Notes and Editorial Reviews
Though primarily recognized as a specialist in 17th and 18th century repertoire, Jordi Savall returns every decade or so to his Catalan roots. In 1979 he offered a premiere recording of the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat (Red Book of Montserrat, currently available on Virgin), a stunning recreation of a 14th century codex housed in a Catalan monastery. In 1988, along with his wife, soprano Montserrat Figueras, Savall offered a dazzling program of 10th century Catalan chant titled El Cant de la Sibilla (Songs of the Sibyl), which was so successful that a second volume was recorded in 1996 to equal international acclaim (both still available on Naïve Astrée). Well it's 2004, and with this
premiere recording of the Misteri D'Elx (Mystery Play of Elche) Savall has done it again, offering a program every bit as rewarding and spiritually profound as those earlier accomplishments.
Almost without interruption since the 13th century (except for a Council of Trent ban from 1545-1563) every year on August 14 and 15 the congregation of the Basilica of Santa Maria in the Spanish city of Elche (just below Catalonia proper) presents this two-act play re-enacting the death, assumption, and crowning of the Virgin Mary. Given the length and magnitude of such a project, in the notes Savall aptly describes his nearly 80-minute version more as a tribute rather than a purist recreation. Savall also has chosen to strategically separate key scenes with instrumental interludes, augmenting the drama as well as supplementing the action. For example, in the scene following Mary's brief but highly emotional lament longing for death, a procession emerges to emulate the opening of the gates of heaven, the appearance of a pomegranate-shaped cloud delivering an Angel, and the introduction of the Angel's acceptance of the Virgin. Here in the wake of distant bells, the two percussionists offer a remarkably convincing thunderstorm guaranteed to test the limitations of your speakers.
Since the story is paramount, Savall, in accordance with medieval tradition, seldom allows the virtuosity of the vocalists to overwhelm it. Regardless, Figueras' role as Mary affords her ample occasion to display her unique, lovely instrument, and all of her equally distinguished colleagues deliver captivating, beautifully sung performances as well.
AliaVox's detailed, widely dynamic sonics are gorgeous, though the engineering admittedly is often equally subordinate to the play, with balances that favor the artificial impact of the scenes over the illusion of a live performance. Joan Castano I Garcia and Savall's informative and engaging notes tell you everything you need to know about this inspired mission. This is a must for Savall fans, Medievalists, and all others brave enough to venture into such uncharted yet worthy musicological territory. Very highly recommended. [9/29/2004]
--John Greene, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
El Misteri d'Elx: La Vespra by Anonymous
Jordi Savall (Bass Viola da gamba),
Arianna Savall (Soprano),
Arianna Savall (Harp),
Mercedes Hernandez (Soprano),
Lambert Climent (Tenor),
Daniele Carnovich (Bass),
Montserrat Figueras (Soprano),
Marillia Vargas (Soprano),
Luis Vilamajó (Tenor),
Pascal Bertin (Countertenor),
Francesc Garrigosa (Tenor)
La Capella Reial de Catalunya
Length: 1 Minutes 56 Secs.
Notes: Cardona Castle, Catalonya, Spain (12/08/2003 - 12/09/2003); Cardona Castle, Catalonya, Spain (01/04/2004); Cardona Castle, Catalonya, Spain (01/12/2004 - 01/13/2004); Cardona Castle, Catalonya, Spain (02/19/2004)
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