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WAR & PEACE (1614-1714)
WAR & PEACE (1614-1714)

“[…] there is greater glory in

killing war itself with words

than by killing men with swords;

and by achieving or maintaining peace through peace

rather than through war.”

Augustine (354-430)

Letter to Darius, 229, 2

In this new CD-Book War & Peace in Europe in the Age of the Baroque, we evoke through music the great century which preceded the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714: a rich musical fresco and an in-depth historical review of a very brief but highly representative period in the history of Europe and its conflicts. From the Ottomans’ attack on Hungary in 1613, the Massacre of the Jews in Frankfurt in 1614 and the beginning of the Thirty Years War, to the Peace Treaty of Utrecht and the fall of Barcelona, we can see the extent of this unremitting tragedy of European civilization: the widespread use of the “culture of war” as the principal means of settling cultural, religious, political and territorial differences. This inventory of the long, sad succession of confrontations, wars, invasions, attacks, massacres, aggressions, sacking and fighting between peoples and ethnic groups throughout the history of mankind (in this case in Europe), teaches us that it is both necessary and urgent to acquire new ways of relating to each another if we are to reconcile differences in a world that is fertile in action, word and thought.

A century at war: 1614 – 1714

The 17th century began with numerous attempted invasions, constant skirmishes and repeated attacks by the Ottomans, who invaded and laid waste to Hungary on several occasions, and by the Thirty Years War. The length and violence of the war, of which the causes were multiple, had a grave impact on the economy and the demographics of central Europe and Spain. The various armed conflicts collectively known as the “Thirty Years War” tore Europe apart from 1618 to 1648, pitting the Habsburgs of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire against the mostly Protestant neighbouring European Powers, and sometimes also against France, which was mainly Catholic. The various episodes of the war including constant conflicts in the Netherlands, the Peace of Prague of 1635 (which, although it did not put an end to the Thirty Years War, brought about a change in the belligerents); the war against Spain, where the battlefronts shifted geographically from North to South; the war of the Ottoman Empire against Venice; the civil war in England, another nation which intervened on the international scene in a war as long as it was complicated; the Peace of the Pyrenees; the conquest of Crete by the Ottomans; the Treaties of Nimeguen and Ryswick and the Ottoman war against Russia, show that, far from being a separate issue, peace is always inevitably bound up with war. Our selection of music concludes with pieces celebrating the Peace Treaty of Utrecht, which in 1713 partially concluded the great War of the Spanish Succession. This large-scale conflict, in which the leading European Powers were locked in battle from 1701 to 1714, was the last great war waged by Louis XIV in his bid for the succession to the Spanish throne and, therefore, domination in Europe; the war of succession to the Spanish crown, which ended on 11th September 1714 with the capitulation of Barcelona, and was to have profound and lasting consequences for the organisation and relations between European nations, particularly between Catalonia and Spain. The Peace of Utrecht, which marked the end of the conflict, was one of the most important peace treaties of Modern Europe, drawing a new geopolitical map which would influence international relations throughout the 18th century and which would remain largely unaltered until the beginning of the 19th century, following the Napoleonic campaigns and another international alignment of similar importance arising from the Treaty of Vienna.

Music, Emotion & Memory

As a counterpoint to these moments in history, we have chosen to perform the most representative musical works by contemporary composers, both known and anonymous, from the period: Samuel Scheidt, Ambrosio Cotes, Lope de Vega, Johann Hermann Schein, Guillaume Dumanoir, Philidor, Johann Rosenmüller, John Jenkins, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Dimitrie Cantemir, Francesco Cavalli, Joan Cererols, John Blow, Joan Cabanilles, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Antonio Caldara, Vasily Titov, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Bibern and George Frederick Händel, among the former, and Jewish (Aramaic), Ottoman, Catalan, Spanish and French composers, among the latter. Music, one of the highest artistic expressions of human sensibility, has been the constant companion of men and women in times both of war and peace. Sometimes it has been used as a rallying call to war, but it has also marked the signing of the peace. Music has been present at the battle-front as well as at the negotiating tables where peace treaties are signed, when former enemies finally decide to reach an agreement. It has roused men to fight, but it has also fostered friendship, harmony and respect between them. One of the fundamental characteristics of all civilizations is their capacity to remember the past, because without memory it is impossible to build a better future. Music is the art of memory par excellence, the most spiritual of all the arts (it only exists when the sound of a voice or an instrument brings it to life) and as such it is the earliest language of human beings.

“Without the senses there is no memory, and without memory there is no mind,” wrote Voltaire. Without the power of music to touch us with its emotion and beauty, it would not be possible for us to be fully human; in Goethe’s words “He who merely loves music is only half a human being, but he who practises it is fully human.” In Goethe’s opinion, musical sound goes straight to the human soul, with which it immediately resonates, “because music is inherent to human beings.”

The great century which concerns us here was graced by some extraordinary artists, scientists, explorers and thinkers, but it also witnessed numerous conflicts in which Christian Europe was embroiled in wars fuelled by religious strife and territorial ambitions. The century also saw the westward advance of the Muslim world and, ultimately, a new balance of power in which sovereign States prevailed over residual pockets of feudalism, resulting in absolute monarchies such as that of Louis XIV. The emotion of music in conjunction with these historical events offers us a new perspective, giving a powerful insight into the origins and the persistence of violence, which is inherent in all war, as well as the difficulties of achieving a durable and just peace between conquerors and conquered, and between peoples of different cultures and religions.

Royal armies versus national armies

It should not be forgotten that, more often than not, those wars were the result of power struggles in which the royal armies of one or several countries were sent to fight against the people of an invaded nation or country. Sometimes those armies fought against each other, while the local inhabitants stood by as more or less willing or helpless onlookers. In the 17th century, armies normally consisted of mainly professional soldiers: the officers were aristocrats, while the troops were mercenaries. This is what Erasmus of Rotterdam wrote in 1500 in his warning to the princes of his day: “And now, Princes, ponder and reflect on whether you have ever seen cities ruined, towns and villages reduced to ashes, churches burned or fields laid waste, and whether this spectacle appeared to you as devastating as it really is… For such is the fruit of war. If you lament the need to open the gates of your realm to the great, accursed multitude of mercenaries, to feed them at the expense of your own subjects, to curry their good will and even flatter them; and if, moreover, it grieves you to entrust yourself and your safety to their whim, then you should know, O Princes, that such misfortune is the fruit of war. War is the scourge of States, the tomb of justice. When the world is at arms, laws are reduced to silence.”

It was after the French Revolution – or, more precisely, from the time of Napoleon, that a terrible, systematic change came about with the conscription of young men from each and every family in both town and country. From then on, conflicts became all-out wars between nations: the French nation against the Russian nation, the German nation against the French nation, etc. Class differences between the aristocracy and the people translated into an elitist distribution of tasks and responsibilities; the result was the terrible carnage of ordinary soldiers in the First World War and the even more appalling and universal slaughter of the Second World War, in which millions, many of them civilians (between 65 and 75 million), were killed.

The culture of war

War has been a constant in the lives of men and women for more than 5,000 years, and today, at the beginning of the 21st century, the culture of war is stronger and more prevalent than ever. More and more armed conflicts all over the world take a daily toll of thousands of often innocent victims. With more than 35 million displaced people in the world, never in the history of mankind have there been such dramatically high numbers of refugees and people who cannot return to their countries of origin.

Like slavery, war is a form of institutionalised violence; it is neither natural nor normal, but is cultural in origin. As Raimon Panikkar so aptly observed in his book entitled Paz y desarme cultural (1993), “The first permanent army, in the sense of an entity specialised in violence, appeared in Babylon at a time when society was changing from being a matriarchy to a patriarchy.” Jan Smuts writes, “When I look at history, I am a pessimist, but when I look at prehistory, I am an optimist.” Indeed, wars were unknown in prehistory, even though tribal violence existed to a greater or lesser degree.

Civilization founded on power began around 3000 BC, when the invention of writing enabled power to become organized and to establish a strict control over society, which in turn led to an increase in slavery as a source of cheap labour and soldiers. From that time forward, the number of wars and their victims steadily increased.

And yet, we should not forget that “for more than 95% of his existence, Man has been a hunter, not a warrior. The urban transformation that accompanied the Neolithic revolution was characterised by the passage from a matriarchal civilization to a patriarchal civilization.”

Peace & Disarmament

The search for peace has also been a constant in the lives of men and women for more than 5,000 years, yet even in today’s world it seems to be an unattainable utopia. Nevertheless, the art of living as a human being is precisely to attempt the impossible. Having said that, as Raimon Panikkar points out, “The attempt to achieve peace by means of a single culture has not gone beyond the archetype of the Pax romana … The objective of peace is necessary if we wish to impose our culture, our economy, our religion or our democracy.” In fact, peace is not possible without disarmament, but the disarmament required is not merely nuclear, military or economic. As Panikkar suggests, we also need a genuine cultural disarmament, “a disarming of the dominant culture that threatens to become a monoculture which, in stifling all other cultures, is ultimately itself asphyxiated.” Is there any way of halting the increasingly deadly arms races and the worldwide proliferation of all manner of ever-more sophisticated weapons of destruction? We cannot forget the more than 124 million victims of the numerous wars waged in the 20th century, from the First World War to more recent conflicts, or the more than 800.000 people who die each year as a result of armed violence, when in more than 50 countries, armed violence is among the ten major causes of death.

Reconciliation

History also has a memory, and it teaches us that “victory never results in peace, that peace is not the fruit of victory,” as demonstrated by the tens of thousands of documents on which Jörg Fisch based his book Krieg und Frieden im Friedensvertrag (Stuttgart, 1979). These documents reveal not only the most unimaginable shortsightedness of human beings, but also their even greater naïveté. In conclusion, history teaches us that peace is not delivered by treaties, just as love is not summoned by decree. There is something in the nature of both peace and love which cannot be created to order, and that “only reconciliation can lead to peace.” All peace is made up of three equal and essential elements: freedom, harmony and justice. But, as Raimon Panikkar, says, “Justice is not to be confused with legality.” In this context, we need only remember that the original Constitution of the United States excluded slaves and black Americans.

I firmly believe that we can only combat the arch enemies of mankind – which are ignorance, hatred and selfishness – through love, knowledge, empathy and understanding. And isn’t that the ultimate purpose of art and thought? That is why it is essential to understand today’s globalised world, to be more aware of the complexity of the circumstances in which we live in order to reflect independently on how we might contribute to change “the dreadful chaos in which exhausted humanity currently lives, seemingly having lost touch with the essential values of civilization and humanism” (Amin Maalouf).

A world in crisis

The chaotic state of the world has been exacerbated in recent years by inhuman economic policies that have sacrificed millions of lives in the pursuit of completely outdated systems of exploitation. That is why, in these times of grave economic crisis, the sharp increase in military spending in the world is all the more surprising, reaching the astronomical figure of more than 1,700 billion dollars and serving merely to fuel and prolong the numerous armed conflicts which currently rage in the East and the West, many of them still unresolved and with little prospect of being resolved in the near future. Unfortunately, this proliferation of long-term conflicts (in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Palestine and Africa), as well as more recent conflicts (Syria) and the so-called “irregular” guerrilla wars (in Latin America) and various forms of terrorism, have so far claimed the lives of thousands of innocent victims and resulted in more than 35 million displaced people in the world. As Erasmus accusingly wrote in 1516, “War almost always takes its heaviest toll on those who have no part in it.” Twenty years after having allowed the systematic destruction of Sarajevo and the massacre of thousands of innocent Bosniaks, we are now witnessing the martyrdom of the Syrian people with the same human indifference and total impotence on the part of the world’s great nations. Absolute evil is always that which man inflicts on man, and it is a universal fact that concerns all mankind. Hannah Arendt was perhaps the first to recognize that fact when in 1945 she wrote: “The problem of evil will be the fundamental question facing postwar intellectual life in Europe.” Can art, music and beauty save mankind from that evil?

In Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot, an atheist called Hippolite asks Prince Myshkin, “Is it true, my Prince, that you once said that “beauty” would save the world? Gentlemen,” he exclaimed, addressing the whole company, “the prince contends that beauty will save the world […] What kind of beauty is it that will save the world? […] Myshkin stared at him in silence.” The prince has no answer, but, like Antoni Tàpies, we believe in an art that is useful to society, an art that through beauty, grace, emotion and spirituality, has the power to transform us and make us more sensitive and altruistic.

I would like to conclude with a quotation from a great writer, a man of great commitment and a very dear friend, José Saramago: “If I were asked to place charity, justice and goodness in order of priority, I would put goodness first, justice second and charity third. Because goodness in itself is already a source of justice and charity, and true justice is a source of charity. Charity is what is left when there is neither goodness nor justice. […] And there is one more thing I would like to add. I am old and sceptical enough to realize that “active goodness”, as I call it, is unlikely to become the common social framework. However, it can be the personal driving force of each individual and the best antidote to the ‘sick animal’ that is man.”

JORDI SAVALL

Bellaterra, Autumn 2014

Translated by Jacqueline Minett


Grammy Awards Nomination
Grammy Awards Nomination

LES ROUTES DE L’ESCLAVAGE (ALIA VOX 2016) has been nominated to “Best classical Compendium”. It is the 7th nomination that Jordi Savalls receives, besides having won the award, in 2010, for DINASTIA BORGIA (Best Small Ensamble Performance). The final decision will be known on January 28th during the 60th ceremony of the Grammy Awards. LES ROUTES DE […]


W.A. MOZART – Le Testament Symphonique
W.A. MOZART – Le Testament Symphonique

Mozart’s Symphonic Testament

1787-1788
Years of creative maturity, years of distress

By the middle of 1788, at the age of 32, Mozart had reached the height of his creative maturity, dominated by the last three symphonies, absolute masterpieces that he composed in a very short period of time – barely one and a half months. This extraordinary “symphonic massif” consisting of three peaks – Symphony No. 39 in E-flat major, completed on 26th June, Symphony No 40 in G minor, completed on 25th July and Symphony No. 41 in C major, the “Jupiter”, dated 10th August – is unquestionably the composer’s “Symphonic Testament”. A titanic task that he carried out without any specific commission, and, moreover, in extremely precarious personal circumstances, as can be seen from the following letter, penned almost at the same time as the Symphony in G minor (K.550), which was finished on 25th July, which he sent to Michael Puchberg, a member of the Zur Wahrheit (“To Truth”) Masonic lodge, who at that time frequently responded positively to his desperate pleas for help by regularly lending him money:

“My very dear friend and brother in the Order,

Owing to great difficulties and complications, my affairs have become so beleaguered that I find myself having to raise some money on these two pawn-broker’s tickets. In the name of our friendship, I beg you to do me this kindness, but it must be immediately. Forgive me for bothering you, but you know what my circumstances are.”

It is difficult today to imagine a more brutal contrast between the unremitting distress experienced by Mozart in his daily life, particularly in the final years, and the grandeur and dazzling richness of his unique and remarkable musical inspiration. It is therefore a great honour for us to present this “Symphonic Testament” of Mozart, with the recording of his last three symphonies, performed by the orchestra of Le Concert des Nations on period instruments, fully aware of Mozart’s suffering and extreme hardships at a time and in a society that failed to grasp his true musical greatness and to provide him with the moral and financial support he needed to fully develop his incomparable genius.

It was during the process of studying and understanding Mozart’s context and creative motivations at the time of composing his last three symphonies that I realised that it was essential to delve once more into his work and the most significant events of his life during the second half of 1787 and the following years. The summer of 1788 was a period of extraordinary creativity and maturity for the composer, but it was also the moment at which his life crossed the threshold of financial difficulties and declined into the most abject poverty, a situation which constantly obliged him to enter into unsustainable debts by regularly seeking loans from his friends at the Masonic lodges of which he had been a member after being admitted to the Order on 14th December, 1784.

The impressive research carried out by H. C. Robbins Landon during the 1980s clearly confirms Mozart’s links with Freemasonry during the last years of his life, in particular the Masonic lodge Zur gekrönten Hoffnung (Crowned Hope) in Vienna. It is for this reason that we have specially chosen the anonymous painting depicting a meeting of the Crowned Hope Masonic lodge in 1790 as the cover illustration of our edition. Mozart is distinctly visible as the first figure on the right of the painting. To reinforce the visual presence of Mozart in the cover image, we have taken the liberty of replacing the illustration on the wall in the background of the painting with the unfinished portrait of the composer by his brother-in-law Joseph Lange (1789 and 1790). The allegorical painting hanging on the wall in the original (reproduced in the booklet) represents an expanse of water and a rainbow. Given that the rainbow which appeared after the Flood, is a symbol of hope in the Bible and in Masonic iconography, it must have been obvious to the initiated that the painting depicted the Crowned Hope Lodge.

These links with Freemasonry are further corroborated by the recent discovery of an authentic document in which Mozart is referred to as member

Nº 56: “Mozart Wolfgang: Kapell Meister III Degree”.

We also know that Mozart’s most important Masonic work, the Maurerische Trauermusik (K.477), was performed in 1785 at the funeral following the death of two members of that lodge – Georg August, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (who died on 6th November) and Franz, Count Esterházy von Galántha (who died on 7th November). As the count was a brother of the lodge, a funeral was held there on 17th November with the participation of an orchestral ensemble as extraordinary as it was fortuitous, including the two brothers Anton David and Vincenz Springer, who played the basset horn parts, very likely joined by Mozart’s friend Anton Stadler on the clarinet. We entirely agree with Robbins Landon when he writes: “The dense symbolism of this Masonic Funeral Music shows that Mozart was thoroughly imbued with the theories and philosophy of death and their relevance to the first degree of the Order.”[1]

Two years later, in 1787, Mozart began the year under more auspicious circumstances following the enthusiastic welcome he had been given in Prague, a city which offered him everything that Vienna had denied him: success, official support, a stage and a theatre company. But he was at a critical juncture and he turned the offer down, saying: “I belong too much to others, and too little to myself.” He needed solitude in order to compose and think. Over the following months, various factors closely linked to his personal life were to have a profound effect on him: the departure from Vienna of Nancy Storace (who had sung Suzanne in The Marriage of Figaro), thus drawing to a close the sweetest love of his life, the death of his third child, as well as that of his friend Hatzfeld, and the news (received on 4th April) of his father’s worsening state of health and his eventual death, which occurred in Wolfgang’s absence on 28th May, 1787.

It was at this time that he fraternally (in the Masonic sense) spoke to his father about the meaning of death. In a famous letter, written on 4th April 1787, Wolfgang confided in the dying Leopold: “As death (when closely considered) is the true goal of our life, I have made myself so thoroughly acquainted with this good and faithful friend of man, that not only does its image no longer alarm me, but rather it is something most peaceful and consolatory! And I thank God that He has vouchsafed to grant me the happiness, and has given me the opportunity (you understand me), to learn to see it as the key to our true felicity. I never lie down at night without thinking (young as I am) that I may be no more before the next morning.”

A month later, in the letter dated 11th May of the same year, addressed to his daughter Nannerl, Leopold Mozart voiced his concern: “Your brother is now living at 224, Landstrasse. He has given me no explanation regarding this matter. None at all! Unfortunately, I can guess the reason.” Mozart had already started to get into debt, but what were the reasons and circumstances that had led him to live beyond his means? We can only speculate on the answer to these questions.

On 29th October in Prague he performed his opera Don Giovanni, based on Tirso de Molina’s famous play, in an admirable stage version by Lorenzo Da Ponte, working to instructions from Mozart himself, who wished to give greater prominence to the secondary characters in the quartet, the mask trio, and the sextet. The sublime vision of this opera reveals Mozart as a dramatic genius on a par with Shakespeare or Molière.

In spite of his enormous financial difficulties, his creative energy, encouraged by his success in Prague was not diminished. On the contrary, after the opera he enjoyed a burst of creativity which was to culminate in the composition of his last three symphonies. We agree with Jean-Victor Hocquard, who writes: “He suggests the concept of a vast 3-part symphonic project; it is therefore appropriate not to see these three masterpieces in isolation, but to consider them as the three movements of a single, vast symphonic work.” Mozart the Freemason knew that he was not separate from the universe, and that his own personal story and human society were connected in many ways that were sometimes mysterious and sometimes evident. Like J. & B. Massin, we believe that “It was from his most intimate Erlebnis (experience) that the 1788 trilogy was born, yet it transcends the composer’s personal circumstances while remaining true to them, and the victory proclaimed in the Symphony in C major is both Mozart’s victory over poverty and solitude and the victorious future towards which humanity is progressing.”

This unity strikes us as quite evident, both in terms of performance and as a listening experience: one need only feel the naturalness and eloquence of the development of the first movement of the Symphony in G minor, performing or listening to it after the final Allegro of the Symphony in E-flat major. The same perfect continuity of musical discourse is apparent when we approach the Symphony in C major after the Finale of the Symphony in G minor Hence our proposal of the three symphonies on two CDs, with Symphonies 39 and 40 on CD1 and Symphonies 40 and 41 on CD2. (Repeating the Symphony in G minor on the second CD, enables us to listen to them one after the other, without having to change CDs).

These works, which Mozart possibly never heard performed, were not readily understood in his own day, or even by later generations. At the end of 1790, Gerber published in his Historisch-Biographisches Lexicon der Tonkünstler the following entry on Mozart, referring to his isolation and the difficulty of his contemporaries in understanding his work:

“Thanks to his precocious knowledge of harmony, this great master acquired such a profound and intimate familiarity with this science that it is difficult for an untrained ear to follow his compositions. Even the most seasoned audiences need to listen to his compositions several times.”

Berlioz writes of these last symphonies that they contain “Too many pointless developments to no effect, too many technical tricks”. “If one requires of music an imaginative and impassioned exaltation, sustained and taken to extremes thanks to a rhetoric in which the ‘effects’ are judiciously or obligingly tempered, then he is right”. What is distinctive about Mozart”, argues Jean-Victor Hocquard in his magnificent biography of the composer (Ed. du Seuil, Paris 1970) – “is not only that he did not contrive these effects, but rather that, having tried them, he then broke the mould. His symphonies were unparalleled, and what the maestro had done for the string quartet and quintet, he now achieves in his writing for the orchestra independently of the piano: he makes it the substance of pure poetry.” Mozart reached maturity and the peak of symphonic composition in his day at the age of 32. It was not until eleven years later (1799) that a 29-year-old Ludwig van Beethoven would follow Mozart’s lead and compose his Symphony No. 1 in C major.

