Jordi Savall (born 1941), one of the world's leading players of the viola da gamba, founded the ensemble Hespиrion XX in 1974. Savall's goal — and that of co-founders Montserrat Figueras, Hopkinson Smith, and Lorenzo Alpert — was to explore lesser-known repertories of the European Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque periods; their special love has been early Spanish music. The group has toured over five continents and produced well over 50 recordings (many on the Astree Audivis label). The group's membership changes with the repertory of an individual recording or performance project, and with the particular orchestration envisioned by Savall.
Jordi Savall, once more time, shares with us a beautiful program of instrumentals and chorals pieces from the middle age. Alfons X El Sabio Cantigas are the most popular music pieces about this period, but also really majestic. The sound of this album is really magic. A very good choice for a first approach…
Sixteenth-century Spanish composer Francisco Guerrero is featured in a reissued disc of motets for four, five, six, eight and 12 voices, with and without instruments. They come from a handful of collections published between 1555 and 1597 and show Guerrero’s skill in evoking a wide range of moods, joyful, sombre and contemplative in turn. Jordi Savall’s ensemble is well-equipped to project the skilfully wrought structures and expressive allure of the music. Some of the pieces fare better than others in respect of vocal texture and ensemble. Tenors and basses occasionally lack tonal refinement but, at their strongest the performances provide a radiant conspectus of Guerrero’s masterly motets.
"By the end of Middle Ages the monks of Montserrat had assembled a distiguished library. Unfortunately this was largely destroyed in 1811 during the Napoleonic wars. The most precious surviving medieval manuscript in the Scriptorium at Montserrat is undoubtedly the famous Ms. No. 1, known as the Llibre Vermell or Red Book of Montserrat, from the colour of the late 19th century velvet which covers the binding of the codex. The manuscript completed in 1399, originally contained about 172 double pages, or folios, of which 35 have been lost. Included in the Llibre Vermell are ten musical works - possibly more originally - by a number of unknown composers."
Samuel Scheidt (baptized November 3, 1587 – March 24, 1653) was a German composer, organist and teacher of the early Baroque era. Samuel Scheidt published 4 collections entitled Ludi Musici between 1621 & 1627, whereas only the first publication (from which the present program is taken) survives complete. Scheidt continues to be the most significant of the early North German instrumental composers.
Although the first full consort of viols did not arrive in England until 1540, there were actually several intriguing examples of what are now called "consort" music from before that time. Of course, the homogenous viol consort became supreme, and the present program (also featuring some 2-lute arrangements) focuses on the first part of that repertory. This developed at Elizabeth's court in the 1570s & 1580s, among professional musicians, but based on relatively restrictive models. Some pieces in the present program are composed freely, heralding the next step in consort development which, along with the small output of Byrd, allowed the English consort idiom to fully flower. Of course that was followed closely by the even larger and more famous repertory of consort music by composers such as Gibbons which was eventually geared more toward amateur players.
Around the mid-16th century a collection of instrumental music titled Joyous Music (Musique de Joye) appeared in the French city of Lyons. Its contents featured music "appropriate for the human voice" and for "learning how to play spinets, violins, and flutes"–primarily in the form of dances such as pavanes, galliards, and branles. This recording–one of the finest of its kind in the catalog–gives us a generous sampling of the collection's great variety of pieces, which are played to near-perfection by an all-star lineup of early music specialists who perform on assorted viols, flutes, lute and guitar, spinet, and percussion. Three of the tracks are songs, expertly sung by soprano Montserrat Figueras–especially the charming "Il estoit une fillette" by Janequin.
This box set comprises eight discs recorded by the remarkable Jordi Savall with his wife Montserrat Figueras and the wonderful Hespèrion XX. They span a period of ten or so years from 1976 were originally issued on LP by Virgin Classics. Since those days Savall’s performances have matured and grown in confidence but one can still easily recognize the brains behind the outfit and the sound-world he wanted to create. Later he moved to Auvidis Astrée and in more recent times has set up his own label - Alia Vox - where he really has been set loose. He has produced discs with superb documentation which have investigated many forgotten corners of medieval and Renaissance music which quite often we never even knew existed.