Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Meaning it

February 14, 2008

Jordi Savall and Hespérion XXI
Photo: mine 2008
It’s been a bummer of a week. I’ve been sick, which has prevented me from writing much, and on Sunday we all got to watch Groanban and Botchelli urinate all over the grave of Luciano Pavarotti on national TV. So it was a great relief on Wednesday to hear an ensemble with an intellect, talent and passion for their chosen corner of the music world. The occasion was a visit from Jordi Savall, Hespérion XXI and their vocal counterparts including Montserrat Figueras. The program, part of the LA Phil’s “Baroque Variations” series was entitled “Christopher Columbus: Lost Paradises” and featured music and texts from varied cultural sources of 15th century Spain. The two hours of brief instrumental and vocal snippets roughly followed a time line of upheaval both at home and abroad as Ferdinand and Isabella acted against non-Christians in their own kingdom while Columbus was bringing inevitable change to the New World.

The period performance from Savall and his ensemble was excellent if a little hard to relate to. This is music from a different world and it sounds like it. The unassuming melodies can be moving, but they are never about large gestures and are stark reminders of how different things were even by the standards of the 18th century. The performance however was often more admirable than actually enjoyable. Interesting as it may be, it is hard to get worked up over the forced conversion of the Moors in 15th century Spain. And like most Americans, if I don't "feel" something personally, heaven knows I can't relate to it.

Still, it is hard to resist vocal performances of this quality. Montserrat Figueras is great with this material and the Hebrew lament she sang, Mà aidéj? Mà adamélaj , was quite beautiful. Both spiritual and ancient, the effect she creates vocally and visually in performance puts the legions of quasi-ethnic New Age female vocalists to shame. She could break all those Brightman/Enya/Charlotte Church bitches in half. Meanwhile, the male quartet La Capella Reial de Catalunya also offered several pleasant contributions from several composers including Josquin de Près. So, while the evening may not have sent the crowd into hysterics, it was rewarding to see a group of people who care so much about what they're doing do it so well.



"She could break all those Brightman/Enya/Charlotte Church bitches in half."

Haha! That's the truth. Very enjoyable post. Enjoying the reviews in general, too. Keep 'em coming.
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