———

In 1789 Mozart’s circumstances had deteriorated even further. But what a contrast between the creative intensity of this musical giant and his wretched and increasingly desperate financial situation, one which too often forced him to borrow money from his friends at the Masonic lodge.

In another letter to Michael Puchberg dated 12th July, 1789, he writes:

“Oh, God. Instead of thanking you, I come to you with new requests! Instead of paying off my debts, I come asking for more! If you can see into my heart, you must feel that same anguish that I am experiencing I hardly need remind you that this unfortunate illness is slowing me down with my earnings: however, I must tell you that, in spite of my miserable situation, I decided to go ahead and give subscription concerts at my house so that I can at least meet my numerous current expenses, which are considerable and   frequent; for I was absolutely convinced that I could rely on your friendly help and support; but in this respect also I have failed! Unfortunately, fate is so against me, albeit only in Vienna, that I cannot earn any money, no matter how hard I try. For two weeks now I have sent round a list for subscriptions, and the only name on it is Swieten!”

One year later, on 20th January, 1790, Mozart wrote once again to his friend Puchberg:

“If you can and will lend me a further 100 florins, you will oblige me very greatly. We are having the first instrumental rehearsal at the theatre tomorrow. Haydn is coming with me. If your business allows you to do so, and if you would like to hear the rehearsal, please come to my quarters at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning, and we shall all go there together.”

Your very sincere friend.

  1. A. Mozart”

Joseph Haydn and Puchberg followed closely the birth of Così fan tutte, and Puchberg continued to lend Mozart money on the security of the composer’s fees. The premiere took place at the national theatre on 26th January, 1790. The critics’ reactions were good, and it appears that for the first time in Vienna there was unanimity concerning one of Mozart’s operas. The day after the premiere, Mozart celebrated his 34th birthday. It was to be his last full year of life; he would not see out the year 1791. Così fan tutte was performed another four times, but on 20th February Emperor Joseph II died and the theatres remained closed during the official period of mourning until 12th April. For Mozart, Joseph II’s death was a total disaster; the performances of his opera were immediately cancelled and he was unable to organise any concerts. The less immediate consequences were even more serious.

From the end of January until the end of April, he had written nothing – a state of affairs that he had not experienced since the winter of 1779-1780 at Salzburg. It was a clear sign of his depression; he had never been in such dire straits. On 14th August, 1790, he sent Puchberg an S.O.S. – the most tragic of his begging letters.

“My dear friend and brother, I was tolerably well yesterday, but I feel absolutely wretched today: I could not sleep all night because of the pain; I must have got overheated yesterday from walking so much and then I must have caught a chill without realising it. Imagine my situation! Sick and overcome with worries and anguish! Such a situation prevents a quick recovery. In a week or fortnight I shall be better off, certainly, but at present, I am destitute. Could you not help me out with a trifle? The smallest sum would be very welcome just now and for the time being you would provide relief for your true friend and brother.”

  1. A. Mozart”

As Jean and Brigitte Massin so aptly observe in their indispensable book on the life and work of Mozart (Paris 1970): “This time, Mozart had reached rock bottom. That same day, Puchberg sent him 10 florins, the most modest sum he had ever been loaned. This brought Puchberg’s loans to Mozart since those of the previous winter to a total of 510 florins, the composer’s expected fees from Così fan tutte being offered as security. The amounts of money lent by Puchberg closely reflect Mozart’s perceived social standing. In April-May, it seemed likely that Mozart would obtain a coveted position at Court, and Puchberg accordingly answered Wolfgang’s requests by sending him sums of 150 or 100 florins; but when it became clear that he could no longer hope to secure the position, the value of the loans decreased to 10 florins following Mozart’s desperate letter written in August.” Events showed that the increasing distance between the Court of the new Emperor Leopold II and Mozart was due to fear that the French Revolution, which had succeeded in toppling the monarchy of Versailles, would spread, as well as Leopold II’s growing conviction that Freemasons – and particularly those who sympathised with the Enlightenment – were in league with the French Jacobins. Mozart had written the opera The Marriage of Figaro, inspired by the Beaumarchais play of which Louis XVI had said: “For the performance of this play not to be a danger, the Bastille would have to be torn down first.” And he never made any secret of belonging to the Freemasons. Moreover, the most notable among his friends at the lodges were followers of the Enlightenment. “It was unthinkable that the musician who had praised liberty in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, equality in The Marriage of Figaro, and who would go on to raise a hymn to fraternity in The Magic Flute, would not wholeheartedly espouse the slogan “LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY!” that was already familiar to the Grand Orient Lodge of France, and today is proclaimed by revolutionaries.” “The fact that Mozart was not included on the list of the guest musicians at the coronation celebrations was not an oversight or a matter of indifference: it expressed the wish to bury him alive.” (J. & B. Massin).

Towards the end of that grim year of 1790, he received an interesting invitation from the director of the Italian Opera in London to carry out various engagements between December 1790 and June 1791. However, Mozart was not able to accept the offer. To be available at such short notice, he needed to be free of commitments, and Mozart enjoyed no such freedom. His position and his duties prevented him from travelling without making the necessary arrangements to take leave of absence. How was he to sort out such a complicated situation? How was he to find the money necessary to make the trip to England? Mozart was a prisoner of his own hardship, trapped in Vienna. The tour that he had been forced to decline was taken up by one of his closest friends. On 15th December, 1790, Joseph Haydn left Vienna to embark on a London concert tour. After Haydn’s departure, Mozart was once again left to face his financial problems alone. Projects, resolutions, realisations and all his endeavours failed to change the distressed circumstances of his household. His last winter was to prove one of his most difficult: his friend, Joseph Deiner, the owner of the “Zur silbernen Schlange” (The Silver Snake) inn, where Mozart liked to spend time in the company of other musicians, recounted the following: “In 1790, he called on the Mozarts. He found Mozart and his wife in the workroom which overlooked the Rauhensteingasse. The couple were busily dancing around the room. On asking Mozart if he was giving his wife dancing lessons, Mozart laughingly answered: ‘We are warming ourselves up, because we are cold and we can’t afford firewood.” Deiner immediately went and brought some of his own firewood, which Mozart accepted, promising to pay him back as soon as he had some money.” (Joseph Deiner, Memoirs). Ludwig Nohl, Mozart nach den Schilderungen seiner Zeitgenossen, Leipzig, 1880. 

In 1791, the Mozart family’s financial circumstances began to improve. Unlike 1790, which had been a disastrous year in which Mozart had composed no works of major importance except the two Prussian Quartets, the String Quintet in D major and his Organ Piece for a Clock – 1791 was one of Mozart’s most prolific years, notably yielding the Piano Concerto No. 27, the Six German Dances for orchestra, the Ave verum corpus, The Magic Flute, La Clemenza di Tito, the Clarinet Concerto in A, Eine kleine Freymaurer-Kantate and the greater part of the Requiem.

On 14th October, 1791, Mozart was in Vienna, and he took Salieri and the latter’s mistress, the singer Caterina Cavalieri, to a performance of The Magic Flute. In his last surviving letter, he wrote to his wife: “Both said that it is an opera worthy to be performed on the greatest occasions before the greatest of monarchs.” That same day, Emperor Leopold II, at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, received an unsigned letter from a confidant (whose handwriting he recognised), accusing Archduke Franz von Schloissnig, of plotting a revolution against him. One of the ensuing investigations mentioned one of Mozart’s principal patrons, Baron Swieten, as well as many other members of Masonic lodges, whom the Austrian government suspected of wishing to follow France’s example by establishing a constitutional monarchy. There can be little doubt that, as a prominent Freemason, Mozart must also have come under suspicion.

This terrible situation, combined with his delicate state of health and a punishingly intense work schedule, progressively took its toll on his mental and physical condition. The fatal blow came on 12th November, 1791, when a harsh sentence was handed down to Mozart following a trial in which Prince Carl Lichnowsky[2], a member of the same lodge as Mozart during the period 1784-1786, was also involved. Documents discovered by the leading Mozart scholar H. C. Robbins Landon at the Hofkammerarchiv in Vienna concerning a previously unknown court case provide the first evidence of what was probably the chief cause of the composer’s death at the age of 35. They reveal that on 12th November, 1791, Mozart was ordered to repay a debt of 1,435 florins and 32 Kreuzer, as well as 24 florins in costs, involving the embargo of half of his stipend as Imperial-Royal Court Composer and his assets going into receivership. The details of this extraordinary trial are not known, but taking into account Mozart’s extremely precarious situation, it is more than likely that the emotional and financial blow dealt by such an implacable sentence contributed to hasten the composer’s untimely demise. 24 days later, following a grave illness characterised in its later stages by kidney failure, Mozart died at 12.55 a.m. on 5th December, 1791, at the age of 35.

His Freemason brothers organised a funeral ceremony in his memory, and the funeral oration was printed by Ignaz Alberti, a member of the composer’s lodge, who had published the first libretto of The Magic Flute.

At three o’clock in the afternoon of 6th December, 1791, in the afternoon, following a funeral service in the Chapel of the Holy Cross of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Mozart’s s remains were transferred to St. Mark’s cemetery outside the city walls, where they were buried in a common grave.

_________

“I was for some time quite beside myself over Mozart’s death;
I could not believe that Providence should so quickly have called
an irreplaceable man into the other world.”
Joseph Haydn

When Rossini was asked,
“Who was the greatest musician?” he replied, “Beethoven!”
“And Mozart?”  “Oh! He was unique!”

Two hundred years later, this judgment still holds true.

 

 

 

JORDI SAVALL
Melbourne, 28th March, 2019
Translated by Jacqueline Minett


HENRICUS ISAAC
HENRICUS ISAAC

Splendour of the Humanist Renaissance before the Protestant Reformation
Homage to one of the greatest Renaissance composers
With the release of this new recording dedicated to Heinrich Isaac, in memory of the 500th anniversary of his death, ALIA VOX pays tribute to one of the greatest Renaissance composers. Heinrich or Henricus Isaac, as we shall call him, was born in Brabant but spent most of his life travelling around Europe, from his native Flanders to the court of Burgundy, Austria, and then Italy and Germany. At the invitation of Lorenzo the Magnificent, in 1488 he moved to Florence, the city he continued to call home through all his travels, and where he became a highly regarded and much admired member of the Medici court. Some years after the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1492, he also became the principal composer at the court of Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg (1497) until his death, and, notwithstanding his extensive travels, spent most of his time in Florence.

An extremely prolific and innovative composer, Isaac left one of the most important musical legacies of his day and was distinguished by his absolute mastery of the art of counterpoint and polyphony – an art in which he was supremely gifted, both in his religious works and his secular songs and instrumental music. We echo the opinion of Anton Webern, who observed that Isaac’s compositions, which in terms of their absolute mastery of counterpoint are comparable to those of other illustrious Flemish composers such as Pierre de la Rue, Jacob Obrecht and Josquin des Prés, clearly stand out from his contemporaries in “the unfailing and exceptional vivacity and independence of the voices” (Anton Webern, 1906) in his many beautiful, complex forms of polyphony.

Until 1680, and although the sublime art of his music was recognized and highly acclaimed throughout Europe both during his lifetime and after his death, Isaac’s work was gradually relegated to the vaults of libraries and musical archives; more than 400 years were to pass before there was a revival of interest in his music.

During the process of preparation, study and performance of this selection of magnificent choral works by Isaac with the solo vocalists of La Capella Reial de Catalunya and the musicians of Hespèrion XXI, I often wondered and speculated about the reasons for this lack of knowledge and recognition of such a great composer. How was it possible that so much of the work of such a great genius was so little known in the musical world of the 21st century? Was it a question of ignorance or historical amnesia? Or was it the consequence of a lack of interest on the part of performers, musical institutions and concert programmers?

It should be borne in mind that at that time people believed in progress in the art of music, whereby each new generation of composers ushered in new musical forms, thus rendering the works of earlier generations obsolete. Let us not forget that music only truly exists and comes to life when it is sung by a voice or played on an instrument. When that music ceases to be played, it is unjustly considered less modern than the works of recent and contemporary composers, and all memory and trace of its existence begins to be lost. Consequently, all these wonderful compositions were gradually consigned to the long sleep of oblivion, which was to persist until the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The fact that it was still very difficult to access the original, together with the dearth of modern editions that were faithful to the original sources, merely prolonged this already long amnesia.

This is precisely the subject addressed by the great writer and poet Aldous Huxley in his eloquent essay entitled “Gesualdo: Variations on a Musical Theme”, written around 1960. In the essay, he cites Isaac as one of the great unjustly forgotten composers of the Renaissance and reminds us of the circumstantial causes leading to that unjust oblivion, which in his view was the result of “the tragic loss of memory suffered by European musical awareness, an amnesia which persisted until the end of the Second World War. As late as the 1950s, the musical repertoire before Monteverdi, which lay buried under the successive cultural layers of modernism, was still waiting to be rediscovered.” Let us not forget that even one of the great masterpieces, Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine, composed in 1610, was not performed again in modern times until 1935!

The origins and the consequences of this lamentable misconception are to be found in the great cultural upheaval that took place at the beginning of the 15th century. It was the period which would later be called “the Renaissance”, in reference to a vigorous new flourishing of the Arts, influenced and inspired by the discovery of the artistic treasures of the extraordinary Greek civilisation (treasures which would subsequently become models that inspired and shaped a fabulous and totally new artistic departure). What actually happened is almost banal: the arts which were “reborn”, inspired by the still extant and accessible ancient artistic creations, were the “tangible” arts – in other words, those which the artists of the 15th century could “see”, “touch” or “read”. Obviously, music, the most spiritual and therefore “intangible” of all the arts, went untouched by the Renaissance, because the composers of that period were not able to take their inspiration from the music of Ancient Greece; indeed, sadly, nobody could “listen to” or even “read” an ancient legacy kept alive for two thousand years through oral transmission, and of which nothing tangible remained. Aside from the numerous philosophical texts, which refer to the importance of music in education and everyday life, no written accounts survive of what the musical life of the Ancient Greeks was really like. Lacking any tangible information, 15th century musicians were unable to reconstruct or even to imagine the musical equivalent of the great epic and dramatic texts such as Homer’s Iliad.

The existence of refined works of art dating back more than two thousand years was evident in all the other arts, proving that there was no such thing as progress when it came to art; instead, there were sublime, transcendent creations which nevertheless bore the imprint of their age. Unfortunately, finding no trace or proof of the musical genius of the Ancient Greeks, musicians continued to confuse the evolution of musical language and style with the notion of progress until well into the 19th century, as witnessed by Stendhal’s The Lives of Haydn, Mozart and Metastasio (1806).

Eventually, one hundred years later, in the 20th century, there emerged a new awareness of the importance of Isaac’s work. In 1902 a 19-year-old student called Anton Webern submitted his dissertation on the edition of the second book of Propers of the Mass of Isaac’s Choralis Constantinus as part of his musicology studies at the University of Vienna under the direction of Guido Adler. This profound interest in Renaissance music and Heinrich Isaac’s music, in particular, was to be a great influence on Webern’s own compositional technique, and during his studies under Arnold Schönberg, which he concluded in 1908 with the publication of his Passacaglia, Op. 1. Together with Alban Berg, another of Schönberg’s disciples, he was to become one of the great composers of the dodecaphonic and serial school. It is in the preface to this edition of the Choralis Constantinus that he draws our attention to the importance of the late 15th century composer and explains with wonderment what he admires about Isaac’s art of composition.

The programme for our CD was conceived as a true “musical homage” that could illustrate in the brief space of a recording the immense richness and creative diversity of this great Renaissance composer. We also offer a short, chronological evocation of some of the key events in the life of this great musician, as well as the key moments in history for which his music was composed or performed; these works include A la battaglia, which illustrates the battle between Genoa and Florence for Sarzanello Castle, and Quis dabit capiti meo aquam, a deeply moving lament composed on the occasion of the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici.

Because we begin our musical journey with Isaac’s birth, we have included some exceptions to our chronological musical narrative, choosing to illustrate the early years of his life with some of his most beautiful compositions (naturally written several years later): these include the instrumental piece Palle, palle, which evokes the fanfare of the Medicis and serves as an introduction to the programme of music on this CD, the motet Parce, Domine composed on the death of Cosimo de’ Medici in 1464 and the motet Sustinuimus pacem, with which we symbolically celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Picquigny in 1475 between Louis XI of France and Edward IV of England, marking the end of the Hundred Years War.

The beautiful song Innsbruck, ich muß dich lassen illustrates Isaac’s departure from Innsbruck (1484?), although the sources of its discovery date from somewhat later. The Florentine carnival song Hora e di maggio evokes his arrival in Florence (1485) and his subsequent marriage. The great motet Sancti spiritus assit nobis gratia, composed in honour of Maximilian I at the beginning of the Imperial Diet at Constance, evokes the celebrations in honour of his succession, following the death of Emperor Frederick III, as the new Holy Roman Emperor in 1493.

The Motet for 6 voices Angeli, Archangeli reminds us of the remarkable “Perpetual Peace” between all the Nations of the Holy Roman Empire, decreed by the Diet of Worms in 1495. The instrumental canzona La Mi La Sol recalls his time at Ferrara (La Mi La Sol are the notes of the Duke of Ferrara’s musical motif) about 1502. And what better than the impressive motet Optime divino / Da pacem / Sacerdos et pontifex (1514), the text of which refers to Giovanni de’ Medici as Pope Leo X, to conjure up the solemnity surrounding his coronation in 1513, a ceremony that Isaac attended as the Medicis’ guest of honour. Another very moving moment is the musical evocation of Isaac’s death on 26th March, 1517, with the performance of the chorale Circumdederunt me gemitus mortis, one of the most poignant funeral prayers from the Choralis Constantinus cycle (transcribed and published in 1906 by Anton Webern). Six months later, on 31st October, Luther published his theses against Rome, marking the birth of what would later become the Protestant Lutheran Church, which is evoked here with the spiritual text O Welt, ich muss dich lassen, adapted to the music of the song Innsbruck, ich muß dich lassen, a typical contrefacta which rapidly gained popularity as a Protestant chorale. And finally we conclude by evoking the celebrations for the coronation of Charles V as King of the Romans at Aachen in 1520, his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Clement VII finally taking place at Bologna in 1530.

This event is illustrated by the Contrefactum of one of Isaac’s loveliest motets, Virgo prudentissima prudentissima (composed for the Imperial Diet of Constance in 1507), whose text celebrates Maximilian I as Holy Roman Emperor), adapted using the new text Christus, filius Dei by an anonymous author (after 1520) in which the original text referring to Maximilian as Cæsare Maximiliano is replaced by the words Carolo Cæsare romano in reference to Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor.

Given the considerable formal grandeur and rich polyphonic complexity of some of the motets we have selected (Angeli, Archangeli for 6 voices, Christ ist erstanden for 5 voices, Imperii proceres Romani, etc.,) and the often exceptional occasions on which his works were performed (coronations of Emperors, Imperial Diets, etc.), we decided to use quite a large choir and orchestra: a vocal ensemble of 8 soloist singers and 6 ripieno singers, and an instrumental ensemble of 13 instruments (including 6 wind instruments, 4 viols, organ, lute and percussion), which enabled us to perform certain motets with the addition (in the cantus firmus and the solemn tutti passages) of the appropriate instrumental colours and, at the same time, to play some of the composer’s major instrumental pieces, such as A la battaglia, the fanfare of the Medicis Palle, palle and the instrumental Motet/Canzona La Mi La Sol, which Isaac composed in 1502 after spending time at the court of the Duke of Ferrara.

This homage to Henricus Isaac was first performed at Drassanes Reials in Barcelona on 22nd December 2016 as part of L’Auditori’s “El So Original” early music season, the recording being made the day after the concert, thanks to the extraordinary artistic and personal dedication of all the singers and musicians who took part in this project.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude and warmest thanks to the musicologist Dr. Stefan Gasch, not only for his excellent commentary on Henricus Isaac, but also for his additional critical reflections on the project and his essential collaboration on the sources and historical references for Isaac’s works and the corresponding historical events.

I would like to conclude this introduction with another quotation from Anton Webern, in which he expresses his great admiration for the profound qualities of Isaac’s work, an admiration shared by all those who have taken part in this project: “It is wonderful to see the way in which Heinrich Isaac captures the spirit of these chorales (Gregorian chants) and their great depth of feeling, which he makes his own, so that the chorale in the composer’s music as a whole appears not as something extraneous, but, on the contrary, seems to fuse with it in a sublime union – a magnificent testament to the greatness of his art.”

