Thursday, January 19, 2017
La Capella Reial de Catalunya/Hespèrion XXI/Savall (Alia Vox, CD and DVD)The Benedictine abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrat, perched high in the Catalonian mountains 30 miles west of Barcelona, has been a site of pilgrimage since medieval times. It’s best known for La Moreneta, a 12th-century romanesque statue of the madonna, but among its other treasures is the Llibre Vermell, a codex from the very end of the 14th century that is a collection of devotional texts, prayers and papal bulls as well as a “songbook” containing 10 anonymous hymns, folksongs and dances.Jordi Savall’s performance, taken from a concert with his choir and ensemble in the very resonant acoustic of Barcelona’s Santa Maria del Pi in 2013, shapes the music from the Llibre into a 70-minute sequence. The 10 numbers are punctuated by bells and interspersed with instrumental improvisations, so that as so often with Savall, it’s all undeniably atmospheric, but hard to separate what might be authentic from what is purely speculative. Continue reading...
Gustavo Dudamel, Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Jordi Savall and Joyce DiDonato are among the leading musicians who have performed in the Gulf States in recent years, and the the inaugural BBC Proms Dubai festival takes place in March 2017. So, given classical music's ongoing love affair with social media, the launch of the 140 Characters website deserves a heads up. This is the work of Human Rights Watch, and in recognition of Twitter’s 140-character limit, the interactive website profiles 140 prominent Bahraini, Kuwaiti, Omani, Qatari, Saudi, and Emirati social and political rights activists and dissidents - see images above - and describes their struggles to resist government efforts to silence them. All 140 have faced government retaliation for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and many have been arrested, tried, and sentenced to fines or prison. Dubai, which is hosting the BBC Proms, is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, and Abu Dhabi, which has a high profile classical music festival, is the capital of the Emirates. Seventeen of the activists are from the UAE; the profile on 140 Characters of just one of them says it all:Osama al-Najer is a social media activist and the son of the political detainee Hussain Ali al-Najer al-Hammadi. Al-Najer used Twitter to campaign for the release of his father and other political detainees in Abu Dhabi and to criticize the conviction of 69 Emirati nationals in the "UAE 94" trial in July 2013. In September 2012 al-Najer was quoted in a Human Rights Watch news release that contained credible allegations that detainees had been tortured during interrogations. Authorities arrested al-Najer on March 17, 2014 and in November 2014 the Federal Supreme Court sentenced him to three years in prison under the 2012 cybercrimes law on charges including "damaging institutions" and "communicating with external organizations to provide misleading information." Authorities also fined him 500,000 AED ($US 136,127), confiscated his electronic devices, and ordered the closure of his Twitter account.Classical music at celebrity level is cash hungry, and it is unrealistic to expect a boycott of the cash rich but ethically tainted Gulf States. But in these days when Twitter is the communication channel of choice of even the US president-elect, is it too much to ask that Gustavo Dudamel, Simon Rattle, Daniel Barenboim, Jordi Savall, Joyce DiDonato and the BBC put the 140 Characters website in their pipe and tweet it? Before any clever clogs points out that there are 119 and not 140 faces in the header image, the reason is that photos of the other 21 activists are not available. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.
Catalonia is a creative powerhouse: Pau Casals*, Joan Miró, Antoni Gaudí, and Salvador Dalí were all proud Catalans, and today Barcelona is a vibrant centre of the arts. Jordi Savall is just one of the contemporary Catalan musicians who has had a global impact, and modern modal master Ross Daly's Crete-based music co-operative has an annual Labyrinth in Catalunya outreach workshop. My recent plea for the composers in the photo above taken at the summer workshop of the National Youth Orchestra of Catalonia in 2000 to be identified has been answered by Santi Barguñó of Neu Records with help from Ramón Humet who is in the photo. They are from left to right: Benet Casablancas (bio & music), Marcos Bosch (bio & music), Josep Maria Guix (bio & music), Carles Tort, Moisés Bertran (bio & music), Ramón Humet (bio & music), Enric Riu (bio & music), Joan Guinjoan (bio & music) and Jonathan Harvey. I have added links to biographies and music samples for the composers**. These are contemporary composers with something new to say. So why not take a break from the depressingly predictable albums of the year and Grammy nominee listicles, and instead explore some genuinely new music. * One item of little-known music trivia is that Pau Casals - typically stereotyped as being rather po-faced - was a close friend of the Russian composer Thomas De Hartmann who is best known for collaborating with the controversial mystic G. I. Gurdjieff. Although Hartmann is remembered for his joint compositions with Gurdjieff he was a prolific composer in his own right, and Casals performed Hartmann's Cello Concerto opus 57 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1935. Pianist Elan Sicroff has recently masterminded a 7 CD overview of Hartmann's previously unrecorded chamber music. ** I could trace no information on Carles Tort. If anyone can supply links to a biography of him and music samples I will add them. No review samples involved in this post. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.
From sampling, Jordi Savall and Stravinsky, to the wonders of Muse and Vivaldi, the bassoonist on the music that inpsVinyl or digital? I’ve got a collection of more than 1,000 LPs, but I surrendered to the accessibility of streaming services long ago. Continue reading...
La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Le Concert des Nations/Savall (Alia Vox)Jordi Savall’s ingenious programmes often make unusual juxtapositions: here he brings together three settings of the same Vespers psalm, Dixit Dominus. But who influenced who? Though Vivaldi was older than Handel, Handel’s youthful masterpiece is earlier, dating from his Italian years, around 1707. Vivaldi’s setting has some original moments, especially the solo-trumpet Judicabit, but is not top-notch; Handel’s blazes with imaginative invention and pictorial passion. There’s ethereal duetting from two sopranos in De torrente, but the enthusiastic choral singing is ragged around the edges. Mozart’s later setting, though baroque in parts, doesn’t really fit here. Good for a live concert recording, but would you listen to it often? Continue reading...
We report with regret the death of Vico Chamla, a photographer who chronicled classical music in Milan for three decades, especially early music. He was a close friend of many artists, among them Gustav Leonhardt. Ton Koopman, Philippe Herreweghe, Radu Lupu, Yuri Bashmet, Jordi Savall and Andras Schiff. Of French and Greek origin, he would invest huge amounts of time in capturing the moment. He once spent two days with Riccardo Muti and came away without a single exposure. He was about 66 years old.