admiration.

As Carl de Nys observes, “In his long correspondence with Graun (1751-1752), Telemann favours the ‘Ramiste’ (that is, Rameau’s) style of recitative; the terms he uses to describe French music also define his own compositions: ‘a subtle imitation of nature.’ And, even as a young man, Telemann found in his practice of French music one of the main sources of inspiration in his pursuit of constant renewal in harmony and form.”

Proof of that inspiration are the two magnificent Ouvertures/Suite – the Ouverture-Suite in G Major, “La Bizarre”, for string orchestra and bass continuo and the Ouverture-Suite in B flat major (1733) in his “Table Music” (Part III, No. 1, TWV 55:B1) for 2 Oboes, 2 solo Violins, string orchestra & Bass continuo with which we have chosen to complete the present recording.

 

JORDI SAVALL
Lisbon, 24th September 2018

 Translated by Jacqueline Minett

 


ICMA Nominations 2018
ICMA Nominations 2018

The 2018 International Classical Music Awards jury has nominated 4 albums by Alia Vox, making it the most nominated Early Music Label with 3 albums in that category plus 1 album under the “Best Collection”. Early Music Category: Llibre Vermell de Montserrat Henrich Isaac Ramon Llull Best Collection: Les Routes de l’Esclavage