JORDI SAVALL

Oslo, 19th March, 2017

 

Translated by Jacqueline Minett


LES ROUTES DE L’ESCLAVAGE
LES ROUTES DE L’ESCLAVAGE

Slavery remembered
1444 – 1888

Humanity is divided into two: masters and slaves.
Aristotle (385-322 B. C), Politics
Homo homini lupus est.
Plautus (c. 195 B. C) Asinaria
Man is a wolf to his fellow man.
Thomas Hobbes (1651), De Cive 
Despite the fact that for more than four centuries, from 1444 (the year of the first mass slaving expedition, described in a text from the period) to 1888 (the year slavery was abolished in Brazil), over 25 million Africans were shipped by European countries to be bound in slavery, this period of history – one of the most painful and shameful in the history of mankind – is still largely unknown by the general public. The women, men and children who were brutally deported from their villages in Africa to the European colonies in the New World had only their culture of origin to accompany them on the journey: religious beliefs, traditional medicine, dietary customs, and music – songs and dances that they kept alive in their new destinations, known as habitations or plantations. We shall try to evoke those shameful moments in the history of humanity through a series of eloquent texts and accounts, accompanied by the emotion and vitality of the music to which the slaves sang and danced.
And yet, how could they think of singing and dancing when they were reduced to the condition of slaves? The answer is simple: song and dance, rhythmically structured by music, were the only context in which they could feel free and express themselves – something that nobody could take away from them. Singing was, therefore, their chief means of expressing their sorrows and their joys, their suffering and their hopes, as well as a reminder of their origins and their loved ones. It enabled all those people with their diverse origins and languages to create a common world and withstand the negation of their humanity.
First documented 5,000 years ago, slavery is the most monstrous of all the man-made institutions created throughout history. In fact, its existence only began to be objectively documented when “history” (as opposed to prehistory) began; in other words, with the invention of the earliest writing systems. Its organisation is closely linked to the invention of the State in the modern sense of the term, that is, an organ of centralised coercion, supported by an army and a civil service. Indeed, both, – as pointed out by Christian Delacampagne in his Histoire de l’esclavage (Paris, 2002) “came about five thousand years ago, in the region that historians call the ‘fertile crescent’ […] There is a simple explanation for this apparently surprising connection between the emergence of writing, slavery and the State: all three became possible when the forces of production of a given social group, in a given time and place, became sufficiently developed to enable them to produce a greater quantity of food than was required for the survival of the community. “
As Paul Cartledge explains in his interesting text, in Ancient Greece there were a thousand or so separate political entities, and the principal cities based their social, political and economic relations on slave labour. “Aristotle’s definition of a citizen – that of a man who actively participates in public affairs and sits as a magistrate – corresponds to the perfect citizen of a democratic Athens […] Thus it appears that there was a mutually strengthened circle or loop between slavery in the mines and democracy – a virtuous circle for free citizens, but a vicious circle for the exploited and harshly treated slaves.”
In Antiquity and the Middle Ages, black slaves were a rare, exotic and very costly merchandise for their owners. For more than two thousand years, the majority of slaves were white, originating in Northern Europe and the regions around the Mediterranean Sea. All this changed when a sizeable commercial trade, instigated by the Crowns of Portugal and Spain from the middle to the late 15th century was established between Europe, Africa and America.
Slavery already existed in Africa before the massive Portuguese and Spanish slaving expeditions began. It was the need to replace the feeble workforce of native Indians, especially when it was recognized that Indians had a soul and must be converted to Christianity, that the modern trade in black African slaves to the New World began. We know that there were black slaves on board the ships of Christopher Columbus, and also that in the years immediately after 1500, King Ferdinand I sent instructions for the purchase and transfer of black slaves to the island of Hispaniola, where they were sent to work in the gold mines. Alonso de Zuazo, appointed judge in residence on the island by Cardinal Cisneros, recommended in a letter dated 22nd January 1518: “Dar licencia general que se traigan negros, gente recia para el trabajo, al revés de los indios naturales, tan débiles que solo pueden servir en labores de poca resistencia.” (To issue a general authorisation to import Blacks, who are strong and can withstand hard work, unlike the native Indians, the latter being so weak that they are only useful for tasks that do not require much stamina.) It was on this same island that the first revolt of black slaves took place in the New World in 1522.
The French began to trade in black African slaves in the 1530s at the mouths of the Senegal and Gambia Rivers.  From the beginning of the 17th century, the English arrived in the Caribbean, first in the Bermudas (1609) and then in Barbados, while the Dutch were the first to unload twenty African slaves (20th August, 1619) in the port of Jamestown in the English colony of Virginia, which became the centre of the tobacco-growing industry. It was the first time that Blacks had set foot as slaves on the soil of the future United States. It was also the beginning of a particularly painful history: the history of today’s Afro-Americans.
Paradoxically, it was during the “Age of Enlightenment” (1685-1777) that the Black slave trade reached its apogee. Like Christian Delacampagne, we ask ourselves the questions: “Are light and shadow truly inseparable? Was the progress of reason incapable of heralding the age of justice? Are reason and evil inextricably linked? Such would appear to be the lessons of European history. But it was to be another two hundred years, dozens of wars and several attempts at genocide later, in the aftermath of 1945, before this bitter lesson was explicitly learned by the philosophers Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno (Dialektik der Aufklärung, 1947).”
In this CD/DVD book from ALIAVOX, featuring the live audio and video recordings of the concert at the Festival of Fontfroide Abbey on 19th July, 2015, we aim to present the essential facts surrounding that terrible history, thanks to the extraordinary vitality and profound emotion of this music, preserved in the ancient traditions of the descendants of slaves. The music lives on, etched into the memory of the peoples concerned, from the coast of West Africa and Brazil (Jongos, Caboclinhos paraibanos, Ciranda, Maracatu and Samba), Mexico, the islands of the Caribbean, Colombia and Bolivia (songs and dances from the African traditions), together with the traditional Griotte music still found in Mali. The music is performed by musicians from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Mali, Morocco and Madagascar in dialogue with Hispanic musical forms inspired in the songs and dances of slaves, native Indians and racial mixes of all kinds based on African, Mestizo and Indian traditions. The contribution of the more or less forced collaboration of slaves in the Church liturgy of the New World is represented in this recording by the Villancicos de Negros, Indios, and Negrillas, Christian songs by Mateu Flecha the Elder (La Negrina), Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (Puebla mss.), Juan de Araujo, Roque Jacinto de Chavarria, Juan Garcia de Céspedes, Fr. Filipe da Madre de Deus, etc., performed by the vocalists and soloists of La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Hespèrion XXI, together with musicians from Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, Spain and Catalonia. For the first time, they come together in a triangular relationship, linking the three continents of Europe, Africa and Latin America, and the heritage of Africa and America with borrowings from the European Renaissance and the Baroque, resulting in a disturbing and at the same time deeply hope-inspiring record of a musical heritage which is the positive reverse side of a culture of conquest and forced conversion.
There could be no starker contrast than that which exists between the striking beauty and mysterious power of this music and the brutal accounts and detailed descriptions that our selection of chroniclers and religious of the period (texts recited by Bakary Sangaré) gave concerning the expeditions to capture men and women in their African villages. We are given an insight into those accounts through the studies, historical research and reflections on the subject contained in the excellent articles contributed by our formidable team of experts: Paul Cartledge, José Antonio Piqueras, José Antonio Martínez Torres, Gustau Nerin and Sergi Grau (timeline and selection of source texts).
Through the music of the descendants of slaves, we also wish to pay a moving tribute as we remember that dark period, and appeal to each one of us to recognize the extreme inhumanity and the terrible suffering inflicted on all the victims of that heinous trade. It was an ignoble enterprise perpetrated by the majority of the great European nations against millions of African men, women and children, who for more than four hundred years were systematically deported and brutally exploited to cement the great wealth of 18th and 19th century Europe. Those civilized nations have not yet deemed it necessary to make an unreserved apology, or even to offer any kind of compensations (symbolic or real) for the forced labour carried out by the slaves who were regarded as chattels (nothing more than “tools” without a soul). On the contrary, the four-centuries-long slave trade, during which they became established on the coasts of Africa, paved the way for the principal European countries’ “colonisation” of Africa. In other words, it confirmed them in the belief that the continent was their property. It is as if from the end of the Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century, Europe had relentlessly pursued one common goal: to subjugate, one after the other, all the lands stretching south of the Mediterranean.
In view of the extremely serious situation of large numbers of people risking their lives to reach Europe from Africa (so far, more than 3,000 have died since the beginning of 2016) by crossing the sea once known as the MARE NOSTRUM and now a sad MARE MORTIS, why is it that today, in the 21st century, none of the those responsible for immigration in European countries remembers our enormous moral and economic debt to the Africans who are now forced to flee their homelands, currently mired in abject poverty or ravaged by tribal or territorial wars, and frequently abandoned to corrupt dictators (propped up by our own governments) or insatiable multinational companies?
The period which saw an official end to slavery (1800-1880) saw the rise – particularly strong in those countries where it had lasted the longest – of another aberrant, inhuman kind of relationship, characterised by a visceral hatred of the other, the foreigner and, above all, of the former slave: racism. Slavery was built on contempt for the other – whether Black, Mestizo, or the native Indian – while racism feeds on hatred of people who are no longer slaves, but different. As Christian Delacampagne writes: “The history of slavery preceded and paved the way for that of racism. Historically, slavery came first. Racism was merely the consequence of a civilisation’s long habituation to the institution of slavery, whose victims have always been foreigners.”
We also want to draw attention to the fact that, at the beginning of the third millennium, this tragedy is still ongoing for more than 30 million human beings, of whom many are children or young girls subjected to new forms of slavery brought about by the demands of production and prostitution. We need to speak out in indignation and say that humanity is not doing what it should to put an end to slavery and other related forms of exploitation. Although absolutely illegal in the vast majority of countries in the world, and despite also being officially condemned by the international authorities, slavery still exists today, even in the supposedly democratic developed countries. Again, as Christian Delacampagne writes, “In the face of slavery, as in the face of racism, there is no possible compromise. There is no possible tolerance. There is only one response: zero tolerance.” Against the absolute outrage of the exploitation of child labour and the prostitution of minors, against these endemic ills in human society, which continue to breed new forms of slavery, and against that hatred of the other, which is the inhuman force of racism, the struggle is not over.
Through the texts and music of our CD/DVD book, we hope to contribute to that struggle. We firmly believe that the advantage of being aware of the past enables us to be more responsible and therefore morally obliges us to take a stand against these inhuman practices. The music in this programme represents the true living history of that long and painful past. Let us listen to the emotion and hope expressed in these songs of survival and resistance, this music of the memory of a long history of unmitigated suffering, in which music became a mainspring of survival and, fortunately for us all, has survived as an eternal refuge of peace, consolation and hope.
JORDI SAVALL
Sarajevo/Bellaterra
21/23 October, 2016
Translated by Jacqueline Minett

BAL·KAN Miel et Sang
BAL·KAN Miel et Sang

To Voltaire’s statement “Without the senses there is no memory, and without memory there is no mind”, we would add that without memory and mind there is neither Justice nor Civilisation. Music is the most spiritual of all the Arts. In fact, it is the Art of Memory par excellence, which only exists when a singer or an instrumentalist brings it to life. It is then, when our senses are moved by the beauty and emotion of a song or by the surprising vitality of a dance, that, thanks to memory, we can capture it in our minds. Such intense yet fleeting moments bring peace and joy or sweetness and nostalgia to our hearts, moments that we cherish in our memory.

In today’s world of instant communication, the overriding influence of globalisation is one of the principal causes of the daily loss of ancestral memories. We are faced with such an avalanche of information, visual stimuli and leisure activities that age-old local cultures belonging to the oral tradition can be crowded out. Often these include unique musical traditions passed down over the centuries from parents to children and from teachers to pupils, which have been kept alive to the present day, thanks to the essential role they play in the daily lives of individuals and families, and because they are an integral part of the ceremonies and festivals that celebrate the natural Cycles in the Life of both Man and Nature: music that has survived and has helped us to survive.

“Progress” is finally making inroads in some of those parts of Eastern Europe, which, for more than four centuries, were isolated from the social and technological development experienced in mainstream Europe. However, this modernisation of our everyday lives has meant that much of the music that had survived unscathed by the passage of time and oblivion is now gradually disappearing and being replaced by more “modern” and “universal” music. The moving songs and the beautiful old dances are gradually being ousted by the global music that floods the modern mass media: TV, Internet, Radio, Cinema, CDs, etc.

We hope that our new CD/Book “The Voices of Memory” in the BAL·KAN countries (“Honey & Blood”), driven by a creative approach that is characterised by its respect for original stylistic differences, will contribute to introduce these repertories to new audiences. At the same time, we wish to pay a sincere tribute to all those musicians, to all those men and women who, with their sublime and profoundly authentic art, continue to breathe life into the music that has been the backdrop to their own and their ancestors’ lives. In our opinion, it constitutes one of the richest and most moving examples of the intangible heritage of humanity. In this new recording, true “Voices of Memory” will accompany us on a fascinating and illuminating musical journey: an imaginary voyage, but one which exists in time and space and in the “Cycles of Life” of this ancient part of Europe that the 15th century invading Ottomans called Bal Kan (Honey & Blood), a region which, more than three thousand years ago, was the cradle of our European civilisation.

In devising and developing our programme, we invited and worked with 40 singers and musicians of various faiths: Muslim, Christian and Jewish, from 14 different countries: Armenia, Belgium/Manouche, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Cyprus, Spain, France, Greece and Crete, Hungary, Israel, Morocco, Serbia, Syria and Turkey. Performing as soloists or in ensembles, they offer a wide selection of music belonging to many living traditions that make up the vast mosaic of musical cultures of the Balkan peoples and their Gypsy and Sephardic diasporas. To provide a poetic and well-structured listening experience, we have grouped together songs and new music under the six different headings of “Cycles of Life and Nature”. This magnificent original idea by Montserrat Figueras was developed during 2009/2011, finally culminating in a concert programme devoted to the “CYCLES OF LIFE: The paths of the Sephardic Diaspora”, which was presented in Barcelona on 31st May, 2010, and at the Fontfroide Festival on 18th July, 2011. This dynamic structure allows the songs and instrumental pieces of the BAL · KAN project to combine and alternate in a highly organic way within the six principal parts of the programme:

I. CREATION:
UNIVERSE, ENCOUNTERS & DESIRES
II. SPRING:
BIRTH, DREAMS & CELEBRATIONS
III. SUMMER:
ENCOUNTERS, LOVE & MARRIAGE
IV. AUTUMN:
MEMORY, MATURITY & JOURNEY
V. WINTER:
SPIRITUALITY, SACRIFICE, EXILE & DEATH
VI. (RE)CONCILIATION

The selection of music for this recording has been carried out on the basis of our research into the Sephardic and Ottoman repertories conserved in the principal cities of the Balkans and, above all, thanks to the proposals made by the various specialist musicians and ensembles: Agi Szalóki, Meral Azizoğlu, Bora Dugić, Tcha Limberger, Nedyalko Nedyalkov, Dimitri Psonis, Gyula Csík, Irini Derebei and Moslem Rahal, whom we invited to work with us on the project. We thank them all for their remarkable commitment and their wonderful musical performances. Their variety and diversity have contributed to the shape and meaning of this “Bal·Kan: Honey & Blood” Ancient and modern musical traditions, rural and urban music, celebratory or evocative pieces, including songs and dances of very different origin, from Bulgaria to Serbia, from Macedonia to the furthest reaches of Ottoman Turkey, from Romania to the Hungarian border, from Bosnia to Greece, from Sephardic music to Gypsy traditions.
A veritable musical mosaic performed by the “Voices of Memory” and accompanied on original instruments from each culture: Kaval, Gûdulka (Bulgarian Lira), Tambura, Greek Lira, Kamancheh, Kanun, Oud, Tambur, Ney, Santur, Saz, Violin and Double Bass, Frula, Cymbalum, Accordeon, Organ and Guitar, etc. All this music, together with the earlier recording of instrumental music, “Spirit of the Balkans”, enables us to evoke a multicultural map of the musical traditions of this rich part of Eastern Europe, which astonish and entrance us not only with their vitality and passion, but also with their beauty and spirituality. We can see that, despite the national characteristics of the various peoples of the Balkan Peninsula, it is very often those very same traits that unite them at the deepest level.

* * * * *

The idea of embarking on a major musical and historical project on the peoples of the Balkans and the Gypsy and Sephardic diasporas was born towards the end of 2011 during the preparations for a concert dedicated to the city of Sarajevo, which we gave as part of Barcelona’s Festival Grec on 9th July, 2012. Twenty years ago, during the tragic events of the war, which led to the disintegration of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, the city had suffered a terrible siege by Serbian troops; more than 12,000 people were killed and more than 50,000 were seriously wounded. Europe in particular, and the whole world in general, responded with absolute silence and a more than questionable decision not to intervene in the conflict, the consequence of which was a brutal four-year siege of the Bosnian capital (1992-1996). International intervention did not decisively come about until 1995, but by then more than twenty thousand tons of missiles and shellfire had for ever disfigured the physical and human geography of a city which for centuries had been the cultural crossroads of the Balkan Peninsula. There the traditions of the Slavonic world, both Orthodox and Catholic, existed side by side in perfect harmony with more recent cultural traditions such as Islam, brought by the Ottoman Turks – who ruled the Balkans for more than four hundred years – and Judaism, brought by the Sephardic Jews, who found refuge there after being expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492. As Paul Garde observes, “This last Balkan war broke out suddenly in Europe after half a century of pacification, when the more troubled chapters of its history lay forgotten. Hence the incomprehension and the suspicion directed against the region, and the resurfacing of stereotypes which portray it as eternally doomed to a pattern of killing and misery.” Still regarded as the “powder keg of Europe”, we should not forget, as Predrag Matvejević points out, that the Balkan Peninsula was also “the cradle of European civilisation.” A peninsula forming part of the Mediterranean world, which stretches from the island of Cythera in the South, to the Danube and the Sava in the North, but one in which, as Georges Castellan points out, “the olive tree does not actually reach as far as Istanbul, and the Bulgarian countries owe nothing to the soft breezes of the Mediterranean.” And yet, from the Peloponnese to Moldavia, despite the changing landscapes, the towns and villages have much in common: everywhere there are dome-topped Byzantine churches, often a mosque, and the corbelled buildings (çardak) and inns (han), and caravanserai or caravan stops, that are to be found both in Patras and Bucharest, in Skodra and Plovdiv, not to mention the pavement workshops where the craftsmen invite you to join them in a Turkish coffee as they hammer away at their copper plates. A family resemblance? Yes, undoubtedly that of diverse peoples who, after a long shared adventure, have constituted within Europe a distinctive cultural expression.” Observant travellers pointed to a certain style of living, a sort of “spirit” of the Balkans, which combines a laid-back approach to life, conviviality and above all a sense of hospitality, a fundamental value that is still greatly respected by all Balkan societies, and in particular continues to be cultivated in rural areas.

However, for a true understanding of this distinctive Balkan character, we must take a look back in history. In the eastern Mediterranean, the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century gave way to a blueprint for the Byzantine Empire with its capital at Constantinople, which was to be the greatest and richest city in the Balkans for more than a thousand years until 1453. Byzantium was to unify the peninsula in both political and religious terms, leaving its legacy of Orthodox Christianity, which continues to be an essential characteristic of the majority of Balkan countries today. In the 16th century, however, the whole of the Balkans fell to the Ottoman Empire, which, in 1453, adopted from its capital at Istanbul the tolerant attitude of traditional Islam towards the Christian majority as another “People of the Book”, as long as they accepted Muslim rule and paid the taxes exempting them from military service. This Ottoman conquest also brought considerable upheavals in the human geography of the region. On the one hand, it introduced a third religion, Islam, and at the same time left a trail of devastation and mass migrations, resulting in an inextricable mixture of populations, languages and cultures. As Manuel Forcano reminds us, it was after this invasion that the Ottomans referred to the region using the term Balkan, which is derived from two Turkish words meaning “blood and honey”; they encountered not only the richness of the region – its fruits, and the sweetness of its honey – but also the courageous, warrior-like and rebellious nature of its inhabitants, who fought fiercely against the invaders.

In the late 17th century the might of the Ottoman Empire began to dwindle. The Austrians re-conquered Hungary, Vojvodina and Slavonia. Finally, in 1739, the Treaty of Belgrade was signed, thus putting an end to a long war between the two empires, and for a century and a half their borders remained stable along the Sava and the Danube and the peaks of the Transylvanian Alps.

In the 19th century, nationalism spread throughout Europe and, one by one, in the same surge of national feeling, all the Christian nations subject to the Turks revolted against their rulers: Serbia (1804), Montenegro (1820), Greece (1821), Wallachia and Moldavia united to form Romania (1877) and Bulgaria (in 1878). There followed a cultural, linguistic and literary renaissance of the various peoples in the region: Hungarians, Romanians, Slovenians, Croats and Serbs. In 1912 the First Balkan War broke out; Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro formed an alliance to fight against Turkey. The Second Balkan War broke out a year later following the defeat of the Bulgarians, while at the same time Macedonia was divided between the Serbs and the Greeks, and Albania became independent. Not long afterwards, the First World War was triggered in the Balkans when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo on 28th June, 1914.

A melting-pot of peoples, languages, beliefs and cultures, the Balkans are the mysterious face of that “other Europe”, which for 400 years as part of the Ottoman Empire was almost entirely cut off from the main cultural and social currents of Western Europe. The Balkans have always been a highly contentious crossroads, constituting at one and the same time a rich meeting-point and the theatre of dramatic confrontations.

Despite their turbulent history and their linguistic and political fragmentation, the peoples of the Balkans still share a great many cultural traits and the legacy of their historical past. And it is their shared features that we wish to highlight in this recording along with our guest musicians from the various cultures, religions and regions. With them we have studied, selected, prepared and recorded a variety of pieces to create a beautiful musical anthology, combining the ancient, the traditional and the popular from this fascinating and still very mysterious part of Eastern Europe. We firmly believe that the emotion, vitality and beauty of all these musical expressions will help us to understand more fully what can be seen as the musical image of the authentic “Spirit of the Balkans.”

In Western Europe today, “Balkan” culture, made popular thanks to the films of Emir Kusturica and the music of Goran Bregoviç, seems to have gained currency. Balkan music festivals abound, and concerts by Fanfare Ciocârlia and Boban Markovic play to packed audiences. Traditional Balkan music, or at least what the West regards as such, has secured its place on the world music shelves of all good record stores. But little is known about the less “folkloric” repertory, which doesn’t fit into the mental schemes of Western audiences. It should be remembered that Balkan music has been influenced at a very deep level by Roma, or Gypsy culture (see the article by Javier Pérez Senz “Music with a Gypsy Soul” in the booklet accompanying the CD Spirit of the Balkans) – a fact that appears to have been overlooked by the musicologists of the region, who talk about “Serbian”, “Bulgarian” or “Macedonian” music, without mentioning that its sources and the musicians who perform it are very often Tzigane (Gypsy).

Some of the most outstanding musicians representing the different cultures of this part of Eastern Europe, together with the soloists of Hespèrion XXI and myself, have delved into this extraordinary historical, traditional and even modern musical heritage to study, select and perform it, thereby creating a genuine intercultural dialogue between the different cultures that have so often been torn apart by dramatic, age-old conflicts.

