To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Capella Reial de Catalunya, the choir he founded in 1988, Jordo Savall has gathered four examples of their work, rich in Catalan heritage, luxuriously presented in a box and all published originally on the Astree label. 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.
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi invites you to listen to the album Vidi Speciosam - A Lady Mass from the 16th Century - containing pf works dedicated to Mary from Spanish composers performed at the end of the 16th century. The performers are: Capella de la Torre - winner of the ECHO 2016 award in the "band of the year" category, and the vocal group of Tiburtina - a female vocal ensemble founded in 2008 in Prague, specializing in the interpretation of Gregorian chant, medieval polyphony and contemporary music.
The old saying of "Oh East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet" may have been written by Rudjard Kipling in reference to India and the West, but it's often been quoted by those wishing to stress the impossibility of us ever finding common ground with anybody East of Europe. However, Jordi Savall and the collection of Japanese and Spanish musicians he's gathered around him prove the lie in that statement over and over again with Hispania & Japan: Dialogues.
The St. John Passion was long regarded as an early work by Handel, written in Hamburg in 1704. It had to be early, as there are few really Handelian fingerprints in the music. In the late 1960s though, musicologists started allocating it to Georg Böhm (1661-1733), a Thuringian-born composer who worked in Hamburg and Luneburg. He is remembered chiefly for his fine organ music and his influence on Bach. But the record booklet makes an interesting case for Handel's authorship, particularly as Handel's friend Mattheson was an advocate of the work.
The Misteri d'Elx (Mystery Play of Elche) is a religious drama performed annually in the southeastern Spanish city of Elche (or Elx in the local dialect) since medieval times. The play reenacts the Assumption of Mary in a two-act musical production, entirely sung, that takes place over two successive days in August. The Mystery Play is a major European tourist attraction, and UNESCO in 2001 named it a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. With typical boldness, Jordi Savall and La Capella Reial de Catalunya plunge into a slice of the musical past that is rewarding yet raises complex issues in performance. Here, however, the group is not resurrecting a half-buried tradition but rather dealing with one that is living.
It's always great to encounter the recording that can "crack" a composer open, making his or her music accessible to a general listening public. And it's all the better when such a recording comes from beyond the usual quarters, as, for example, with this American recording of Renaissance polyphony. Nicolas Gombert was a Flemish Renaissance composer, a successor (and possibly a student) of Josquin who entered the service of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. His music, especially in his masses, tends to present itself as a dense, unbroken flow of polyphony. Gombert is one of the composers music history students tend to slog through in hopes of getting to the good stuff. One noted Renaissance scholar used to refer to him, Adrian Willaert, and Giaches de Wert as "the Ert brothers." All that could change with this disc of Gombert motets and chansons. These works are less dense than his masses, but not by much, and they are considerably less limpid than Josquin's pieces in the same genres. But here it is the performances that clarify them. The Massachusetts ensemble Capella Alamire (the name is a pun on an aspect of an old solmization system) under director Peter Urquhart, recording in a church in Portsmouth, NH, slows the motets down slightly and addresses them with a group of eight singers – the black belt of choral singing.