There are more than one dozen recordings of Monteverdi's great masterpiece, the Vespers of 1610, a distinction reserved for very few works and composers from the late 16th and early 17th centuries. With this kind of attention, you'd think that this substantial work for choir, soloists, and instruments would be more easily accessible–but it is in fact a structurally complex and musically intricate compilation of hymns, antiphons, and psalms, concluding with a magnificent setting of the Magnificat. Most recordings can't seem to overcome the strategic and technical problems of presenting such a three-dimensional work on a recording. But this one is different: the music literally comes alive and grabs our attention. If you're in the market for Monteverdi's Vespers, look no further. This is the most dynamic, dramatic version on disc.
Lawes's "sets" are actually suites for five or six viols with an organ playing "underneath" them. Each shortish set is broken into even shorter parts: Fantazy, Aire, Paven, etc.–and while the formula remains essentially the same, the textures and harmonies are constantly changing, with dissonances and conversations between and among the various strings giving the works great variety. On these two beautiful CDs (the first devoted to Five parts, the second to Six), Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI play on a pair of violins, four viols, and organ, offering great contrast and flavor and making us aware of just how energetic and fascinating counterpoint can be. The colors the six (or seven) musicians get from their instruments and the interplay among them is fantastic; the playing is superb. Fans of any type of chamber music will want to hear what this underrecorded composer who died too young (43) added to the genre. It's as if he created a new language, one that seems to have been waiting to be heard. A lovely, thoughtful couple of hours of music-making.
This album, originally recorded in 1992, was remastered in 2008 and issued as part of the Heritage series of Jordi Savall's Alia Vox label in a nifty combination of reissue and improvement. The album certainly qualifies as one of the greatest hits of Savall (whose role here is as gambist, with a small ensemble of northern European players ) and his wife, soprano Montserrat Figueras, who is the star of the show. Figueras' vocals are as usual a central attraction, with their incredible combination of suppleness, accuracy over a wide range, expression, and Iberian gutsiness. But the program here, though somewhat removed from the Iberian core of the Figueras/Savall repertory, is equally compelling.
This album gathers highlights from Montserrat Figueras career for the Astrée, DHM, EMI and Alia Vox labels. 5 of the 35 tracks have already been reissued in a portrait album released in the 1990s by Astrée, La 'Voix de l Emotion'. Jordi Savall wanted to keep the same title for this much more comprehensive double album, in tribute to the late Montserrat Figueras, his wife and collaborator of 43 years. 35 year-career: 35 tracks a dazzlingly clear soprano voice, a line of the purest silk, as strong as it was delicate.
Jordi Savall directs Le Concert des Nations, La Capella Reial de Catalunya and the leading soloists of early opera in a beautiful period production of Monteverdi's favola in musica staged at Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu in 2002. Gilbert Deflo's stage direction reflects the sublime art and imagery found in Mantua's Palazzo Ducale, with its famous Hall of Mirrors, where the opera was first performed in 1607.