The consolidation of Peace on the peninsula is an enterprise still beset with difficulties, particularly in those regions which have been most severely scarred by war: Bosnia and Kosovo. But understanding and integration between the different peoples of the Balkans can only come about through genuine reconciliation similar to that which was forged half a century ago between France and Germany and the integration of all the countries of the Balkan Peninsula in the European Union. As Paul Garde writes, “they don’t have to become Europeans, they are already”, but even as “the angel of history” moves forward, it does so looking back over its shoulder in what is a major process of reconciliation involving individual national identities and their own past, in which all the multiple layers of the Balkans’ past, and notably their Ottoman heritage, must be taken into account. Like Jean-Arnault Dérens and Laurent Geslin, we believe that “it is in this rediscovery of their own history and their multiple identities that the peoples of the Balkans will eventually once again be the masters of their own destiny and, to the surprise and wonder of Western Europeans, devise a different way of being European.”

JORDI SAVALL
Padua, 21st October, 2013

Translated by Jacqueline Minett

Select Bibliography and Works consulted:
–Timothy Rice. Music in Bulgaria: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
–Jean-Arnault Dérens and Laurent Geslin. Comprendre les Balkans. Histoire, sociétés, perspectives. Paris: Éditions Non Lieu, 2010.
–Georges Castellan. Histoire des Balkans: XIVe-XXe siècle. Paris: Fayard, 1991.
–Paul Garde. Les Balkans – Héritages et évolutions. Paris, Ed. Flammarion, Champs actuel, 2010.


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


ESPRIT DES BALKANS
ESPRIT DES BALKANS

The idea of embarking on a major musical and historical project on the peoples of the Balkans and the Gypsy and Sephardic diasporas, was born towards the end of 2011 during the preparations for a concert dedicated to the city of Sarajevo, which we gave as part of de Barcelona’s Festival Grec on 9 July, 2012. Twenty years ago, during the tragic events of the war which led to the disintegration of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, the city had suffered a terrible siege by Serbian troops, more than 12,000 people were killed and more than 50,000 were seriously wounded. Europe in particular, and the whole world in general, responded with absolute silence and a more than questionable decision not to intervene in the conflict, the consequence of which was a brutal four-year siege of the Bosnian capital (1992-1996). International intervention did not decisively come about until 1995, but by then more than twenty thousand tons of missiles and shellfire had already disfigured for ever the physical and human geography of a city which for centuries had been the cultural crossroads of the Balkan peninsula where the traditions of the Slavonic world, both Orthodox and Catholic, existed side by side in perfect harmony with more recent cultural traditions such as Islam, brought by the Ottoman Turks – who ruled the Balkans for more than four hundred years – and Judaism, brought by the Sephardic Jews who found refuge there after being expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492. As Paul Garde observes, “This last Balkan war broke out suddenly in Europe after half a century of pacification when the more troubled chapters of its history lay forgotten. Hence the incomprehension and the suspicion directed against the region, and the resurfacing of stereotypes which portray it as eternally doomed to a pattern of killing and misery.” Still regarded as the “powder keg of Europe”, we should not forget, as Predrag Matvejević points out, that the Balkan Peninsula was also “the cradle of European civilisation.” A peninsula forming part of the Mediterranean world, which stretches from the island of Cythera in the South, to the Danube and the Sava in the North, but one in which, as Georges Castellan points out, “the olive tree does not actually reach as far as Istanbul, and the Bulgarian countries owe nothing to the soft breezes of the Mediterranean.” And yet, from the Peloponnese to Moldavia, despite the changing landscapes, the towns and villages have much in common: everywhere there are dome-topped Byzantine churches, often a mosque, and the corbelled buildings (çardak) and inns (han), and caravanserai or caravan stops, that are to be found both in Patras and in Bucharest, in Skodra and in Plovdiv, not to mention the pavement workshops where the craftsmen invite you to join them in a Turkish coffee as they hammer away at their copper plates. A family resemblance? Yes, undoubtedly that of diverse peoples who, after a long shared adventure, have constituted within Europe a distinctive cultural expression.” Observant travellers pointed to a certain style of living, a sort of “spirit” of the Balkans, which combines a laid-back approach to life, conviviality and above all a sense of hospitality, a fundamental value that is still greatly respected by all Balkan societies, and in particular continues to be cultivated in rural areas.

However, for a true understanding of this distinctive Balkan character, we must take a look back in history. In the eastern Mediterranean, the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century gave way to a blueprint of the Byzantine Empire with its capital at Constantinople, which was to be the greatest and richest city in the Balkans for more than a thousand years until 1453. Byzantium was to unify the peninsula in both political and religious terms, leaving its legacy of Orthodox Christianity, which continues to be an essential characteristic of the majority of Balkan countries today. In the 16th century, however, the whole of the Balkans fell to the Ottoman Empire which, in 1453, adopted from its capital at Istanbul the tolerant attitude of traditional Islam towards the Christian majority as another “People of the Book”, as long as they accepted Muslim rule and paid the taxes which exempted them from military service. This Ottoman conquest also brought considerable upheavals in the human geography of the region. On the one hand, it introduced a third religion, Islam, and at the same time left a trail of devastation and mass migrations, resulting in an inextricable mixture of populations, languages and cultures. As Manuel Forcano reminds us, it was after this invasion that the Ottomans referred to the region using the term Balkan, which is derived from two Turkish words meaning “blood and honey”; they encountered not only the richness of the region – its fruits, and the sweetness of its honey – but also the courageous, warrior-like and rebellious nature of its inhabitants, who fought fiercely against their invaders.

In the late 17th century the might of the Ottoman Empire began to dwindle. The Austrians re-conquered Hungary, Vojvodina and Slavonia. Finally, in 1739, the Treaty of Belgrade was signed, thus putting an end to a long war between the two empires, and for a century and a half their borders remained stable along the Sava and the Danube and the peaks of the Transylvanian Alps.

In the 19th century, nationalism spread throughout Europe and, one by one, in the same surge of national feeling, all the Christian nations subject to the Turks revolted against their rulers: Serbia (1804), Montenegro (1820), Greece (1821), Wallachia and Moldavia united to form Romania (1877), Bulgaria (in 1878). There followed a cultural, linguistic and literary renaissance of the various peoples in the region: Hungarians, Romanians, Slovenians, Croats and Serbs. In 1912 the First Balkan War broke out; Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro formed an alliance to fight against Turkey. The Second Balkan War broke out a year later following the defeat of the Bulgarians, while at the same time Macedonia was divided between the Serbs and the Greeks, and Albania became independent. Not long afterwards, the First World War was triggered in the Balkans when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo on 28th June, 1914.

A melting-pot of peoples, languages, beliefs and cultures, the Balkans are the mysterious face of that “other Europe”, which for 400 years as part of the Ottoman Empire was almost entirely cut off from the main cultural and social currents of Western Europe. The Balkans have always been a highly contentious crossroads, constituting at one and the same time a rich meeting-point and the theatre of dramatic confrontations.

Despite their turbulent history and their linguistic and political fragmentation, the peoples of the Balkans still share a great many cultural traits and the legacy of their historical past. And it is their shared features that we wish to highlight in this first recording along with our guest musicians from the various cultures, religions and regions. With them we have studied, selected, prepared and recorded a variety of pieces to create a beautiful musical anthology, combining the ancient, the traditional and the popular from this fascinating and still very mysterious part of Eastern Europe. We firmly believe that the emotion, vitality and beauty of all these musical expressions will help us to understand more fully what can be seen as the musical image of the authentic “Spirit of the Balkans.”

In Western Europe today, “Balkan” culture, made popular thanks to the films of Emir Kusturica and the music of Goran Bregoviç, seems to have gained currency. Balkan music festivals abound, and concerts by Fanfare Ciocârlia and Boban Markovic play to packed audiences. Traditional Balkan music, or at least what the West regards as such, has secured its place on the world music shelves of all good record stores. But little is known about the less “folkloric” repertory, which doesn’t fit into the mental schemes of Western audiences. It should be remembered that Balkan music has been influenced at a very deep level by Roma, or Gypsy, culture (see the article by Javier Pérez Senz “Music with a Gypsy Soul”) – a fact that appears to have been overlooked by the musicologists of the region, who talk about “Serbian”, “Bulgarian” or “Macedonian” music, without mentioning that its sources and the musicians who perform it are very often Tzigane (Gypsy).

Some of the most outstanding musicians representing the different cultures of this part of Eastern Europe, together with the soloists of Hespèrion XXI and myself, have delved into this extraordinary historical, traditional and even modern musical heritage to study, select and perform it, thereby creating a genuine intercultural dialogue between the different cultures that have so often been torn apart by dramatic, age-old conflicts.

The selection of music for this recording has been carried out on the basis of our research into the Sephardic and Ottoman repertories conserved in the principal cities of the Balkans and, above all, thanks to the proposals made by the various specialist musicians and ensembles, including Bora Dugić, Tcha Limberger, Nedyalko Nedyalkov, Dimitri Psonis, Gyula Csík and Moslem Rahal, whom we invited to work with us on the project. We thank them all for their remarkable commitment and their wonderful musical performances. Their variety and diversity have contributed to the shape and meaning of this “Balkan Spirit”. Ancient and modern musical traditions, rural and urban music, celebratory music (track n. 14 Ciocârlia was composed and performed to mark the inauguration of the Eiffel Tower in 1889) and evocative pieces, songs and dances of widely different origins, from Bulgaria to Serbia, from Macedonia to the furthest reaches of Ottoman Turkey, from Romania to the Hungarian border, from Bosnia to Greece, from Sephardic music to Gypsy traditions. A veritable musical mosaic performed using the original instruments of each culture: Kaval, Gûdulka (Bulgarian Lira), Tambura, Greek Lira, Kamancheh, Kanun, Oud, Tambur, Ney, Santur, Saz, Violin and Double Bass, Frula, Cymbalum, Accordeon, Organ and Guitar, etc. All these musical expressions enable us to evoke a multicultural map of the musical traditions of this rich part of Eastern Europe, which astonish and entrance us not only with their vitality and passion, but also with their beauty and spirituality. We can see that, despite the national characteristics of the various peoples of the Balkan Peninsula, it is very often those very same traits that unite them at the deepest level. This first recording, Balkan Spirit, is the prelude to a major CD-Book project entitled Honey & Blood on the music and history of this region which we are preparing for release at the end of this year.

The consolidation of Peace on the peninsula is an enterprise still beset with difficulties, particularly in those regions which have been most severely scarred by war: Bosnia and Kosovo. But understanding and integration between the different peoples of the Balkans can only come about through genuine reconciliation similar to that which was forged half a century ago between France and Germany and the integration of all the countries of the Balkan Peninsula in the European Union. As Paul Garde writes, “they don’t have to become Europeans, they are already”, but even as “the angel of history” moves forward, it does so looking back over its shoulder in what is a major process of reconciliation involving individual national identities and their own past, in which all the multiple layers of the Balkans’ past, and notably their Ottoman heritage, must be taken into account. Like Jean-Arnault Dérens and Laurent Geslin, we believe that “it is in this rediscovery of their own history and their multiple identities that the peoples of the Balkans will eventually once again be the masters of their own destiny and, to the surprise and wonder of Western Europeans, devise a different way of being European.”

JORDI SAVALL
Bellaterra, Spring 2013

Translated by Jacqueline Minett

Selected Bibliography and Works consulted:
–Timothy Rice. Music in Bulgaria: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press 2004.
–Jean-Arnault Dérens et Laurent Geslin. Comprendre les Balkans. Histoire, sociétés, perspectives. Paris: Éditions Non Lieu 2010.
–Georges Castellan. Histoire des Balkans: XIVe-XXe siècle. Paris: Fayard 1991.
–Paul Garde. Les Balkans – Héritages et évolutions. Paris, Ed. Flammarion, Champs actuel, 2010.


ERASMUS. Éloge de la Folie
ERASMUS. Éloge de la Folie

It is above all thanks to the beautiful portraits painted by Holbein, Dürer and Quintin Metsys, as well as the author’s youthful work, In Praise of Folly, that Erasmus of Rotterdam remains imprinted on our cultural memory. His immense output and his life, previously known only to a handful of specialists, began to be more widely studied and disseminated in the early years of the 20th century, and it was thanks to various essays, in particular that of Stefan Zweig, Triumph und Tragik des Erasmus von Rotterdam (published in Germany in 1934, in the United States in 1934 (under the title Erasmus of Rotterdam), in France in 1935, in Italy in 1935, etc.), that the wider public began to be aware of the true dimension of this great traveller and impassioned seeker after dialogue and peace: in his Querela pacis he proclaimed: “The whole world is the common fatherland of all” at a time when Europe was torn by bloody conflicts. He saw only absurdity in the hatred that pitted English, German, Spanish, Italian and French against one other.

Erasmus was always ready to take up his pen against injustice, wars, fanaticism and even the moral decline of his own Church. The “reign” of Erasmus, whose authority at the beginning of the 16th century extended throughout Europe, triumphed without the need for violence by virtue of spiritual force alone. As Stefan Zweig writes “For one wonderful moment, Europe was united by the dream of a shared civilization, which, thanks to its unity of language [Latin], religion and culture, would put an end to its dreadful, age-old discord. The memory of that unforgettable bid for unity will forever be linked to the personality and name of Erasmus. His ideas, his hopes and his dreams captured and held the imagination of Europe for a brief span in its history, and it is to his great chagrin, as well as ours, that such pure intentions turned out to be only a short interlude in the cruel tragedy of humankind.”

In Erasmus’s view, the tyranny of an idea amounted to a declaration of war against freedom of thought, which explains why throughout his life he refused to align himself with any ideology or group, because he firmly believed that political allegiance of any kind took away the individual’s freedom to believe, think and feel impartially. That is why Erasmus respected all ideas while refusing to recognize the authority of any. He was the first thinker to define himself as European; he advocated universal access to culture and knowledge as the indispensible basis for the education of mankind, arguing that only an uneducated, ignorant man will be an unthinking slave to his own passions. Unfortunately, towards the end of his life he was forced to confront the brutal reality of a violent, uncontrollable world: “At Paris his translator and disciple Louis Berquin was burned at the stake; in England his mutual friends John Fisher and Thomas More were beheaded (1535)…” Zwingli, with whom he had exchanged so many letters, was killed at the battle of Kappel…Rome was sacked by the mercenaries of Charles V (1527).

It was above all his clash with the theories of Martin Luther that was to cause him the greatest sorrow: knowing that his peaceful struggle was doomed to failure in the face of obstinacy and intransigence, he could see that disaster was inevitable. Overcome with foreboding, he exclaimed, “I pray that this tragedy will not end badly. It was at that time that Luther, seeing the peasant revolt turn against his powerful protectors, condemned the uprisings of 1525 in an unusually violent pamphlet, issuing nothing short of a call to massacre, entitled “Against the thieving and murdering hordes of peasants”. In it he writes:

“Whoever is able, let him stab, smite, slay (…), secretly or in public, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, harmful or diabolical than a rebel (…). Now is the time of anger and the sword, it is not the day of grace. Rulers should be undaunted and strike with a clear conscience, and go on striking, as long as there is breath in the rebels’ bodies. (…) Therefore, dear lords, (…) stab, strike, slay whoever can” (quoted in J. Lefebvre, Luther et l’autorité temporelle, 1521-1525, Paris, Aubier, 1973, pp. 247, 253, 257). Luther promptly sided with the authority of the princes against that of the people. Finally, when the fields of Wurtemberg were soaked with blood, he boldly stated: “I, Martin Luther, slew all the peasants during the uprising, for it was I who ordered them to be put to death. I have their blood on my conscience.”

Erasmus was devastated to see “Rome, Zurich and Wittenberg a prey to bitter wars of religion; sweeping wars beat down like storms on Germany, France, Italy and Spain; the name of Christ has become a battle standard.” The cruellest illustration of the overestimation of man’s civilized state was finally to come in the history of the 20th century: Erasmus could not have imagined the terrible and almost insoluble problem of racial hatred. But, as Stefan Zweig writes, “The world always needs men who refuse to admit that history is anything more than a perpetual, drab beginning over and over again, the same play insipidly re-enacted against different backdrops; men who have the unshakeable conviction that history has a moral purpose; that it embodies a progress steadily pursued by the human race in its ascent from brute force to a spirit governed by order and wisdom, from bestiality to divinity, and that humanity is already within reach of the highest rung on the ladder… Soon, Erasmus and fellow-travellers joyfully told themselves, humanity, well educated and conscious of its own strength, would recognize its moral mission, and, after finally shedding the last traces of bestiality in its nature, would live in peace and brotherhood… But it was not the glow of a holy new dawn that they glimpsed through the darkness of this world: it was the conflagration that was about to destroy the ideal world of humanism. Like the German tribes who invaded Classical Rome, Luther, a fanatical man of action, was about to unleash a grassroots national movement of irresistible force, overrun the humanists and smash their internationalist dreams. Before humanism had truly begun its task of building universal concord, the Reformation brought its hammer down on the Eclessia universalis, thus shattering the last vestige of spiritual unity in Europe.”

This new CD-Book project initially grew out of the idea for an ambitious tribute to this exceptional humanist, articulated through the living dialogue of texts and music from the period, placed in their historical context. We reproduce Erasmus’s own words, with texts drawn from his correspondence and a number of his most important writings. Apart from Erasmus himself, we shall also hear the voices of Folly, Thomas More and Luther. On the 3 CDs accompanying this book, the texts heard in dialogue with music of the period are spoken by: Louise Moaty (Folly) in French, Marc Mauillon (Erasmus and the Adages) and René Zosso (Thomas More, Machiavelli and Luther). All the texts, with the same musical accompaniment, will also be published on the Internet in another six European languages: German, English, Spanish, Catalan, Dutch and Italian. Finally, for those who are only interested in listening to the music, we are releasing another 3 CDs featuring all the music without the spoken texts. The texts on Folly are accompanied by improvisations, variations and vocal or instrumental adaptations on the musical theme of folly, while in CDs 2 and 3 our tour of the landmark events in the life and times of Erasmus are accompanied by pieces by Dufay, Josquin, Sermisy, Lloyd, Isaac, Du Caurroy, Moderne, Morales and Trabaci, as well as anonymous pieces from the Western, Sephardic and Ottoman traditions.

We strongly believe that the ideas of this great humanist, his critical reflections and philosophical thought continue to be an essential source of humanistic and spiritual wisdom, and, even after 500 years, are still surprisingly relevant, as were the prescient words of his great friend, the remarkable intellectual Thomas More, from his book Utopia: “Wherever there is private property, and everything is measured in terms of money, one will never achieve justice and social prosperity, unless you consider as just the kind of society where the wickedest people have the best share, and you regard as perfectly happy a State in which public wealth is in the hands of a tiny minority of insatiable individuals, while the majority is a prey to poverty.” This exact description of the crisis currently gripping Europe and the world, written five centuries ago, shows how the study and knowledge of these great humanist thinkers can help us to reflect on our human destiny and seek out new paths of dialogue, justice and peace. Their ideas are an early blueprint, still not fully realised today, of a European Union bound together by a shared culture and civilization: a united Europe capable of developing according to a moral ideal that soars beyond merely economic or territorial interests.

JORDI SAVALL
Bellaterra, Autumn 2012

Translated by Jacqueline Minett


PRO·PACEM Textes, Art & Musiques pour la Paix
PRO·PACEM Textes, Art & Musiques pour la Paix

“Peace cannot be kept by force;
it can only be achieved by understanding.”
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Hiroshima 6 August 1945, 8:15.
“[…] I looked around: although it was morning, the sky was dark as twilight, with dust and smoke rising in the air. I saw streams of ghostly figures, slowly shuffling from the centre of the city of Hiroshima towards the nearby hills. They were naked and tattered, bleeding, burned, blackened and swollen. Parts of their bodies were missing, flesh and skin hanging from their bones, some with their eyeballs in their hands, and some with their stomachs burst open, with their intestines hanging out. We girls joined the ghostly procession, carefully stepping over the Dead or dying. There was a deathly silence, broken only by the moans of the injured and their pleas for water. The foul stench of burned skin filled the air […]”
Setsuko Thurlow, “Hibakusha”, survivor of the Hiroshima bomb.

Cambrai, January 1517.
“I can understand and excuse animals attacking each other because of their ignorance, but men should recognize that war is necessarily and inherently unjust, for it usually affects not those who ignite and declare it, but almost always takes its heaviest toll on the innocent, on the poor people who stand to gain nothing from victories and defeats. Almost always it takes its heaviest toll on those who have no part in it, and even when the outcome of war is successful, the joy of some is but the suffering and ruin of others.”
Erasmus. The Complaint of Peace.

Barcelona, 1 July 2004.
It is difficult to live without external peace in the world around us. It is impossible to live without inner peace, without peace in our hearts. Music creates a space of peace, both within and outside us. Few people create music and some are able to perform it, but we can all listen to it; however, this third musical art has to be learned by creating an outer and inner silence. To listen to music, we must be at peace, and at the same time music is a source of peace. It is a vital circle.
Raimon Panikkar. Introduction to the concert Da pacem. (Universal Forum of Cultures).

Barcelona, summer 1966 and January 1987.
“When Kant writes of the disinterested value of beauty, I do not understand. It is like when people assure us that they are apolitical, and that they do things with no specific purpose in mind, but I don’t believe them. To be apolitical is in itself a political option. The same is true of beauty. I believe in an art that is useful to society. If that were not possible, I would abandon it, because art would hold no interest for me […] More than ever, I also felt the need, as Penrose said of Picasso, “to seal a pact with my fellow men”, in short, to succeed in making my art intimately involved in the struggles, joys and hopes of the people, and above all those of my own people, the people of Catalonia.”
Antoni Tàpies. A Personal Memoir and Conversations.

I have chosen to introduce our PRO PACEM project with four different quotes which immediately take us to the crux of the debate: the personal account of Setsuko Thurlow, a “Hibakusha”, that is to say, a survivor of the Hiroshima bomb and an innocent victim of a horrific war; a reflection by Erasmus of Rotterdam, the great 16th century humanist and advocate of Peace, on the fact that it is always the innocent who suffer most in any war; a spiritual observation on the impossibility of living without peace in our hearts by the philosopher, theologian and writer of Catalan and Hindu origin, Raimon Panikkar; and a reflection rooted in experience by one of the leading artists of our time, the painter Antoni Tàpies, on the social commitment of the artist.

