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Jordi Savall

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Tribuna musical

September 15

The Colón Ballet Gala: renovated repertoire and great dancing

Tribuna musical Every year during recent seasons the Colón does in late August or early September an international Ballet Gala and it always combines it with a ballet of the Colón repertoire. The choices have mostly been very conservative, and it was time for a degree of renovation. This time Maximiliano Guerra chose well the Colón Ballet presentation: an attractive Nacho Duato ballet seen in June, "Por vos muero", reviewed for the Herald: Renaissance Spanish music selected by Jordi Savall and played by his group plus texts by Garcilaso de la Vega spoken by Miguel Bosé. Beautiful music and fine stylisation of old Spanish dances with attractive staging. And thirteen Colón dancers, mostly quite young and very able, in a kaleidoscope of groups and duets. The basic idea of Maximiliano Guerra, the Colón Ballet´s Director, was to ask famous companies to send couples in representative pieces of their repertoire, instead of calling on dancers picked by Guerra. That was the procedure except in one special case: the return of that magical "étoile", Alessandra Ferri, to the theatre where she danced often in memorable performances, particularly the Prokofiev/MacMillan complete "Romeo and Juliet" with Julio Bocca, certainly a unique experience for any ballet lover. And with her partner since she came back to the stage after a six-year sabbatical: Herman Cornejo; we saw both in the intimate "Chéri" at the Maipo. (You probably read days ago the detailed articles by Cristiana Visan on this fascinating conjunction of artists). The guests started with two artists from the Hamburg Ballet, ruled for decades by John Neumeier, a prolific choreographer born in 1942 and author of more than a hundred ballets. Anna Laudere, born 1983 in Latvia, and Edvin Revazov, an Ucranian of the same age, gave us two samples of Neumeier´s creativity. First, a rather disconcerting updating of "Hamlet" premièred in 1985 and revised in 1997, using music by Michael Tippett (two "ts", not one as in the hand programme). What we saw was Ophelia´s goodbye to Hamlet, for he is going away to study. But frankly, I would never have guessed that the awkward encounter was between these characters unless I was told. By the way, Tippett´s music is unfortunately rarely played here; the piece we heard was the 1954 "Divertimento on Sellinger´s Round" for chamber orchestra. Two points: all the music of the gala was recorded ; some with good sound, others with gritty, noisy reproduction. And no information was given about the works; biographies of the artists, yes. Laudere and Revazov were equally at home in this curious "Hamlet" and in the expressive view of the choreographer on "The Lady of the Camelias"; the "Pas de Deux Blanc" from Act II has Chopin´s Largo from Piano Sonata Nº3 as the meditative background. Laudere showed flexibility in portraying that declining moment of the protagonist´s life, with her whole body seeming to lose all strength. And Revazov supported her with sensibility and dramatic presence. Marianela Núñez is the Argentine "prima ballerina" of the London Royal Ballet and will shortly be Tatiana in "Onieguin". Partnered by the Colón´s Alejandro Parente, she danced the Pas de deux of the White Swan (Odette) from Tchaikovsky´s "Swan Lake", changing the announced "Black Swan" Pas de deux, certainly because in the Second Part she danced the "Tchaikovsky Pas de deux" by Balanchine, which uses music for the Black Swan (Odile) that wasn´t used in the 1877 première; discovered in the Bolshoi archives in 1953, Balanchine asked permission to do a ballet on it, and it was granted. She was admirable in both, her pure classical technique and noble demeanor ideal for Odette and the added variety on the Black Swan interpretation distinguishing Odile´s character. Parente´s Prince is basically a porteur, but the Prince is much more active in Act III, in which we appreciated the command and style of the Italian Federico Bonelli, also from the Royal Ballet. Elisa Badenes, Spanish, and Pablo von Sternenfels (Mexican of German descent) were brilliant interpreters of a Pas de deux from the funny and energetic ballet concocted by John Cranko on Shakespeare´s "The Taming of the Shrew" (Domenico Scarlatti sonatas much altered by Kurt-Heinz Stolze). Both have the humor and command of their body to solve the pirouettes of their amorous duel. They come from the Stuttgart Ballet, ruled by Cranko for decades until his early death. The Paris Opera Ballet sent the Pas de Deux from Nureyev´s vision of Prokofiev´s "Cinderella" danced by Laura Hecquet and Mathieu Ganio. They are accomplished dancers but –dare I say it- I found the choreography rather pale, and the music sounded harsh in a bad recording, when it is in fact very poetic. Ending both parts, Ferri and Cornejo did two contrasting pieces. "Rhapsody" is an Ashton ballet on Rachmaninov´s "Rhapsody on a theme by Paganini"; we saw a solo by Cornejo showing his splendid technique (he is First Dancer at the American Ballet Theatre) and then a duet with Ferri, in which the 53-year-old ballerina showed the same remarkable resilience of Fonteyn or Plisetskaya at similar ages. Finally, "Le Parc", on Mozart´s marvelous Adagio from Piano concerto Nº 23, is Angelin Preljocaj´s body contact duet, almost without formal steps, culminating in a kiss in which Ferri girated wildly until she seemed to be flying. Her plasticity and expressiveness found an ideal partner in Cornejo. For Buenos Aires Herald

