Thursday, July 29, 2010

In review--It's a New World After All

Jordi Savall
Hespèrion XXI & other groups
El Nuevo Mundo
Folias Criollas
Aliavox/Harmonia Mundi

Fans of early music know that if they wish to take a musical journey to the renaissance, baroque period, or even to King Louis XIV court, Jordi Savall and his ensembles can take them there. I’m not sure where the Savall-Figueras family comes up with the energy to release as many early music gems as they do, but I’m grateful as a music reviewer and armchair scholar. I also started thinking of these musicians as the musical equivalent of a royal Catalan family. They certainly play courtly music, colonial, rustic and otherwise.

I’m still catching my breath after reviewing a Bach recording (The Brandenburg Concertos) by Jordi Savall recently. And now he and his musicians have united with early music and folkloric musicians in the Americas, “New World” where they explore colonial music that combined music of American Indians, Spanish settlers, missionaries, and African slaves. While I had heard religious music of this period performed by indigenous musicians, mostly Christmas music, I had not heard the colonial roots of Mexican son and early music of Peru and Colombia. Hearing baroque ensembles performing sacred church music alternating with folkloric music from the 1600s feels like a real treat. Hearing the different vocal styles, the period instruments playing alongside their rustic counterparts adds to the excitement of this musical journey. I often wondered where Venezuela came up with so many traditional lutes.

The title track, Folias Criollas, a son jarocho from the Veracruz state of Mexico certainly sounds familiar with its rapid-fire lutes and fiery vocals, and in fact, this particular track resembles contemporary son jarocho. This genre of Mexican son plays an important role since it brought together music al influences of indigenous people, African slaves, and Spanish colonialists. The Mexican son (a regional musical genre that varies by region) married European dances, lutes, and poetry, to African and indigenous rhythms. This recording provides the roots of the folkloric traditions of Latin America and also provides us a glimpse into colonial religious music as you hear on several of the tracks.

I saw a few familiar song titles such as Balajù (Veracruz), El Pajarillo (Mexico) and El Cielito Lindo (Mexico) hoping to hear traditional songs of those titles, but the songs that appeared on this recording hardly resemble the popular songs of today. This however, left me wondering if the popular songs are in fact modern versions of the songs on this recording or that the shared titles are merely a coincidence. Songs change drastically over a 400 year period. In any case, hearing the roots of traditional Latin American songs certainly take my mind on a backwards journey through time.

El Nuevo Mundo not only features Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI and his wife soprano Montserrat Figueras, but also Tembembe Ensamble Continuo and La Capella Reial De Catalunya. Lutes, flutes, harps, percussion, strings and other instruments create a festive environment where old and new worlds come together and the past and the present become one.,

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