PRO PACEM

PRO PACEM is a new CD-Book project that makes a plea for a world without war or terrorism and for total nuclear disarmament. It presents a sound mosaic that takes the form of a living dialogue of spiritually expressive vocal and instrumental music from a variety of repertoires from East (Armenia, Turkey, Sepharad, India, Israel and China) and West (Greece, Spain, England, Portugal, Italy, Estonia and Belgium). These different musical expressions were inspired by the ancient Sibylline Oracles (Montserrat Figueras), the prayers of the Koran and the Hebrew liturgy, vocal pieces based on one of the earliest Christian chants invoking peace: Da Pacem Domine (Grant me Peace, o Lord), first in the Gregorian version, which is followed by Gilles Binchois’ 3-part version (14th century) and finally the new version by Arvo Pärt, which was specially composed for our concert for Peace performed during the Barcelona Forum of Cultures in 2004, and including pieces by Josquin, Parabosco, Orlando di Lasso and the Sephardic lament El Pan de la Aflicción. All these works are performed by the soloists of La Capella Reial de Catalunya. This PRO PACEM programme features other vocal music sung by Montserrat Figueras, such as the Motet Flavit auster from the Monastery of Las Huelgas, the Portuguese villancico from Goa entitled Senhora del mundo and the Motet by Francisco Guerrero, as well as improvisations by Ferran Savall in Deploratio IV. Finally, it includes instrumental pieces by Christopher Tye, Henry Purcell and one of my own compositions (Planctus Caravaggio), all profoundly spiritual in character. The performers featured in the recording are Montserrat Figueras, Lior Elmaleh, Marc Mauillon, Muwafak Shahin Khalil, Ferran Savall, the soloists of La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Hespèrion XXI, Le Concert des Nations and guest musicians from Armenia, USA, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, India, Japan and Greece.

The non-musical part of this project, introducing four interesting texts on the purpose of art and educational, philosophical and spiritual thought, as well as reproductions of three previously unpublished paintings by Antoni Tàpies on the theme of Peace, plays a major role in proposing a broad reflection on the paths of peace in the world through the collaboration of four outstanding cultural and artistic figures of our time: Edgard Morin, Raimon Panikkar, Fatema Mernissi and Antoni Tàpies. They address such the issues as the education of the future; the importance of intercultural dialogue as a means to achieve peace between East and West; the model towards which our globalised world will evolve – the Cowboy or the Simbad model; and, finally, the relationship and commitment of the creative artist to society and the world in general.

The project is neither more nor less than the desire to engage in a joint reflection, by means of information and intercultural dialogue, on how we can create the conditions necessary for true awareness of the importance of the present moment and what is at stake. Accordingly, the contents of our CD-Book are translated into eight languages (French, German, English, Catalan, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Hebrew).

We firmly believe that the principal enemies of mankind – ignorance, hatred and selfishness – can only be overcome by love, knowledge, empathy and understanding. Is this not the ultimate purpose of art and thought? It is our hope that the music, the works of art and philosophical and spiritual reflections, the analyses of the globalised world in which we live, and the knowledge provided by the statistics reproduced in the CD-Book, will shed a little more light and perspective objective on today’s obscure and complex world. Statistics may be cold and dull, but they give a precise account of important facts such as the number of innocent victims and displaced people trailing in the wake of the major wars and conflicts, as well as the military spending in the world and the number of nuclear weapons stockpiled throughout Europe and elsewhere. All this information should help us to become more aware of the situation in which we live and enable us to think independently about what might have led to the present dreadful disarray of our bankrupt humanity, which seems to have lost touch with its essential values of civilisation and humanism.

The very considerable public and media presence that we can all achieve thanks to the internet, whether as artists or as more or less committed private individuals in the public sphere, forces us to take stock of the inherent responsibilities of that situation: to contribute to the knowledge that is necessary to combat ignorance and fanaticism, to speak out for justice and peace, to work towards the increasing freedom and solidarity of men and women, to teach understanding and intercultural dialogue, in the realization that, as Joan Miro, another great Catalan painter, said, as artists (and, I would add, as human beings) “what really matters is not a work of art, but the spiritual journey of a man’s life as a whole, not what he has done during that life, but what he enables others to glimpse and achieve at some point in the more or less distant future.” These words echo the same attitude and strength of those great individuals who have devoted their lives to the struggle for the freedom and well-being of others, figures such as Gandhi, who reminds us that “If man will only realize that it is unmanly to obey laws that are unjust, no man’s tyranny will enslave him.”

But it is important to remember that we are still living in a cruel world where tyrants hold nations hostage (North Korea), or get away with massacring their own people (Syria), a world so profoundly unjust that 1% of its population possesses what is needed by the remaining 99%: better housing, better education, better doctors and a higher standard of living, but as Joseph E. Stiglitz (Nobel Prize in Economics 2001) points out, that minority is lacking something, “one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99% live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.” It is then, as Tony Judt (1948-2010) observes with extraordinary lucidity that “fear re-emerges as an active ingredient of political life of Western democracies. Fear of terrorism, of course; but also, and perhaps more insidiously, fear of the uncontrollable speed of change, fear of the loss of employment, fear of losing ground to others in an increasingly unequal distribution of resources, the fear of losing control of the circumstances and routines of one’s daily life. And, perhaps above all, fear that it is not just we who can no longer shape our lives, but that those in authority have lost control as well, to forces beyond their reach.” The danger foreseen by Judt is already a reality: “Our contemporary cult of untrammelled economic freedom, combined with a heightened sense of fear and insecurity, is leading to reduced social provision and minimal economic regulation; but these are accompanied by ever-extending governmental oversight of communication, movement, and opinion. “Chinese” capitalism, as it were. He concludes by arguing for the importance of recent history in an age of oblivion: “We think we have learned enough of the past to know that many of the old answers don’t work, and that may be true. But what the past can truly help us understand is the perennial complexity of the questions.”

The imbalance in the world has intensified in recent years as a consequence of an inhuman economic policy that has sacrificed millions of lives to the establishment of totally outmoded systems of exploitation. That is why, in this time of grave economic crisis, it is even more surprising that military spending has sharply increased, reaching the astronomic figure of more than 1,700 billion U.S. dollars, serving only to fuel and prolong the numerous armed conflicts which currently rage in the East and the West, many of them still unresolved and unlikely to be resolved in the near future. Sadly, this proliferation of long-term conflicts (in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Palestine and Africa), as well as more recent conflicts (Syria) and the so-called “irregular” guerrilla wars (in Latin America) and various forms of terrorism have so far claimed thousands upon thousands of innocent victims and more than 33 million displaced people throughout the world. As Erasmus observed in 1517, “war almost always takes its heaviest toll on those who have no part in it.” Twenty years after failing to prevent the systematic destruction of Sarajevo and the massacre of thousands of innocent Bosnians, the same human callousness and absolute impotence of the world’s great nations are doing nothing to stop the martyrdom of the Syrian people. Absolute evil is always that which man inflicts on man, and it is a universal fact that concerns all humanity. Hannah Arendt was perhaps the first to recognize it when she wrote in 1945: “the problem of evil will be the fundamental question facing intellectual life in Europe after the war.” Can art, music and beauty save mankind from that evil?

In Dostoevski’s novel The Idiot, an atheist called Hippolite asks Prince Myshkin, “Is it true, Prince, that you once said that “beauty” would save the world?” And he then goes on, “Gentlemen,” addressing the whole company, “the prince contends that beauty will save the world […] What kind of beauty is it that will save the world? […] Myshkin stared at him in silence.” The prince has no answer, but, like Antoni Tàpies, we believe in an art that is useful to society, an art that through beauty, grace, emotion and spirituality, can have the power to transform us and make us become more sensitive and plus altruistic.

“I have learnt to love you late, Beauty, at once so ancient and so new!
I have learnt to love you late!

You were within me, and I was in the world outside myself
and that is where I searched for you, and, disfigured as I was,
I fell upon the lovely things of your creation!
You were with me, but I was not with you.
The beautiful things of this world kept me far from you,
and yet, if they had not been in you, they would have had no being at all!

You cried aloud to me; you broke my barrier of deafness.
You shone upon me; your radiance enveloped me and you put my blindness to flight.
You shed your fragrance about me, I drew breath and now I gasp for your sweet odour;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me, and I am inflamed with love of your peace.”

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Confessions, 10, 27
Trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin

JORDI SAVALL
Bellaterra, beginning of autumn, 2012

Translated by Jacqueline Minett

Einstein was asked to predict what weapons would be used in a
Third World War. I am told that he answered:
“If the Third World War is fought with nuclear weapons,
the fourth will be fought with bows and arrows.”

Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900-1979)


ÉSPRIT D’ARMÉNIE
ÉSPRIT D’ARMÉNIE

Armenia, one of the most ancient Eastern Christian civilisations, has miraculously survived a convulsive and peculiarly tragic history. Since its foundation, it has been surrounded politically and geographically by other great cultures with chiefly Eastern and Islamic beliefs, and has endured a cruel history punctuated by ruthless wars and massacres that have led to the disappearance of more than half its population, the exile of many others and the loss of major portions of its territory. Despite all this, throughout the centuries Armenia has preserved the essence of its national identity, first by the creation of its own alphabet (devised in 405 by the monk Mesrop Mashtots) and thanks to its rich architectural heritage, which is scattered beyond the country’s present-day borders. Although this tangible heritage is one of the most striking features of its nationhood, Armenia has also preserved a rich intangible heritage in the form of its music: a very rich and varied, albeit little known, repertory (except in the case of the duduk).

In all highly developed cultures, music – represented and embodied by certain instruments, as well as particular ways of singing and playing – is the most faithful spiritual reflection of a people’s soul and history. Of all the instruments used in its ancient musical traditions, Armenia has given special pride of place to a unique instrument, the duduk. It is no exaggeration to say that this instrument is the utmost expression of Armenia. As soon as we hear the sound of these instruments – they are usually played as a duo – the almost vocal quality and sweetness of their vibrations transport us to an extraordinary elegiac and poetic universe, introducing us to a dimension that is both intimate and profound. The music acts as a genuine balm, at once sensual and spiritual, which touches the human soul and gently heals all its wounds and sorrows.

Montserrat Figueras felt a deep affinity and enormous fascination for these Armenian instruments, especially the duduk and the kamancha, as well as a great admiration for the extraordinary musical qualities of our musician friends from Armenia. After her death, I found great consolation in listening to these wonderful Laments for two duduks and kamancha, and that is why I asked our Armenian friends to take part in the farewell ceremonies that we held for our beloved Montserrat. Their musical performances filled the venues with otherworldly sounds of overwhelming beauty and spirituality. It was after moments of such great emotion, and prompted by the deeply consoling effects of their music, that I had the idea of dedicating this unique project to the memory of Montserrat Figueras, at the same time paying a personal homage to the Armenian people, who have suffered so much throughout their history (a suffering that has yet to be fully recognized) and who, in spite of so much pain, have inspired music that is so full of love and conveys such peace and harmony. It is also a sincere homage to the wonderful musicians who devote their lives to keeping the memory of this ancient culture alive. By a great stroke of luck, back in 2004 our very dear friend, the outstanding kamancha player Gaguik Mouradian, had given me several collections of Armenian music, including the fabulous “THESAURUS” of Armenian melodies, published at Yerevan in 1982 by the musicologist Nigoghos Tahmizian, in which I have found some extremely beautiful examples of this repertory. To these we have added the pieces for kamancha, as well as those for two duduks, suggested by our Armenian friends. Together with another extraordinary musician and very dear friend, the duduk player Haïg Sarikouyoumdjian, I spent several months studying and deciphering the secrets of these ancient and beautiful melodies, listening to old recordings and discovering the “hidden” keys to the style and character of each piece. Over the last several months, not a single night has passed without my spending a few precious hours studying and playing these powerfully seductive melodies.

We finally managed to set aside the time to work on these pieces together, and between the end of March and the beginning of April we gathered at the wonderful Collegiate Church of Cardona to record all the pieces we had selected to form part of this personal and collective tribute to the bewitching, elegiac Spirit of Armenia. Immediately afterwards, together with Lise Nazarian, another great Armenian friend, we set about researching and studying material to accompany the music in the CD booklet: books on Armenian art and history, of which we found an abundance thanks to Armen Samuelian et Alice Aslanian, the curators and driving force behind the amazing bookshop “Librairie Orientale” on rue Monsieur-Le-Prince in Paris, and also to the orientalist Jean-Pierre Mahé for his essential overview of the art and history of Armenia. Finally, we are grateful to Manuel Forcano for his texts on the Memory of the Genocide and the nation’s historical timeline: a history that we hope through our own modest contribution to keep alive through the emotion of the music featured in this recording. Without Emotion there is no Memory, without Memory there is no Justice, without Justice there is no Civilization and without Civilization human beings have no future.

JORDI SAVALL
Versailles, 5th July 2012

Translated by Jacqueline Minett


JEANNE D’ARC. Batailles et Prisons.
JEANNE D’ARC. Batailles et Prisons.

Thanks to numerous studies by eminent historians and researchers in France and elsewhere, the true story of Joan of Arc is nowadays accessible and, in general, quite well known throughout the world. It is a story which transcends the terms “myth”, “legend” and “folklore” that have so often been used in connection with her, for our knowledge about Joan the Maid is based on scrupulously authentic documents: chronicles, public and private letters, records of the Parliament in Paris, manuscripts signed by notaries, and the transcripts of the two trials she endured, one while she was alive and the other after her death, all of which have been meticulously sifted through using the most rigorous historical methods. Unfortunately, this has not prevented all manner of legends and false historical accounts being presented as hidden truths or even new discoveries. However, what has astonished me most during the preparation of this project is how easily even cultured people can overlook essential information, such as the signing of the Treaty of Troyes, which underlies the very origin and culmination of this long and ancient conflict in which the English and the French were violently pitted against each other. “Without the senses there is no memory, and without memory there is no intelligence,” recalls Voltaire in his Aventure de la mémoire (1773). That is why, important though it is, our individual memory often hinges on the facts, knowledge and experiences that are dear and close to us, or that have made a deep impression on us. The sum total of all these memories shapes the historical memory of a people, which in turn determines our ability to keep alive not only the memory of heroic and extraordinary feats accomplished by men and women of the past, but also the tragedy and suffering of individuals who have struggled – often alone, as in the case of the Maid of Orleans – against stifling ideologies and lethal fanaticism. Absolute evil is always the evil that man inflicts on his fellow man. Although we say nothing here that has not been said and repeated before, we echo the words of Régine Pernoud, who writes: “the past offers no example of a destiny more extra-ordinary than that of this nineteen-year-old “Maid”. Whether one regards her as an emissary from God or a heroine with a mission to liberate her people, nobody remains indifferent to her: from Voltaire to Schiller, from Anatole France and Renan to Péguy and Claudel, from Chartists to amateur historians, from Japanese scholars to Russian academics… all have been fascinated by her.”

As always, our CD-books are characterised by their presentation of a selection of music and texts which bear a direct relation to certain specific moments in history, a history to which we endeavour to give a spoken voice – in this case, that of Joan and her contemporaries (witnesses and inquisitors at her trials) – and its corresponding “soundtrack”. This soundtrack includes music from the period, as well as new music composed in 1993 to illustrate Joan’s epic story as told in two films directed by Jacques Rivette (Jeanne la Pucelle: Les Batailles and Jeanne la Pucelle: Les Prisons), and music written in 2011 for the concert given on 16th November at La Cité de la Musique in Paris. The music is accompanied by up-to-date texts and commentaries by leading specialists, enabling us to comprehend and gain greater insight into the rich complexity and relevance of the outstanding events of a story without equal. It is in honour of the six-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Joan the Maid and her amazing epic that we have prepared and carried out this project – a different perspective on the life of a young girl cruelly burned at the stake when she was only nineteen years old. It takes the form of a new CD-book, which contains and combines printed texts, recited texts, vocal and instrumental pieces and reproductions of paintings and miniatures from the period, illustrating the key events in her short life and the long conflict between the French and the English.

It is probably true to say that Joan of Arc’s meeting with Dauphin Charles was a turning point in the modern history of France. And it was above all the epic career of this young peasant girl and her journey from her village in Lorraine to Rheims Cathedral, passing on the way through Vaucouleurs, Chinon and Orléans, which brought about the miraculous outcome leading to Charles VII’s reign. Illegally barred from succeeding to the throne by the Treaty of Troyes in 1420, challenged by the majority of his people, disowned by his mother, Isabeau of Bavaria, and with a mad king for a father, he ultimately drove the English out of his kingdom and brought the Hundred Years War to a conclusion, subdued the feudal lords, and reformed the justice system, the army, the economy and the administration, despite innumerable acts of treason and conspiracy against him. After Joan’s martyrdom, a people who had been torn apart by the feud between the Armagnacs and the Burgundians became a nation.

It is a much more straightforward task to reconstruct an historical approach to a period remote from our own on the basis of chronicles, texts and documents than to recapture the spirit and character of the music of that period, some of which has been lost forever, while some has survived in the form of compilations or manuscripts which bear no obvious relationship to what was once their everyday use and purpose.

All musical scores are merely more or less definite outlines of a piece of art which does not truly exist until the moment when it is given concrete form by musical instruments or the human voice. Therefore, all music inevitably bears the imprint of its age: immortal it may be, but it is never timeless.

To recreate a musical universe that would bring us closer to the fascinating and mysterious life of Joan the Maid, it was first of all necessary to take our bearings on the historical context and try to discover the different functions and uses that musical activity might have had in everyday life at that time: popular songs and dances, ceremonial music, court music, Church music and martial music.

Music always played an important role: sovereigns and nobles often travelled with their musicians. Armies were led into battle by trumpets and drums of war and by clerics intoning hymns. In the accounts of battles (1421), reference is frequently made to “the air and the earth vibrating with the sound of trumpets and bugles.” All celebration ceremonies involved the participation of numerous minstrels, singers etc … “the clerics welcomed them singing hymns and praises that they knew, and there was playing on the organ and horns, and all the bells were rung” (1424). In 1435, numerous concerts were performed to mark the peace treaty signed in the town of Arras between France, England and the Duchy of Burgundy. On 29th July, the Duke of Burgundy entered Arras, followed by the ambassadors of the kings of France and England and the Papacy, and before them went “seven trumpeters playing melodiously. “ However, according to Jean Lefèvre, the French delegation was even more sumptuous and “comprised kings at arms, heralds, attendants, trumpeters, minstrels and chaplains, and all officers pertaining to the rank of princes.” (Marix 82).

Several very different aspects are involved in the musical characterisation of Joan the Maid:
– Joan’s village origins: Popular melodies from the period, Dufay’s Ce jour de l’an, Rondeau “La Tremouille”, etc …
– The mystery of the voices that she heard (St. Catherine, St. Margaret and St. Michael): Dufay’s Veni Sancte Spiritus (symbolically sung by 2 sopranos and 1 countertenor).
– Her warrior vocation: Melody of L’Homme armé, which evolves into Ballade de la Pucelle in an adaptation of the lyrics of the song from the period, and which recurs throughout the evocation of the two years of conflict, until her death, when we hear it (with a cornet and a bell), superimposed on Planctus Jehanne.

Three very different approaches have been adopted in the functional pieces:
– Fanfares for the Battles
In this section on the motifs and themes of the period, we have imagined a situation in which there is a semi-tone’s difference in the tuning of the English and the French trumpets; the two fanfares are also played in totally different ways (in binary and ternary rhythms, respectively).
– Music for the Coronation ceremony, for which we either had to compose pieces “in keeping with the spirit of the age” (Marche royale, Te Deum, Fanfare royale, etc.), or make use of existing works appropriate to the staging of the coronation ceremony: Hosanna I & Il and Sanctus of the Mass from Dufay’s L’Homme armé, completed with the anonymous hymn of the period celebrating and saluting the king’s return, with two texts sung simultaneously: Rejois toy terre de France and Vivat Rex in eternam.
– Pieces or motifs designed to create a specific atmosphere:
Rondeau “Fortune, par ta cruaulté”, Dit le Burguygnon, Fortuna desperata, Adoramus te / anonymous. Planctus Jehanne, sonneries, arpegios, drums, and the various motifs such as Le départ, Les Voix, Les Fanfares, Les Prières and La Marche pour l’Onction, evoking the extraordinary wealth of situations which more or less cyclically succeed one another at different stages from the beginning to the end of Joan’s short life.

This functional relationship between music and events is particularly significant. Concert music is often detached from its context, set loose from its functional tethers, to become an independent act of interpretation. In the narrative of a heroic deed or epic, all music is creative and must bear a relationship that is genuinely expressive or descriptive (or both) to the events being highlighted. The cinematic mise en scène and that of our CD-book, consisting of music and declamation, are really not so different; both approaches begin with the search for an actual or imaginary link with real life, although we are forced to go about the creation or interpretation of the music in radically different ways, because in the medium of film the approach is determined by image, whereas in our historical-musical narrative it is shaped by texts and events. Without sacrificing any of their purity, word and music, sustained by emotion and grace, take on a sacred dimension to become an integral part of a global living spectacle, thereby allowing us to attain that magical dimension suspended between reality and myth.

The prominence of battles and prisons in our story of Joan’s life may come as a surprise, but the stark reality is that the Maid’s brief and dazzling epic – from her encounter with the king on 6th March, 1429, to her execution on 30th May, 1431 – can be divided in two distinct parts: a year of countless battles and a year of imprisonment. As Régine Pernoud so aptly puts it, “she is the prototype of the glorious heroine, and at the same time Joan is the prototype of the political prisoner, the victim of hostage-taking and other forms of oppression against the individual which form part of daily life in the 20th (and 21st) century.”

JORDI SAVALL
San Juan de Puerto Rico
4th March, 2012

Translated by Jacqueline Minett


LA SUBLIME PORTE Voix d’Istanbul (1430 – 1750)
LA SUBLIME PORTE Voix d’Istanbul (1430 – 1750)

Jewish travellers wear yellow turbans,while those worn by the Armenians, Greeks, Maronites,
Copts and men of all other Christian nations are bluish grey or multicoloured;
only the Turks wear white turbans…

They speak three languages […] which are common to its inhabitants.
Spanish in the case of the Jews, and Greek and Turkish, this last being the most common.
There are also some Arab and Armenian families.
Pierre Belon, Observations, 1553, pp. 400 & 457

In 1453, some years before the fall of Granada in January 1492, a date which, after seven centuries, marked the conclusion of the Spanish Reconquista against the Arabs on the peninsula and the edict ordering the expulsion of the Jews in March of that same year, Mehmed II seized Constantinople and triggered the great division of the Mediterranean among the Christian nations and the Ottoman Empire.

“Indignation prevents me from remaining silent, and sorrow prevents me from speaking my mind. We are ashamed to go on living. Italy, Germany, France and Spain are among the most prosperous States, and yet (oh, the shame of it!) we allow Constantinople to be taken by the voluptuous Turks!” These dramatic words of Cardinal Piccolomini reflected widespread public opinion in the West after the fall of the capital of Byzantium. Calls to unite in the enterprise of retaking the city were rife, and, as soon as he was elected in 1455, Pope Calixtus III (Alfons de Borja) proclaimed a crusade against the Turks. However, due to a lack of resources coupled with a lack of unified action among the Christian kingdoms, the crusade failed to materialise. The city became the capital of the Ottoman Empire and home to Islam, although it continued to be a major centre for Orthodox Christians. We should not forget, however, the circumstantial alliances and the trade agreements that were signed between nations that continued to be fierce enemies. But the most surprising turn of events of the second half of the 15th century was the letter sent in 1461 by Pope Pius II Piccolomini to Sultan Mehmed II, a doubly unusual missive in that it was sent at a time when an imminent crusade was being prepared against the sultan, and because in that letter the Pope offered to recognise the sworn enemy of Christianity as emperor on condition that he converted to Catholicism. The champion of the struggle against the Turks now proposed to legitimise the sultan’s conquests and to recognise him as the successor to Constantine, provided that he accepted baptism: “If you wish to extend your empire to Christian peoples”, he wrote, “and make your name glorious on the lips of all men, you need neither gold, nor armies, nor troops, nor ships. One small thing would suffice to make you the greatest, most powerful and illustrious of men alive today: a few drops of water for your baptism to initiate you in the Christian rite and faith in the Gospel. If you do this [….] we shall call you emperor of Greece and the East, and those lands which you have taken by force and unlawfully occupy today will become your rightful property.” To understand this offer, one needs to remember that it was regularly suggested in the West that the Turks were the heirs to the great empires of the past. Not only had they absorbed most of the kingdoms known to Antiquity, but they also had inherited the virtues of the Roman legions. After conquering, one by one, those countries which had once been within the orbit of Rome, the Ottoman army seems to have resurrected the imperial project; or rather, it seemed capable of extending its borders even further. The 15th century still cherished the imperial dream, according which looked forward to the advent of an emperor who would pave the way for the second coming of Christ. It is typical of the age, for example, that when Charles VIII entered Naples in 1495, he had himself acclaimed King of France, Emperor of Constantinople and King of Jerusalem.

In fact, it was all about reuniting East and West. Throughout the 16th century, a Biblical text, the Prophecy of Daniel, enjoyed great popularity and was the subject of various interpretations. The story is well known: Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, has a dream whose meaning nobody is able to decipher. The young Daniel is brought before the king and solves the mystery. According to Lucette Valensi (Venise et la Sublime Porte), this text provided the basis for the theory of the four monarchies as phases in world history. The pagan monarchies – those of Babylon-Assyria, Persia, Greece and Rome – would ultimately be succeeded by the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. It was Rabbi Isaac Abravanel who, at the end of the 15th century, had identified the Ottoman Empire as the last monarchy. Also drawing on the Book of Daniel, Francesco da Meleto, the son of a Florentine-Bolognese merchant and a Russian serf, was responsible for spreading the prophecy throughout Florence, taking his inspiration from conversations he had had with Jews and Muslims during his business travels to Constantinople. He simultaneously heralded the imminent conversion of the Jews and the Muslims, and the renewal of the Church, to be followed, he predicted, by universal salvation and an era of peace and happiness. Finally, there was the famous book by Guillaume Postel, entitled De la république des Turcs, in which, after giving a long and detailed description of the Turkish Empire, the author portrays Turkey as a model for universal monarchy whose exceptional success he then sets out to understand. Contemporary accounts continued to refer to Istanbul as Constantinople, comparing it time and time again to Rome and continuing to look on it as the ancient capital of the Roman Empire. Not only did it enjoy a clearly privileged strategic position, but it also had a vocation to govern both East and West and to become the capital of the whole world. In 1503, Andrea Gritti went into raptures over the beauty of the city: “The location of the city, its climate, the two seas by which it is flanked on either side, and the beauty of its neighbouring lands, give this city the finest and the most fortunate location, not only in all of Asia, but also in the whole world.” Almost a century later, Donà echoed Gritti’s account, describing the advantageous position of Istanbul astride Asia and Europe and “the rare beauty” of its situation, acknowledging that the view of the city “is truly the loveliest sight in the world.” As well as revealing his obsession with the universal monarchy that he believed could be brought about by the Turks, the author’s long description of the city reflects the image which the sultan himself sought to project: he was Sultan of the two lands and Lord of the two seas (this same formula was inscribed on the imperial coins), he was higher than all other men and all crowned heads, the shadow of God on Earth. He called his capital, the Porte, “the seat of happiness.”

These “Voices of Istanbul”, comprising vocal pieces and instrumental music (Ottoman, Greek, Sephardic and Armenian) from the “Sublime Porte” (the Ottoman court of that “Gateway to Happiness”), follow our earlier recording devoted to the instrumental music of Ottoman, Sephardic and Armenian Istanbul from the time of the publication of The Book of the Science of Music by the Moldavian prince Dimitrie Cantemir. During our lengthy research on the music, culture and history of the Turks, we have become more and more aware of the West’s astonishing ignorance regarding Ottoman history and civilisation.

As Jean-Paul Roux so aptly points out in his Histoire des Turcs, “We know more about the Turks than we might imagine, yet nothing binds that knowledge together”. From our schooldays we recall that in 1453 they took Constantinople, that Suleyman the Magnificent was the ally of Francis I against the hegemony of Charles V, that in 1572 the combined fleet of the Christian nations inflicted a terrible defeat on the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto. The great Miguel de Cervantes, who lost the use of his left hand at the Battle of Lepanto, provides a magnificent evocation of the Ottoman world in his play La gran sultana (1615). Thanks to Racine we are familiar with the sultan Bajazet; through Molière and his Bourgeois gentilhomme, we discover the “Turqueries”, or Turkish-inspired fashion and décor, which were still fashionable in the 18th century. A long catalogue of writers and artists have fed our dreams of the Ottoman world and its legends: from Théophile Gautier to Anatole France, from Lully to Mozart, from Pierre Loti to Victor Hugo, without forgetting the poetic evocations of Lamartine and Nerval, the paintings of Ingres and Delacroix… and the Bellini, Lotto and Holbein carpets produced in Turkey in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Numerous references deriving from the Turkish way of life and objects form part of our everyday lives; kiosks, the small pavilions that the Turks call kösk; the tulip, imported from the Bosphorus by the Dutch, takes its name from the shape of the turban tülbent. Turkish food often features in our diet, not only the brochettes that Turks call shishkebab (şiş kebap), but also our taste for coffee and croissants (in the shape of the emblem, the crescent moon, which were emblazoned on the standards of the besieging army), which became fashionable following a siege of Vienna by the Ottomans, and yoghurt (yoğurt), defined as “a national food of the mountain dwellers of Bulgaria” but which has always been a staple of the nomads of the steppes, the word itself deriving from the Turkish expressions yoğun (“dense” or “thick”), or yoğunluk (“density”), and yoğurtmak, meaning “to knead”. Our imaginary is also furnished with words such as seraglio, harem, odalisque, scimitar, with Orientalist paintings and desert winds… Thus, we progress from a repertoire of imperfectly known facts to a succession of unreal visions that have been more or less transformed at the whim of our imagination…

The reality is quite different. The Turks can boast two thousand years of history, from the Pacific to the Mediterranean, from Peking to Vienna, Algiers and Troyes, during which they have welded their destiny to that of virtually all the peoples of the ancient world: Attila and the Huns, the empire of the Tabghatch in northern China; a Jewish kingdom in southern Russia; the founding of the Abbasid capital at Samarra; the peaceful coexistence of all the great religions among the Uyghurs of central Asia; the Seljuqs of Iran; Genghis Khan and the Mongol hegemony; the Mamelukes of Egypt; the Golden Horde’s domination of its vassal Russia for two centuries; Tamburlaine; the Timurid Renaissance in Samarkand at Herat; the Ottoman Empire as the first world power in the 16th century; Babur Chab Shah and the founding of the Mughal Empire; Atatürk and Turkey’s national revolution.

From the beginning of the 16th century until its demise, the empire of the sultans played an active role in European politics; in life as in music, Turkey and Europe were not separate worlds, turned in on themselves and impermeable to one another. As Jean-François Solnon (Le turban et la stambouline) points out, these two worlds, initially indifferent to one another, aroused mutual curiosity, attraction and even fascination, finally becoming porous to each other’s influence. From the 18th century, the Sublime Porte played the card of Westernisation, a trend which was to culminate with Mustafa Kemal, when Turkey held up Europe as its model whilst remaining true to its roots.

The message of this wonderful, fascinating vocal and instrumental Ottoman music, in dialogue with that of Greek, Sephardic and Armenian musicians at the “Sublime Porte”, reminds us that the Ottoman Empire afforded non-Muslims a certain amount of religious freedom: Orthodox Greeks, Christians and Jews were able to continue to practise their faith in the land of Islam, just as the multiplicity of languages spoken there turned Ottoman cities into towers of Babel.

JORDI SAVALL
Basel, 19th September 2011

Translated by Jacqueline Minett


SIEUR DE SAINTE-COLOMBE Concerts à deux violes esgales
SIEUR DE SAINTE-COLOMBE Concerts à deux violes esgales

THE DOUBLE LIFE OF MONSIEUR DE SAINTE COLOMBE

Nothing or next to nothing was known about Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe – not even his first name – and the mystery surrounding his person only intensified the mystery of his music: the Concerts à deux violes, which are the only pieces that have come down to us. He was known to violists as the inventor of the seventh string that was added to the bass viol of the Baroque era in France. It was gathered that he had two daughters because he was known to have given concerts with them. And Titon du Tillet had recounted the pleasing story of Marin Marais coming to listen to his master in secret, hidden under the hut in a mulberry tree where the latter “played the viol more peacefully and more delectably”. That was all. And on top of this mixture of ignorance and charming anecdotes, there was also his music – strange, somehow distant and aloof, grave and erudite, unlike any other known genre, impossible to relate either to a particular school or a specific type of composition, pitchforked into the history of music.

It was then that a writer and a film director – a producer of words and a producer of pictures – came on the scene: suddenly, a novel and a film put faces to Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe and his daughters, built the hut and filled it “delectably” with music. Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe had an identity, and what was most astonishing was that his personality in the film was not so much the result of the two well-known anecdotes (his daughters, the hut) as of his music itself. Its gravity became an expression of the seclusion, the reserve and the brusqueness of a man who had withdrawn into himself and was engrossed in transforming into sound all his nostalgia, despondency and unfulfilled desires. If was a biography stemming from the music: Les Regrets, Les Pleurs, La Rêveuse had given rise to a tragedy; its images and words were born from the eloquence without words of the music itself.

One thing led to another, and the imaginary biography of Sainte-Colombe gave way to other versions of his life, which were superimposed on the first. First of all, there was what appears to have been a false lead, published by the musicologist Pierre Guillot in Le Monde, in January, 1992, announcing that Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe really did exist, that his true name was Augustin Dautrecourt, and that he lived not in the Bièvre valley, but in Lyons, where he taught music in the 1660s to the “demoiselles de la Charité”, a kind of Vivaldi on the banks of the Saône who went by the pseudonym of Sainte-Colombe. Apparently, the sources consulted by Mr. Guillot were not very reliable and his thesis was rapidly refuted… Finally, more recent research has unearthed a third hypothesis, according to which his first name was Jean, even though all the musical sources refer to him simply as Sieur de Sainte-Colombe, or Mr. de Sainte-Colombe the elder, since he is known to have had a son, known as Mr. Sainte-Colombe the younger (around 1660-1720), also a violist and composer, whose compositions have been traced to a manuscript housed in the library of Durham Cathedral in England. What is most surprising is that all this makes no difference. The imaginary Sainte-Colombe that we knew before seeing the film has not been diminished by the character invented by Pascal Quignard and Alain Corneau; nor are we bothered by the fact that this new character was not real either. All these images quite happily coexist: all that really matters is the music.

In the end, we realize that Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe not only gave the French viol the seventh string that makes it so original: he also gave it its soul. He was the first person to have grasped the viol’s specificity and to have translated it into music. This stamp compelled recognition among all the violists who came after him in France. Until its disappearance (much deplored by Hubert Le Blanc), French viol music was characterized not only by the instrument’s distinctive technique, the use of polyphony, the frets, the shape of the bridge, and the seventh string., but also by its elegiac, crepuscular, nocturnal (in Fauré’s sense of the word) nature: it was a music of light and shade. French viol music always retained that gravity, inwardness and secrecy which are to be found, for example, in Couperin’s La Pompe Funèbre and Marin Marais’s Les Voix Humaines. Even when Forqueray, with his nobility and his forcefulness, had drawn it towards virtuosity and brilliance, even when Caix d’Hervelois had given it a lighter, more amiable tone, there still remained something inward and silent about the French viol, which we undoubtedly owe to Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe.

PHILIPPE BEAUSSANT
Translated by Marie Pardoe


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


MARIN MARAIS. Pièces de viole des Cinq Livres
MARIN MARAIS. Pièces de viole des Cinq Livres

Like many of his contemporaries, Marin Marais has paid the price of his proximity to some outstandingly brilliant musicians. Between Lully and Rameau we can still cite Charpentier, Delalande, Campra and François Couperin. But what about the others? The Destouches, Mouret and Marais pale beside the stars of a fertile era which was rocked by controversy. The school of harpsichordists and organists, who were no match for Lully’s vocal art, are still represented in the repertoire of present-day performers: D’Anglebert, Lebègue, Dandrieu, Grigny and Clérambault are still played on our instruments. But Marin Marais had the misfortune not only to compose operas in Lully’s domain, but also to devote the bulk of his art to an instrument which was being eclipsed by the advance of the violin family… namely, the VIOLA DA GAMBA or the BASS VIOL. And it is only recently that we have rediscovered the specific manner of playing this instrument as well as the composers who wrote for it.

Born on 31 May 1656, the son of a shoemaker, Marin Marais became a chorister at Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois in Paris, around the same time as another boy with a promising future, M.R. Delalande (1656-1726), who was to make his name as a composer of sacred music. At sixteen Marais left the choir school to become a pupil of Sainte-Colombe, a virtuoso on the viola da gamba, who had brought the instrument’s technique to such perfection that he could, in the words of H. Le Blanc, “imitate the most beautiful ornaments of the voice” (Défense de la Basse de Viole, 1740). The viola da gamba was, in fact, just beginning to enjoy popularity in France. In 1636, Marin Mersenne wrote in his Harmonie Universelle: “Those who have heard excellent performers and good ensembles of Viols, know that, except for good voices, there is nothing as ravishing as the languishing bow strokes which accompany the trills which are done on the fingerboard, but since it is no less difficult to describe their grace as that of a perfect Orator, they have to be heard to be understood.” The English school, introduced into France by Richelieu’s viol player, André Maugars, later helped to give the French viol its own technique and style, which masters like Sainte-Colombe brought to even greater perfection. Marin Marais took advantage of this teaching and soon surpassed his master. At the age of twenty he was engaged as Court Composer and in 1679 was appointed Musician in Ordinary to the King’s Chamber for the viol, a post that he continued to occupy until 1725, shortly before his death. His rise to fame was a rapid one: in 1680 he was cited, alongside his teacher, among the great virtuosi of the day. He divided his time between his duties at court, composition and teaching the viol.

Marin Marais thus found himself at the heart of French musical life – the Royal Court. In fact, since the time of Louis XIII, instrumental music had not been nourished, as in the sixteenth century, by popular festivities in which all the social classes combined to celebrate the solemn Progress of the King, the head of a guild or the advent of Spring, for which performers from the populace formed associations and exercised their talents. After 1620, the king gathered to his court the best musicians, especially since it was necessary to replace the Italians who had left, upset by the troubles of civil wars and by their poor appointments. Deprived of their best musicians, the confraternity of popular “instrumentalists” underwent a slow decline which Couperin was to depict with great humour in his harpsichord piece entitled Les Fastes de La Grande et Ancienne Ménestrandise. Listening to good music became the preserve of the privileged few, who assembled for the purpose at court, in special rooms and at fixed times. Music catered for the entertainment, as well as the pomp and ceremony of fine society, and to this end the “Vingt-quatre Violons du Roy” (The King’s 24 Strings) and the “12 hautbois” (The Twelve Oboes) were formed.

It was in the new “concert” setting that Marais exercised his virtuoso talent. But the instrumentalists of the period were also at the same time composers. In this regard Marais was the disciple of Lully. He certainly expressed great admiration for the master, dedicating to him in 1686 his first book of music for the viol, describing him as his “benefactor” and “protector”. This high regard was mutual for, according to Titon du Tillet, a historian of the period, Lully often engaged Marais to beat time in the performance of his operas. In the same year that this first book was published, Marais enjoyed great success with his debut as a court composer: an Idylle dramatique celebrating Peace was staged at Versailles, and the Dauphine enjoyed it so much that she immediately demanded a repeat performance. The composer’s prestige was still acknowledged in 1701 when, for the Dauphin’s convalescence, it was Marais rather than Delalande, the official court composer, who was commissioned to write a Te Deum Mass.

The career of Marin Marais unfolded at the height of the “musical war” between the goût italien and the goût français. For a long time the establishment of Italian music in France had been opposed by Lully. After his death, in 1687, the Italian lobby grew stronger and stronger, the more so since it already had its French partisans. These partisans had hitherto met secretly to play music by Bononcini, A. Scarlatti and Stradella. In the operatic field, these Italians ensured the triumph of melodic ornamentation, vocal acrobatics, a subtle harmony full of chromatism, dissonances and modulations. Marais did not risk any of these innovations. Wildly anti-Italian, his four surviving operas composed between 1693 and 1709 follow all the principles of Lullian opera: clarity of textual declamation, recitatives with a slightly melodic tendency and daring intervals used solely for expressive ends, and a simple, clear harmony favouring the comprehension of the text. Innovation in this area would have led to certain failure, for he would have been up against the defenders of Lully and French music who were the opera-going public.

In the field of instrumental music, which escaped the hegemony and sectarianism of dramatic music, he took a freer and bolder stance. His “symphonies” and his dances had already established his reputation in his operas, as for example in the Tempest scene from Alcyonne, a descriptive orchestral piece which made a great impression on his contemporaries, the work being revived at the Opera until 177l. But it was in his music for viol that his genius operated with unequalled originality:
– five books of pieces for one, two or three viols (1686, 1701, 1711, 1717, 1725)
– pieces for trio with flutes, violins, and treble viols (1692)
– La Gamme et autres morceaux de symphonies for violin, viol and harpsichord (1723)
in all, about seven hundred pieces “suitable for playing on all sorts of instruments.” A firm believer in the value of his country’s national tradition, Marais condemned Italian sonatas to the extent of forbidding his pupils to play them! He concentrated solely on the Suite, which at first was simply a juxtaposition of dances written in the same key and assembled for the convenience of the performer; the latter would choose a few pieces to make a group “of just proportions” without necessarily having to play the whole Suite.

The present recording offers a Suite, a series of variations and a character piece, all taken from the Second Livre, which appeared in 1701. Marin Marais perfectly illustrates that fondness for contrast that characterises the music of the Baroque era. We find it in the variations in dynamics, between the forte and piano and in tempi, where slow passages are linked to quick ones without transition. Variety of colour is provided by the multiple possibilities afforded by the full gamut of the instrument’s registers and the ways in which it can be played; at the same time, its polyphonic “voices” allow us to hear a voluble upper part with a quiet lower one, or vice versa. The “jeu de mélodie” and the “jeu d’harmonie” compete and alternate in the pieces in the Suite: according to the theorist Jean Rousseau, the player should sometimes “imitate everything charming and agreeable that the voice can do”, with “tenderness” and “delicacy”, and sometimes sustain several independent voices at once, which requires “great aptitude” and “plenty of practice”. He may also combine melody and harmony in a finished style in which the chords, far from inhibiting the movement of the top line, give it foundation and richness. In the thirty-two couplets of the Folies d’Espagne (an old Iberian dance), Marais especially exploits writing in “broken chords”: over a slow-moving bass line, he superimposes a mosaic of quick notes in scales or arpeggios. At times the music seems to flow of its own accord, in keeping with the traditional dances of the period, while at others its unexpected modulations and suspensions go so far as to suggest that the performer is improvising. The Tombeau pour Monsieur de Lully in particular strikes us as surprisingly modern.

Unfortunately, Marais’ pieces for viol came at the end of an era: in the last years of the seventeenth century, the indispensable viols, without which no music for church or chamber would have been possible, and which were considered as the aristocrats of string instruments, were replaced in Italy by the violin family. Corelli brought this instrument’s technique to a peak of perfection. In 1700, one year before the publication of Marin Marais’ Second Livre de Piéces de Viole, he published his famous opus 5 which was to go through thirty editions and inspire two generations of composers. As if by chance, it contains a series of variations on the Follia theme, in which Corelli sums up the technique of the violin as he conceived it. More brilliant than the viol, the violin usurped the latter’s place in the “jeu de melodie”. The keyboard instruments – harpsichords and organs – proved much more suitable for the “jeu d’harmonie.” Ultimately, despite the perfection of his music, the difficulties of performance posed by Marin Marais’ pieces perhaps signalled the decline of the viol.

Was the composer affected by this inevitable evolution? The fact remains that at the end of his life, he who had always championed French music against the rising tide of Italian art, longer hear talk of any exploit on his part” (T. du Tillet). In September 1728, the journal Le Mercure announced: “Death has recently taken from us another famous musician whom all Viol Players will infinitely regret, namely M. Marets. He brought this instrument to a high degree of perfection. Besides his particular merits for the Viol, he had a great talent for composition, having written several Operas, or fine instrumental pieces, including the Tempête d’Alcionne, which is regarded with admiration. He died at a very advanced age, leaving two sons as the worthy heirs to all his talents.”

MARIE MADELEINE KRYNEN
Translated by Frank Dobbins


INSTANBUL. Dmitrie Cantemir 1673-1723
INSTANBUL. Dmitrie Cantemir 1673-1723

At the time of Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723), the city which stands at the crossroads of the continents of Europe and Asia, ISTANBUL for the Ottomans and CONSTANTINOPLE for the Byzantines, already marked a veritable high point in history. Despite the memory and very palpable presence of the old Byzantium, it had become the true heart of the Muslim religious and cultural world. An extraordinary melting-pot of peoples and religions, the city has always been a magnet for European travellers and artists. Cantemir arrived in the city in 1693, aged 20, initially as a hostage and later as a diplomatic envoy of his father, the ruler of Moldavia. He became famous as a virtuoso of the tanbur, a kind of long-necked lute, and was also a highly-regarded composer, thanks to his work Kitab-i ilm-i musiki (The Book of the Science of Music), which he dedicated to Sultan Ahmed III (1703-1730).

Such is the historical context of our project on “Dimitrie Cantemir’s The Book of the Science of Music and the Sephardic and Armenian musical traditions”. We aim to present the “cultivated” instrumental music of the 17th century Ottoman court, as preserved in Cantemir’s work, in dialogue and alternating with “traditional” popular music, represented here by the oral traditions of Armenian musicians and the music of the Sephardic communities who had settled in the Ottoman empire in cities such as Istanbul and Izmir after their expulsion from Spain. In Western Europe, our cultural image of the Ottoman Empire has been distorted by the Ottoman Empire’s long bid to expand towards the West, blinding us to the cultural richness and, above all, the atmosphere of tolerance and diversity that existed in the Empire during that period. As Stefan Lemny points out in his interesting essay on Les Cantemir, “in fact, after taking Constantinople, Mahomet II spared the lives of the city’s Christian population; what is more, a few years later he encouraged the old aristocratic Greek families to return to the district known as Fener or Phanar, the hub of the former Byzantium.” Later, under the reign of Suleyman – the Golden Age of the Ottoman Empire – contacts with Europe intensified on a par with the development of diplomatic and trade relations. As Amnon Shiloah reminds us in his excellent book La musique dans le monde de l’islam: “Although Venice had a permanent diplomatic mission to Istanbul, the Empire turned its sights towards France. Towards the end of the 16th century, the treaty which was signed in 1543 between Suleyman and ‘the Christian king” Francis I of France was a decisive factor in the process of rapprochement which led to greater interaction. On that occasion, Francis I sent Suleyman an orchestra as a token of his friendship. The concert given by the ensemble appears to have inspired the creation of two new rhythmic modes which then entered Turkish music: the frenkcin (12/4) and the frengi (14/4).”

From 1601, the Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church, the rallying point for the Greek aristocracy proceeding from all corners of the Empire – from the islands in the Aegean, the Peloponnese, Europe and Asia Minor – finally became established in the Phanar district, where the old aristocratic Greek families had settled after the fall of Constantinople. Thus, thanks to the presence of this Greek community, the ancient Byzantine capital continued to be the seat of the Orthodox Church throughout the Empire. In this sense the Patriarchate’s Academy, or Great School, was crucial in ensuring cultural hegemony. Based on his reading of Cantemir, Voltaire listed the disciplines taught at the Academy: ancient and modern Greek, Aristotelian philosophy, theology and medicine: “In truth”, he wrote, “Demetrius Cantemir reiterates many old myths; but there is no question of his being mistaken about the modern monuments he has seen with his own eyes, or the Academy where he himself studied.”

Dimitrie Cantemir’s Book of the Science of Music, which has served as the historical source for our recording, is an exceptional document in many ways; first, as a fundamental source of knowledge concerning the theory, style and forms of 17th century Ottoman music, but also as one of the most interesting accounts of the musical life of one of the foremost Oriental countries. This collection of 355 compositions (including 9 by Cantemir), written in a system of musical notation invented by the author, constitutes the most important collection of 16th and 17th century Ottoman instrumental music to have survived to the present day. I first began to discover this repertory in 1999, during the preparation of our project on Isabella I of Castile, when our friend and colleague Dimitri Psonis, a specialist in Oriental music, suggested an old military march from the collection as a musical illustration of the date commemorating the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman armies of Mahomet II.

A year later, on our first visit to Istanbul to give a concert with Montserrat Figueras and Hespèrion XX, when we visited the Yapı Kredi Cultural Centre, our friends in Istanbul, Aksel Tibet, Mine Haydaroglu and Emrah Efe Çakmak, gave us a copy of the first modern edition of the music contained in Dimitrie Cantemir’s The Science of Music. I was immediately fascinated by the music in the collection and by the life of Cantemir, and I subsequently set about studying both the music and the composer in order to learn about a culture which, despite its proximity, seems remote to us as a result of sheer ignorance. I was determined to find out more about the historical and aesthetic context with a view to embarking on an interesting project. Six years later, during the preparation of our Orient-Occident project, I selected four magnificent makam which gave the project a new dimension in that it was the only Oriental music to come not from an oral tradition, but from a contemporaneous written source. Finally, in 2008, as a natural continuation of our original project on the dialogue between East and West, we succeeded in bringing together an exceptional group of musicians from Turkey (oud, ney, kanun, tanbur, lyra and percussion) together with musicians from Armenia (duduk, kemance and ney “Beloul”), Israel (oud), Morocco (oud), Greece (santur and morisca) and our principal specialist soloists in Hespèrion XXI, with whom we have prepared and carried out this recording. I would like to take this opportunity to express to them all my heartfelt gratitude, since without their talent and knowledge this project would never have been possible.

To begin with, we had the difficult task of selecting about ten pieces out of a total of 355 compositions, choosing the most representative and varied pieces from among the makam which struck us as being the most beautiful, although we are aware that this preference was influenced by our Western sensibility. After this “bewildering” choice, we had to complete the pieces chosen for the Ottoman part with the corresponding taksim, or preludes, improvised before each makam. At the same time, we had also selected Sephardic and Armenian pieces for the Sephardic repertoire we chose music from the Ladino repertory preserved in the communities of Izmir, Istanbul and other regions of the former Ottoman Empire, while for the Armenian repertoire we selected the most beautiful of the various pieces proposed by the Armenian musicians Georgi Minassyan (duduk) and Gaguik Mouradian (kemance).

Nowadays, all of this music is probably performed very differently from the way it was at the time of Cantemir. Therefore, in our quest for other possible performance techniques, we had to rely on various accounts, often written by European travellers, which describe the specific characteristics of Ottoman music during those historical periods and provide a series of interesting considerations on musical performance, practice, instruments, court orchestras and military bands, as well as the ceremonies of the mystical confraternities. One such account is that of Pierre Belon in 1553, who remarks on the Turks’ extraordinary skill at making bow and lute strings from gut which “are more common here than in Europe”, adding that “many people can play one or several types [of instrument], which is not the case (he observes) in France and Italy.” He also mentions the existence of a great variety of flutes, remarking on the wonderfully sweet sound of the miskal (panpipe), although in 1614 the Italian traveller Pietro Della Valle wrote that the sweetness of the instrument “does not match that of the long flute (ney) of the Dervishes.” Around 1700 Cantemir himself observes in his History of the Ottoman Empire: “Europeans may find it strange that I refer here to the love of music of a nation which Christians regard as barbarian.” He concedes that barbarism may have reigned during the period when the Empire was being forged, but remarks that, once the great military conquests were over, the arts, “the ordinary fruits of peace, found their place in men’s minds”. He concludes with the following words, which must have come as a shock to his European readers: “I would even venture to say that the music of the Turks is much more perfect than that of Europe in terms of metre and the proportion of words, but it is also so difficult to understand that one would be hard put to find more than a handful of individuals with a sound knowledge of the principles and subtleties of this art.” (HOE, II p.178)…

JORDI SAVALL

Edinburgh, August 2009

Translated by Jacqueline Minett

P.S. I would like to thank Amnon Shiloah, Stefan Lemny and Ursula and Kurt Reinhard for their research and analysis on the history, music and the period, which I have used in documenting some of the sources in my commentary.


JÉRUSALEM La Ville des deux Paix: La Paix céleste et la Paix terrestre
JÉRUSALEM La Ville des deux Paix: La Paix céleste et la Paix terrestre

One of the etymologies tracing the name of the city of Jerusalem translates its Hebrew name as “the city of the two peaces”, in what is a clear metaphorical reference both to “heavenly peace” and “earthly peace”, the former proclaimed and promised by the prophets who lived in or visited the city, and the latter sought by the political leaders who have governed the city throughout its five thousand years of documented existence.

Sanctified by the three great monotheistic religions of the Mediterranean, Jerusalem soon became the focus of prayers and longing. Desired by all, she has been the goal, aim and destination of pilgrims of all persuasions who flock to her gates in peace, but also the objective of soldiers and armies in pursuit of war, who have besieged and burned the city, bringing ruin and devastation more than forty times throughout her long history.

Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras, in the company of Jewish, Christian and Muslim musicians from Israel, Palestine, Greece, Syria, Armenia, Turkey, England, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, as well as their own ensembles Hespèrion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya, portray the chequered fortunes of Jerusalem – a holy city or a city bedevilled – in a frieze of texts and music evoking her protagonists. Jewish, Arab and Christian music from ancient times to the present day highlights Jerusalem as a city that looks forward to the possibility of achieving the two peaces proclaimed in its name.

Manuel Forcano, 2008

Recent performance at Pierre Boulez saal in Berlin:


INVOCATION À LA NUIT.
INVOCATION À LA NUIT.

“It is at night that it is beautifulto believe in the light.”Edmond Rostand1868-1918“Now that the sky and earth and wind are hushed, and birds and beasts are curbed by sleep, night circles in its starry chariot round, and the sea lies motionless in the deep, restless I think and burn and weep…” and the miracle is worked a thousand and one times in our hearts. Yes, thanks to the genius of poets like Francesco Petrarch, in the 21st century we are still moved by these ancient but eternally moving and evocative words. “Set to music” by Claudio Monteverdi in the magnificent Madrigal Hor che’l ciel et la terra, they are a breathtaking invocation and, thanks to the ancestral yet timeless “recitar cantando”, the mysteries which inhabit the infinity of night yield to us without resistance and reach deep into our astonished hearts to satisfy our thirst for beauty. And again, it is the mysterious night which unreservedly embraces silence, that element which is so essential to music. It is then that night reveals to us the most secret laments, the most hidden joys and the most distant murmurs. It is then, also, that we discover the light of the moon and stars which give us a sense of our own reality in the vastness of an infinite universe. It is thanks to all of this that our thoughts grow lucid and our imagination regains its freedom, freedom to feel capable of achieving everything that our hearts desire and aspire to. “Night is the salvation of the soul”, wrote the 10th century Arab poet in one of the tales from the Arabian Nights (The Story of Nur-Ed-din and Enis-El-Jelis). Those 1001 nights, lasting almost 3 years (2 years and 271 nights, to be exact), are a magical number; they pass like a fleeting moment in our lives. Suddenly I realise that I am fortunate already to have lived more than 20 times a Thousand and One Nights. Nights of childhood, full of wonderful new discoveries, but also sad nights, haunted by the fear of war and an uncertain future. Nights of adolescence consoled by the discovery and apprenticeship of love, friendship and the warm tones of the cello. Clear nights of a spring in 1965, full of unforgettable encounters: with my ideal soul-mate, and with the viola da gamba and its forgotten music. Starry nights in the gardens of the Monastery of Pedralbes (in Barcelona) where Montserrat Figueras and I decided to embark on our journey into the future together, bound for tomorrows that were still uncertain but already brimming with confidence and hope, determined to share our joys and sorrows, music and friendships, a whole life full of paths and dreams. And it was another summer night, towards the end of July 1975 that, together with Hopkinson Smith (theorbo) and Anne Gallet (harpsichord), I made my recording debut with the music of Marin Marais’s Second Book of Pieces for the Viol, which marked the beginning of the ASTRÉE collection (created and directed by Michel Bernstein). The beautiful little Romanesque Church of Saint-Lambert des Bois in Versailles where we were recording enjoyed perfect acoustics, but its proximity to a small airport forced us to record between eight in the evening and five o’clock in the morning. Obviously, sheer fatigue and the lateness of the hour very often changed the way we perceived certain works, especially the slow movements, which in the deep silence of the night and the magical sound that filled the church, took on an extraordinarily expressive dimension. But above all, as the night wore on we would feel it necessary to compensate for our lack of physical energy, due to loss of tone and natural tiredness, with increased spiritual energy. When the body began to flag, we knew it was up to the spirit to take over. It was then that I became aware of the advantages of performing pieces such as Les Voix Humaines, the Sarabandes and the Tombeaux at night. Just a few months later, at the beginning of November 1975, thanks to the enthusiasm of the producer Gerd Berg, who directed EMI-ELEKTROLA’s new REFLEXE collection, we were invited to record a new programme of Spanish music at the Munstermuseum in Basel. The recording sessions took place on mid-winter nights in Basel, and it was our first double album featuring “The Secular Music of Christian and Jewish Spain”, with Montserrat Figueras and the musicians of HESPÈRION XX. Since then, more than twelve times 1001 nights have gone by, on which we have recorded or performed countless pieces of music, almost always in those magical hours late at night or in the small hours before dawn. In memory of them, we have selected some of the most beautiful vocal and instrumental works which are either directly or indirectly associated with night, sleep and events marking peace or mourning. We symbolically offer them to you in this “Invocation to night” as a testament to all these creative years working with ASTRÉE/AUVIDIS (1975-1996) and ALIA VOX (1998-2008). More than 140 recordings made with the total support, and also sometimes the sacrifice of extreme fatigue on the part of our sound engineers, and particularly of our singers and soloists and faithful fellow-musicians in HESPÈRION XX and XXI, LA CAPELLA REIAL DE CATALUNYA and CONCERT DES NATIONS. I would like to express to them all our sincere and profound gratitude and our heartfelt tribute for enabling so many unique moments of emotion, beauty and light to be captured for posterity. Thanks to our new project to progressively re-release on ALIA VOX HERITAGE our complete back catalogue of ASTRÉE/AUVIDIS, we are now able to share those moments with present and future generations, alongside the new recordings that we will continue to release under ALIA VOX. Edmond Rostand wrote, “It is at night that it is beautiful to believe in the light”. We firmly believe that we need that light if we are to regain a little peace in a world torn by increasingly absurd and bloodthirsty violence. With his legendary wisdom, the philosopher Raimon Panikkar (b.1918) writes, “It is very hard to live without peace in the world around us, but it is impossible to live without peace in our hearts”. The only way we have left to rediscover that peace is through love and music.JORDI SAVALLBellaterra, Night of 15th April, 2008Translated by Jacqueline Minett


G.F. HAENDEL Water Music-Music for The Royal Fireworks
G.F. HAENDEL Water Music-Music for The Royal Fireworks

For a long time Handel’s Water Music was his most popular instrumental work, but we possess neither the autograph manuscript nor an authentic first edition approved by the composer. The anecdote about the composition of the work is now well known. In 1712, Handel, who was Kapellmeister to the Elector of Hanover, had obtained permission from the latter to go to England, “on condition that he engaged to return within a reasonable time”. But Handel was still in London in 1714, when the Elector became King George I of England. According to John Mainwaring, the author of “Memoirs of the Life of the Late George Frederic Handel” (1760), the composer avoided all contact with the new sovereign until 22nd August 1715, when he had a new work executed during a royal procession on the Thames; it so captivated the king that he immediately pardoned him.

This story is attractive but unsubstantial. On 25th September 1714, just six days after landing at Greenwich, a Te Deum by Handel was given in the king’s presence and the same year he also attended a performance of Handel’s opera Rinaldo. If Handel was in disgrace, his music was not. And the only royal excursion on the river with music by Handel that we know of did not take place until 17th July 1717. There are three contemporary accounts of this event. The first two appeared in English newspapers. The Political State of Great Britain of 1717 reports that, on the evening of Wednesday 17th July, the king sailed to Chelsea “with excellent Musick organized by Baron Kilmanseck for his entertainment”; at three o’clock in the morning, he sailed back to Whitehall, and from there went on to St James’s palace. The Daily Courant for 19th July speaks of “the Musick, in which fifty instruments of all kinds played, throughout the journey from Lambeth the most agreeable symphonies composed especially for the occasion by Mr Handel. They pleased His Majesty so much that they were played three times, going and coming.” The third account, which is the longest and most interesting, is a report sent by the Prussian ambassador to London, Friedrich Bonet, to his sovereign. We learn that Baron Kilmanseck (Johann Adolf, Baron von Kielmansegg), who had been Handel’s protector in Hanover, organized the festivities of 17th July 1717 at his own expense, and that the concert cost him “a hundred and fifty pounds for the musicians alone”. Bonet’s account also gives the composition of the orchestra (“trumpets, horns, bassoons, oboes, German flutes, French flutes, violins and basses, but there were no singers”), and adds that the music had been specially written “by the famous Handel, a native of Halle and His Majesty’s principal court composer”.

We do not know whether the whole set of movements now brought together under the title of Water Music was heard on 17th July 1717, or just some of them. Another royal outing on the Thames took place on 26th April 1736, on the eve of the wedding of the Prince of Wales (the king being then George II), but if music by Handel was played, and it was an extract from what we call the Water Music, that extract was certainly not composed at that date.

According to the arrangement adopted, there are twenty to twenty-two movements, forming three suites composed for different groups of instruments: suite in F for two oboes, bassoon, two horns, strings and basso continuo; suite in D for two oboes, bassoon, two trumpets, two horns, strings and basso continuo; suite in G for recorder, flute, strings and basso continuo. There is no question of relating these three suites respectively to the years 1715, 1717 and 1736; the most likely possibility is that all three date from the year 1717. We may assume that the F major and D major suites – the one dominated by horns and the other by trumpets – were played on the water, since they indeed have the sound of “open-air” music, and that the one in G, which is more intimate, was performed during the supper held in honour of the king at Lord Ranelagh’s villa on the river at Chelsea. As for the order of the movements within each suite, it is still purely a matter of conjecture.

The Minuets were published in 1729 in a book entitled A general Collection of Minuets. The first edition of the “famous Water Musick”, published by Walsh round about 1732-1733, comprised only ten or so movements (i.e., approximately half the total number), drawn from each of the three suites. Other editions soon followed, as well as numerous arrangements for a wide variety of instruments (including a harpsichord reduction in about 1760). The first full edition in the form of an orchestral score was that of Samuel Arnold (1788).

Until the mid-20th century, the Water Music was heard particularly in modern arrangements and orchestrations by Sir Hamilton Harty. Since then, musicologists have managed, on the one hand, to distinguish the three suites, and, on the other, to rediscover the original orchestration. Nevertheless, the order of the movements is still uncertain, and it is quite licit to make the three suites overlap. Jordi Savall has arranged the movements in two suites, the one focussed on those in D and G, the other on the one in F. We can but admire Handel’s qualities as a cosmopolitan, eclectic artist in the Water Music, drawing impartially on German, Italian, French and English traditions.

The Music for the Royal Fireworks was written in 1748 to celebrate the signing of the peace treaty at Aix-la-Chapelle, which brought the War of the Austrian Succession to an end. In this war between Austria and Prussia, Britain supported Austria, and France and Spain were allied to Prussia. King George II, who was not exactly an outstanding leader in war, commanded that the event be celebrated with great festivities, crowned by an immense firework display, the latter being set up on a huge wooden structure (known as the “Machine”) erected in Green Park by the theatrical designer Giovanni Niccolò Servandoni. This structure, 410 feet long and 114 feet high, was completed on 26th April 1749, on the eve of the day the display was to take place. Handel had been commissioned to compose the music, and a raised gallery was built for the musicians, above a statue of Peace surrounded by a statue of Neptune and Mars and a low relief showing George II offering peace to Britannia. Suspended above all this was a sun, which caught fire on the night of the celebration, illuminating Green Park as if it was in broad daylight.

George II wanted only “martial music” without “fiddles”, whereas Handel had in mind a work for strings and wind instruments. The composer did not give in until the last moment. On 21st April, he gave a public rehearsal in Vauxhall Gardens, with an orchestra composed of wind instruments, kettledrums (and perhaps strings); according to the newspapers, there were a hundred musicians. Twelve thousand people attended, bringing traffic on London Bridge to a standstill for three hours. The crowds had flocked there for Handel, for there were no fireworks, no wooden structures and no statues, allegorical or otherwise, on the day of the rehearsal. The autograph manuscript indicates 24 oboes, 12 bassoons, 9 trumpets, 9 horns, 3 pairs of kettledrums, a double bassoon and a serpent, but it is possible that on 27th April 1749 Handel conducted an even larger ensemble. The ceremony was fraught with incidents, the fireworks went awry, and only Handel’s music saved the occasion from complete disaster. During the resulting fire, Servandoni drew his sword on a royal official; he was disarmed and spent the night in prison. A month later, on 27th May, Handel conducted a special concert for the benefit of the Foundling Hospital in London; the programme included the Music for the Royal Fireworks and we know that on that occasion he returned to his original idea, with string parts.

The work is in five movements: an Overture (other versions – in all probability later compositions ¬ exist), followed by a Bourrée, a Sicilienne entitled La Paix (with virtuoso horn parts), a piece entitled La Rejouissance, intended to be played three times (by trumpets, woodwind and strings, by horns and woodwind, and then by all the instruments together), and finally two Minuets (Minuet I being repeated after Minuet II).

MARC VIGNAL
Translated by Mary Pardoe


HENRY PURCELL Fantasias for the Viols 1680
HENRY PURCELL Fantasias for the Viols 1680

The Fantazia for consort of viols is one of the glories of English music, and this unique repertoire, spreading over nearly two centuries, represents the loftiest and most perfect kind of instrumental chamber music written in Europe before the era of the classical string quartet. Between the early sixteenth and the late seventeenth century hundreds of such “Fancies” appeared, and the greatest masters of the age – Byrd, Gibbons, Lawes, Jenkins, Locke and many others produced masterpieces of the kind. But in the face of the victorious progress of “the new-fangled violin”, the Fantazia grew rapidly out of fashion, to be replaced by the Dance Suite or the Sonata: the Restoration of 1660 gave the signal to the invasion of continental music, above all French, which enjoyed the exclusive favour of Charles II. The admirable set of Fancies by Matthew Locke published in that very year, 1660, was the last of its kind to find a publisher. It was Purcell’s immediate model. Purcell’s fifteen Fantazias have come down to us as a manuscript kept at the British Museum, most of whose pieces are dated. As they would not have aroused any interest at the time, the young composer did not even attempt to have them published, and they only appeared in print, edited by Peter Warlock, in 1927! This unique collection of pieces of from three to seven parts, a true “sum” of polyphonic thinking, to which only Bach’s Musical Offering and Art of Fugue may be compared, are the product, incredible as it may seem, of a very young composer of twenty-one at the beginning of his all too-short career. Written during the summer of 1680, they bring two centuries of uninterrupted instrumental tradition in England to a crowning conclusion. Indeed, Purcell must have been aware that his endeavours were as out-of-date, and thus as transcendental and unselfish as Bach’s writing the Art of Fugue some seventy years later. In the manuscript just mentioned are to be found three Fantazias of three parts, nine (plus a fragmentary tenth) of four parts, most accurately dated and written in close succession between the 10th June and the 31st August 1680, sometimes succeeding each other at only one day’s interval, one of five parts, one of six and one of seven. These pieces are short, none of them exceeding a hundred bars in common time. They each consist of two to five episodes, contrasting in mood and tempo. Let us set apart at once the two pieces in six and seven parts: they are In Nomines. This was a peculiar form of the Fantazia, based on a cantus firmus in long notes around which the other instruments weave their counterpoints. The cantus is the plainsong Gloria tibi Trinitas according to the Sarum rite. The Tudor composer John Taverner had written one of his most masterly Masses on that tune, and the passage in the Benedictus setting of the words In nomine, featuring the entire Cantus, was especially admired and gave rise to a number of transcriptions. This enticed other composers to try their hand at similar, but this time purely instrumental settings, and thus the genre of the In Nomine was born, of which the two by Purcell are the latest in existence before Peter Maxwell Davies revived the genre in our own time. The very strict rules applying to the In Nomine result in norms differing from those found in Purcell’s remaining Fantazias. Their idiom is more austere, more archaic, their tempo remains invariable, and the permanent presence of the Cantus precludes the homophonic episodes of transition found elsewhere. However, each of them breaks down into three sections, featuring as many themes, whose polyphonic fabric is successively confronted to the Cantus. The only harmonic audacities to be found (though they were not audacious at that time) are the familiar false relations due to the coexistence of the ascending and descending shape of the melodic minor scale. Purcell’s In Nomine of seven parts surpasses its neighbour of six parts both in size and quality of inspiration.

Examining the remaining thirteen pieces, we notice a growing care for unity and integration: the first Fantazia of three parts calls for no less than six successive themes, whereas the masterly ninth four-part Fantazia (probably the climax of the whole series) is entirely built on two motives of four notes each. The norm is two or three themes, separated or framed by those homophonic episodes where Purcell’s harmonic genius celebrates its greatest triumphs. Only two pieces (the third of three parts and the ninth of four parts) dispense with them, and thus have only two sections each.

The deep melancholy so characteristic of Purcell’s temper results in the fact that only five pieces are set in major keys. His favourite g-minor (a predilection he shares with Mozart) is to be found no less than four times, and three further Fantazias are in d-minor. Except for only three pieces, flat keys are favoured. But beyond that rather restrained choice of tonalities, these pieces feature a prodigious tonal mobility, unexcelled anywhere before the twentieth century. Constant and very fast modulations (at times, up to four or five different tonalities within a single bar!) drive the composer into regions practically uncharted in his day, such as f-sharp, c-sharp or even g-sharp minor, as well as D-flat major, b-flat and e-flat minor. The systematic use of chromaticism, of changing function of a “pivot” note (for example a leading-note becoming a dominant), of irregular resolutions or even false relations, the wealth of appoggiaturas, of double and triple suspensions… Such are the means used by Purcell to express his feverish and tormented soul. But close analysis shows all these audacities to be the result of supreme contrapuntal logic, where nothing is left to chance: thus Purcell thinks above all horizontally, and his most disquieting encounters are due to the superposition of lines which modern analysis often shows to belong to two or three different keys. Here we have to bow to a contrapuntal virtuosity which even Bach never excelled: themes superposed to their mirror, to their augmentation, sometimes to their retrogradation, combination of two or even three simultaneous themes in their different shapes, sometimes in double canon, are all applied with baffling ease. Moreover, Purcell hardly uses “mechanical” devices, such as sequences, imitations, fugatos, etc. In his music we find total freedom allied to total rigour, and the triumph of asymmetry, the leading feature of the baroque spirit, also shows in the flexibility and variety of rhythms, freely striding over the bar-line.

There now follows a short survey of some of the most felicitous details to be found in the Fantazias in three, four and five parts.

In the First Three-part Fantazias (in d-minor), as homogeneous as the following ones in spite of the multiplicity of its motives, one should notice the bouncing syncopations of the second section, so modern in effect, and the “meteoric” modulations of the following section, where twelve tonalities are touched in as many bars, finding the way back to the opening d-minor after having reached as far out as e-flat minor!

In the Second Three-part Fantazia (in F-major), it is the concluding homophonic episode that amazes us: the F-major close of the previous section is followed, without any preparation except for a brief silence, by E-major (a shattering and highly dramatic stroke), which turns out to be the dominant of A-major, after which a labyrinth of complex modulations, with chromaticisms and suspensions of Mozartean boldness, leads to the conclusion. Notice the extraordinary bass line, falling in successive fifths in two steps (semitone and diminished fifth!).

As to the Third Three-part Fantazia (in g-minor), a marvel of free polyphony, its second half features endless modifications in the melodic and rhythmic structure of the theme, combined and superposed to its own inversion.

Right from the beginning of the First Four-part Fantazia (in g-minor), dated June 10, 1680, the entrances of the admirable theme occur in three different keys (g-minor, c-minor, f-minor, the latter acting as a true “secondary tonic”). Again the central homophonic episode is of startling boldness: through the use of tonal shufflings, of pivotal notes (leading notes becoming dominants), of interrupted cadences totally modern in spirit (one of them, from the dominant of D-major to that of C-major, is done through a false relation f-f sharp and an ascending skip of a minor ninth of the upper voice!), one reaches the remote keys of F-sharp major and B-major. From the latter, d-minor is most abruptly returned to in less than a bar, owing to a prodigious double suspension of the altus and bass. But in fact, according to horizontal reading, the whole place is strictly tonal, in d-minor: this is true sorcery!

In the Second Four-part Fantazia (in B-flat major) dated 11th June, 1680, attention goes above all to the pathetic chromatic overture of ten bars, skirting up to D-flat major, whose expressive tension is due both to the melodic lines, high-strung in their painful ascent, and to the altered chords and irregular resolutions resulting from melodic chromaticism in all the voices. The lively closing section of this Fantazia beguiles through the very English folk-song character of its theme.

The Third Four-part Fantazia (in F-major) dated 14th June, 1680, with its exceptionally lively and merry opening, also features a marvellous slow middle section, which owes its expressive intensity to the genius with which the composer uses suspensions.

The Fourth Four-part Fantazia (in c-minor) dated 19th June, 1680, dark-hued, austere and tragic, one of the supreme masterpieces of the series, is probably the most baffling, owing to its harsh and searing discords: this is the triumph of the false relation, used in a purely linear spirit, but with an evident aim at expressing pain of the soul (g-f sharp against f natural, then b flat-a against a-flat). At bar nine, the suspension (a natural) of the second voice, while purely thematic, results in the absolutely modern tonal effect of an unprepared chord of the augmented fifth (f-a-d flat), whereas it is merely a second inversion of b-flat minor with suspended landing note!

More classical and more tonal, the Fifth Four-part Fantazia (in d-minor) dated 22nd June, 1680, whose polyphonic fabric is particularly tight, frequently evokes Bach’s Art of Fugue. Towards the end, one notices sudden and fast interrupted cadences, related by minor thirds, such as are to be found in Cesar Franck and the late romantics (b-flat minor dominant to g-minor, then g-minor dominant to e-minor)!

The Sixth Four-part Fantazia (in a-minor) dated June 23,1680, begins with a slow harmonic overture, like the second, but more intimate and elegiac. It leads to an admirable polyphony superposing four different rhythms, the three upper voices playing the same theme in different time values, whereas the bass features another theme, with powerful syncopations. As early as by bar four, the inversions of those various elements appear, and the whole is combined, with astonishing stretti, into a muscular counterpoint which could belong to our own century (cf. Michael Tipett).

The Seventh Four-part Fantazia (in e-minor) dated 30th June, 1680, whose harmonic middle-section is more extended than usual, opens with a theme whose characteristic dactylic rhythm, as well as its expression and elaboration, irresistibly call to mind the Allegretto from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony.

As to the Eighth (in G-major) dated 18th August, 1680, its soft and serene light comes as a soothing ray of sunshine after the sombre pieces which precede it. But neither the tasty shufflings between modal and leading sevenths, nor the false relations resulting from the parallel progress of voices in different keys are absent here.

The Ninth and last Four-part Fantazia (in d-minor) dated 31st August, 1680, the most rigorous and most perfect of all, has only two rather extended sections, each one resting upon a mere four notes! The first uses a purely horizontal theme (a-g-b flat-a) close in spirit, as can be seen, to the illustrious B-A-C-H, and whose inversion is identical to its retrogradation. These various forms are combined and superposed in an almost “serial” fashion! The same applies to the second section, which rests upon two ascending fourths (a-d-c-f). Here modulations are bolder than anywhere else, tonalities change with lightning speed, sometimes at every beat! There are a few bars of linked dominants (at a whole tone’s distance) by chromatic motion, which the young Schoenberg would certainly not have disowned! In the course of twenty fast bars, one notices as many as thirty changes of tonality, encompassing sixteen different keys! Bach never reached a comparable tonal mobility, far from it!

A Tenth Four-part Fantazia (in a-minor), of a much later date (24th February, 1683), remained unfinished. The extant thirty-one bars constitute a single section on a single theme, the harmonic idiom being less tormented and more restrained than usual.

Emerging from such superhuman mental tensions, a true oasis of peace and freshness is reached with the single Five-part Fantazia (in F-major), one of Purcell’s most celebrated pieces, since this is none other than the Fantazia upon One Note, the fourth of the five voices maintaining a long-held C throughout, around which the other voices weave the most suave and harmonious counterpoints. The music features only the most fleeting halo of melancholy during the two brief homophonic episodes in the middle and at the end. The held note is generally used as a dominant, either of F-major or f-minor; in the central Slow, one briefly touches A-flat major, and the merry ensuing fast section, which combines a spirited theme in the character of an English folksong with the typical motive in semiquavers upon which the Finale of Mozart’s 39th Symphony (in E-flat major, K. 543) was to rest one century later, takes off in C-major before regaining the main key. Nothing can describe the radiant sweetness of this music!

The collection obviously remained unfinished: at the head of the ensuing In Nomine of six parts, we read the autograph words: “Here begineth the 6, 7 & 8 part Fantazia’s”, but the manuscript stops after the second of these…

HARRY HALBREICH


ALFONSO FERRABOSCO THE YOUNGER Consort to the Viols 4, 5, & 6 Parts
ALFONSO FERRABOSCO THE YOUNGER Consort to the Viols 4, 5, & 6 Parts

“I am not made of much speach” was Alfonso Ferrabosco’s own gauntlet, tossed in the world’s face, when introducing his music in print. That hauteur mixed with reserve (“Value me as you will” in almost as many words), suggesting that one’s reputation is a trifle for others to debate, makes an unusual mixture. Posterity is naturally taken unawares. But English musical manuscripts bear witness to his status as the court composer in his time, by listing him casually just as Alfonso or AF. Then there are contemporary opinions to quote which, in words almost as terse as his own, pay him enormous respect. The playwright Ben Jonson, his collaborator in court masques, called him “a Man, planted by himselfe, & mastring all the spirits of Musique”. Jonson was a careful word-smith, sparing with his praise; he wrote not one but two separate laudatory poems for Ferrabosco’s published collections. But it is a shame that no portrait of him is known to exist, in this era when musicians were increasingly wearing a public face as virtuosi performer-composers; also, that there is the usual scarcity of biographical material. It takes imagination to picture him. Perhaps he should have the carefully dishevelled locks of the creative artist; just the way in which genius is given its full measure in the engravings of a comparably creative talent, Frescobaldi, that open his published works. The song-writer and poet Thomas Campion came the nearest to a pen-sketch of Ferrabosco, calling him “Old Alfonso’s Image living” – but that, however affectionately meant, is a twisted compliment in the long term, since no man can relish being matched against the icon of a famous father. And so his music, under-rated for so long since his own century, must speak for him, in its own language. The best of it has a monumental sculptural quality, and that can be daunting: it is hard to “walk around”. In fact in the fragments of a life that are visible, his deprived upbringing and the acclaim that followed, do somewhat explain the heroism as well as the reserve in this output.

As for the life: his father Alfonso Senior had passed through Elizabethan England like a meteor, vivid, with a glittering wake. His importance was less in his own talent, and more in the tonic he gave to a sluggish, insular society. Even the great William Byrd grasped at the novel techniques that he imported from the warm south. Alfonso left as he had come – abruptly, twice over, even. The second time, his parting gift was mayhem: not only a gentleman’s servant stabbed to death, but his fulsome promises to return all broken. He negotiated service with the Duke of Savoy, and made his peace with the Inquisition for his heretical foreign marriage. Queen Elizabeth was not amused. His discarded children became virtual hostages, fostered out to a court musical family. Whether his English son had ever seen much of him is unknown, but the younger Alfonso did inherit an ambivalent legacy: a family reputation for “deepe skill”. That became a compulsion to wrestle with the musical shadow. He had to invent himself as his own father-figure, solve his own riddle of the sphinx, and did so through an unremitting novelty that marks him out as a very unusual brand of composer. His father’s reputation cannot have helped here. Although some attempt was made to provide for the evident skills of this young man in the royal music from 1592, he had to petition for attention after seven years or so, claiming that he had been “kept hidd from her majesty’s knowledge, by some whome I could never learne to knowe”. It was anyway a gloomy time as the queen retreated into herself and conspirators gathered, angling for the throne. Still, Alfonso’s prayer was answered somehow; he was accepted into regular playing for the court, and his future began to look brighter. It must though have been that near-decade of isolation that shaped his unique blend of talents.

It is hard to appreciate now how original was almost everything touched by Alfonso Junior. He inaugurated a true English baroque. He was probably the first to write vocal monodies; not only to English texts for court entertainments, but to Italian as well, for cognoscenti of the latest mode, the pastorals of Battista Guarini. His published songs were the first to bring poetry by Ben Jonson and John Donne to print. He was long remembered as the originator of the English “lyra viol”. André Maugars, who noted that Ferrabosco Senior had brought a style of chordal playing, based on the lyra bastarda, to England, commented on his son, “grand Farabosco”, compared to players in Rome, “je n’en ay oüy aucun qui fust à comparer à Farabosco d’Angleterre”. But his chief legacy to us is in fantasias for viols. Ferrabosco transformed most types of chamber music, an area in which England had been a backwater almost untouched by continental genres. True, some Elizabethan writers had tried their hand at fantasias, but apart from having limited part-ranges to make them suitable for transferring across media, “per ogni sorti di strumenti”, they were only poor cousins to the ingenious Venetian ricercar with its pervasive counterpoint. Something, incidentally, of the sonorities, and limitations, of this preceding music can be heard in a fantasia attributed to Alfonso Junior probably by mistake: no.24, which occurs only in one late copy. If not a stray motet, it could have wandered in from his father’s œuvre (or, just as likely, from a court composer in the older generation like John Bull, and his similar sombre miniatures, only halfway emerged from motets). Ferrabosco increased part-range, but more importantly hammered out a new linear style which combined sinuous ricercar themes with the rhythms and verve of the canzona. His unending experimentation also ran to subtle modulations, though in maintaining the imitative style he could not abandon modality completely. Just as importantly, this was player’s music to its core, idiomatic for the hand. Contrapuntal tricks are only a part of this battery of effects, since he was selective in the devices he employed: augmentation at cadence-points and climaxes, certainly, but not the inversion and retrograde themes that are far less audible. This level of novelty kept his four-part output the most popular, most copied, for a generation after his death, even though late-comers infused his style with the melodramatic Italianate chromaticism that he avoided. It was a formula that stayed the course right up to Henry Purcell in 1680; one of the few other writers whose four-part series can be termed without exaggeration a complete “Art of Fantasy”. But Ferrabosco was the pioneer, setting the boundaries of decorum. After him there was nothing popular about themes or treatment, since the new baroque also set up new barriers between genres. The origin of his style overall, with its constant interweaving of motifs, is most definitely in the lyra viol. That goes for the magnificent five-part pavans too. They flow in an exalted vein liberated from strict dance-form; sometimes their counterpoint is almost completely dissolved into motif, as in the Dovehouse Pavan (one of the nick-names affectionately bestowed by seventeenth-century amateurs, rather as later acquired by Haydn quartets). At other times he enjoyed setting constraints for himself with ostinato or motto themes, rather like Frescobaldi’s obblighi. For the Pavan On Four Notes Ben Jonson wrote a devotional verse, Hear me, O God – responding, maybe instinctively, to its themes and mood of aspiration.

Music of this order needs its soil; and the early Stuart kings provided just that sophisticated court culture, amongst listeners as well as players, for a time. James himself was reputed to be something of a Philistine, but his wife Queen Anne of Denmark took to her adopted country with abandon, after the dourer pastimes in her husband’s Scottish kingdom, and commanded many masquings. Their expenditure on entertainment was huge. More vitally, Ferrabosco’s expertise placed him as an ideal instructor to their elder son Henry, Prince of Wales, whose war-like young court within a court sprang up even before he became crown prince in 1610. Here was a new centre of intellectual life and a zest for experiment, which must have encouraged Ferrabosco. But all was cut short when Henry’s unexpected death forced his courtiers into retirement. James had come to fear his son’s militancy as a threat, not just to his own crown, but to his ambitions to be seen on the European stage as an elder statesman. His own motto was “Beati pacifici”, blesed are the peacemakers, though beneath that the Spanish ambassador Diego Sarmiento de Acuña, later Count Gondomar, saw only the king’s own morbid fear of bodily harm, and the realism of a small power forced to play off its opponents. For Alfonso the result of palace revolutions was the sort often visited on the small man: probably a sudden eclipse, and naturally a fairly final end to collaborations with Jonson and Inigo Jones (the versatile designer, architect and follower of Palladio who became the arbiter of elegance at court). If there was personal decline, we cannot chart it directly from the music, since nothing in manuscript is dated; but Alfonso was surely used to high living, and without extra commissions even his multiple court posts seem not to have kept him from feeling the pinch. Certainly by his fifties he was restless and ill at ease, if we can take totally seriously a remarkable affidavit that reassigned his debts, and mentions his plans to leave England for good. But for where?. – the family home in Bologna? A last appointment may have eased his final year; a rare post as the official court composer. It had eluded him in the past, when it was snatched by the more fashionable but superficial John Coprario (an inglese italianato, in fact, apparently born under the name Cooper).

It may never be clear where in this career to place Alfonso’s six-part fantasias. Some of them have the stamp of early work, perhaps as he was working out a style in the 1590s, under the influence of the wind-players who had brought him up, and formed a substantial part of the court ensemble. They had a distinct repertoire to hand of large-scale music for formal occasions – great banquets, or processionals. Alfonso’s novelty was to transform that casual repertoire by his all-encompassing fantasia manner, with such aplomb that it stimulated a whole school of followers after him. In it he created another speciality, an indigenous development, since even canzone by the Gabrielis do not partake of his degree of organisation and high seriousness. Alfonso’s pieces were once more the most often copied of the period. What is more, he also seems to have been the chief reviver of the In Nomine: a special English musical form unknown to the continent, that had begun obscurely around the time of the Reformation and preserved in contrapuntal settings one unvaried plainsong from the English Sarum rite for Easter, Gloria tibi, Trinitas. No foreigner ever tried his hand at it, apart, that is, from Alfonso’s father, in perhaps his most abiding legacy to his guest country. With his usual flair for seeing possibilities he created a lighter type of scoring in a group of three settings, which quickly inspired William Byrd and others to follow suit. Interest had waned by the 1590s, and so it was probably Alfonso the son’s personal interest that led to a revival. Again, there is a constant motivic play on snatches of ideas strung together, sometimes quoting his father with a new dash and swagger. The In Nomine lived on as a result, its sacred origins only dimly if at all remembered, again right up to the time of Purcell. So did Ferrabosco’s reputation, even when most of the music was consigned to library shelves. Anthony Wood, the Oxford antiquarian, knew of it only in that way; but he did record, about fifty years after Ferrabosco’s death, that he was “The most famous man in all ye world for fantazies of 5. or 6. parts”. Of course, his influence was incalculably greater even than that; but it is no bad reputation to leave behind one; and Alfonso’s image is perhaps still to be glimpsed, after all.