Meeting in Music

July 25

Monsieur de Sainte Colombe le Fils & Marin Marais

Monsieur de Sainte Colombe le fils (ca.1660-1720?) Marin Marais (1656-1728) Pièces de Viole avec les Tombeaux de Mons. de Sainte Colombe le père et de Mons. de Lully Jordi Savall Alia Vox AV9829 (2003) [flac, cue, log, scans] Includes two discs: Monsieur de Sainte Colombe le Fils Pièces de viole (Six Suites) Jordi Savall, bass viol Alia Vox AV 9827 (2003) Marin Marais Pièces de viole du Second Livre, 1701 (Two Suites) Jordi Savall, bass viol Rolf Lislevand & Xavier Diaz-Latorre, theorbos, guitars Philippe Pierlot, bass viol,  Pierre Hantaï, harpsichord Alia Vox AV9828 (2003) More on the topic: French Viol School (ripped by Saoshya)




The Boston Musical Intelligencer

July 14

Musical Connections: Ancient Spain & Modern Mexico

Whenever a body of travelers—whether soldiers, refugees, missionaries, slaves, adventurers, or any other kind of group—moves across a wide geographical distance and encounters a very different group somewhere else in the world, there is inevitably interchange of cultural ideas, which almost certainly also include music. Spain’s Golden Age in the 16th century involved travel and conquest over an enormous geographical area in Central and South America. Soldiers were followed by priests and missionaries, and slaves were carried along as well. All of them not only brought their own music to the New World, but also heard and absorbed native traditions already present there. These complex and blended traditions have lasted for centuries, with further development of course, but retaining the sense of their being essentially Hispanic in character. Celebrating this tradition, with centuries-old tunes from both the Old World and the New, the distinguished performer on the viola da gamba Jordi Savall brought Hesperion XX to Tanglewood last week, with a Mexican contemporary ensemble the Tembembe Ensaemble Continuo for a wide range of these traditional melodies in traditional and modern versions. At Ozawa Hall last Thursday, Hesperion XX consisted of three players: Savall himself, playing the viola da gamba and the treble viol; David Mayoral, percussion; and Xavier Díaz-Latorre, theorbo and guitar. The Mexican ensemble likewise comprised three: Ulises Martínez, violin, guitarra de son, and voice; Enrique Barona, gitarra huapanguera, leona, jarana jarocha 3a, mosquito, maracas, pandero, and voice; and Leopoldo Novoa, marimbol, guitarra de son 3a, jarana huasteca, quijada de caballo, and arpallanera. It may be clear from this list that f Hesperion XX chooses historical instruments of the Renaissance while the Mexican musicians play instruments largely from a folkloric heritage. Each half came in four segments, partly presenting the older music from the 16th century and its echoes from the 17th and early 18th centuries, and partly involving modern improvisation on traditional tunes. Most of these traditional tunes have a Spanish origin, although there were surprises including an improvisation on the ground or bass pattern of the English song “Greensleeves,” or one group of Celtic traditions in the New World—some traditional Scottish melodies, including one from a collection printed in Boston in 1883. Despite its late date, that collection, containing 1050 dance tunes, summarizes more than a century’s collection of popular tunes carried widely over the New World. But most of the music was derived from tunes based on well-known patterns of the Renaissance, the folia, the passamezzo antico, the passamezzo moderno, the romanesca, and the ruggiero. These form to the basis of a large repertory of Renaissance and Baroque performance practice, usually involving improvisations over the bass line. The best-known of these, without doubt, is the folia, which had a busy afterlife well into the 18th century, especially in Italy. Many of the variations performed by Jordi Savall come from a collection called Trattado de glosas (Treatise on ornamentation) by Diego Ortiz, published in Rome in 1553. In general, these begin with simple examples filling in gaps in the scale and developing faster and faster subdivisions of the notes until they become spectacularly virtuosic. This is of course the long-established specialty of Jordi Savall, whose extraordinary fingering and bowing became quite breathtaking by the ends of pieces. But there were also other types of works including music ostensibly from the Moorish tradition (Moresca), with a strong Arabic flavor in its 5/2 rhythm. Throughout the program the six performers interacted flexibly sometimes in solos for a time or duets or larger ensembles. Each half of the program built to a particularly stunning and energetic number largely improvised, and filled with the personality of the dance, such as to make it hard to keep one’s seat. When the audience at the end seemed to refuse to let the performers go, they returned to the stage for one more lengthy, brilliant, rousing fandango to send everyone home in high spirits. Hesperion XXI with Tembembe (David-Ignaszewski photo) Steven Ledbetter is a free-lance writer and lecturer on music. He got his BA from Pomona College and PhD from NYU in Musicology. He taught at Dartmouth College in the 1970s, then became program annotator at the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1979 to 1997. The post Musical Connections: Ancient Spain & Modern Mexico appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .



The Boston Musical Intelligencer

July 12

Stirring a Musical Melting Pot

Jordi Savall (file photo) On Friday of this sixth week of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, Hespèrion XXI, led by the esteemed Jordi Savall, and the Mexican-based Tembembe Ensamble Continuo brought exhilarating music inspired by the European discovery of the New World. Savall set out to explore the dialog between diverse coastal musical traditions—colonial, creole, African, indigenous—and how contemporary European traditions influenced and were influenced by other cultures. Sailors, soldiers, slaves, priests, and other travelers brought their music with them to new territories, and brought back the tunes and rhythmic patterns they learned from the local peoples, inspiring new music back at home. To illustrate this mixture of influences, the ensembles chose instruments from a variety of traditions, including viola da gamba, theorbo, and baroque guitar from the European tradition; a one hundred year-old Moroccan drum; maracas, claves, and castanets; the marimbol, an instrument that found its origin from both African and Cuban influences; and even a horse jaw. The Shalin Liu Performance Center’s vibrant visual background paired marvelously with the vigor of the music. The ocean’s sparkle in these final moments offered a quiet reminder of the path by which the people, ideas, and music had traveled. The concert opened with Diego Ortiz’s divisions on “La Spagna.” The original tune appeared in the 1400s and was very popular in Europe for over a century, inspiring variations from many composers. Savall’s take on Ortiz’s version began with a simple yet elegant intro on percussion and theorbo, followed by the unadorned tune on viola da gamba and then several rounds of Ortiz’s elaborate divisions (and I suspect, some of Savall’s own improvisation). I was struck immediately by the mastery and presence of the ensemble, which consistently produced music that felt truly alive, and never static—one could almost feel the music itself breathe. The constantly changing dynamics, textures, and intensity invited—but never demanded—constant engagement from the audience. Without prior knowledge, I might not have known that the players were from two distinct ensembles, so natural was their communication and so clear was their enjoyment of each other’s music making. The performance evoked the atmosphere of a sunset party among good friends. Two improvisations on folias (ostinato bass lines) followed the Ortiz, with Savall again as soloist. His improvisational style in these pieces showed influence from contemporary European conventions of ornamentation, with daring ornaments and divisions. The viol variations increased in complexity and speed every time through the harmonic progression, and Savall applied a variety of string techniques—standard bowing, pizzicato, col legno, and ricochet—to bring constant transformation to the sonority of the solo instrument. At times the viol sounded like a fiddle, a guitar, and even pitched percussion. Savallos affect and impetus for each set of divisions inspired the style, texture, and intensity for the rest of the group. The collective improvisatory approach kept the music fresh and exciting, as the audience could tell that music was not simply taken from scores, but actively created by both the soloist and those serving as the foundation of the progression, much like modern jazz practitioners improvising over the twelve-bar blues. Between sets, the performers took a number of pauses to tune. One would think that the air conditioning would reduce the need for such frequent adjustments, but the instruments were given hard use, and keeping consistency between the dozens of strings on stage was no small task. In particular, the tuning between the marimbol and the lower strings of the theorbo had to be perfect, since they both played the notes of the ground bass. The Jácaras, a duet featuring baroque guitar and percussion, was a shining jewel of the first half. Xavier Díaz-Latorre utilized a finger-picking style ancestral to the flamenco tradition, ornamenting with beautiful trills executed almost faster than eye could see but still remained light, spontaneous and relaxed—the mark of a true master. Despite the speed of the execution and the complex rhythm of the percussion, the duet felt subdued and relaxed, and many in the audience could be seen watching with gently bobbing heads. La Petenera was the first work to include singing, a contribution from the members of Tembembe. Their rustic singing style featured a more forward sound and stylistic pitch-bending. The solo singing of Ulises Martínez proved particularly memorable. The pronunciation of the Spanish changed depending on the origin of the song, at times Castilian or Mexican in flavor. As clear as the pronunciation was, I would have loved to have had lyrics and translations printed. After intermission, Savall spoke to the audience and gave some background on his two violas da gamba, which he revealed as historical instruments (not replicas!) which contained only a few modern replacement parts where absolutely necessary. He also spoke about the “bagpipe” tuning he would be using for the next set, which he accomplished by crossing two strings of the viol at the bridge and the nut, which he displayed to the audience. I would have preferred that he had been given a microphone, since his speaking voice was somewhat small for the hall and easily obscured by the slightest audience noise. A trio of Scottish tunes featured Savall on tenor viol and David Mayoral on frame drum, which he employed with a tipper in the style of the bodhrán. The two provided exceptionally passionate versions of the tunes, their rhythmic accents reminiscent of the turning of a great wheel. When the wheel seemed to be spinning its fastest, the drum would join as if inspired by the viol to movement. When the wheel slowed, the drum dropped out, allowing these sections more freedom. At the end of the set, Savall made a great show of uncrossing the crossed strings, producing a chuckle from the audience. Before the final set, Savall led a brief “show and tell” of the different guitars and other plucked string instruments used by the ensemble, as well as the marimbol. Each briefly demonstrated its specific timbre. At the close the audience leapt to its feet in a near-instant ovation. The concert had already run over two hours, yet cries of “otra más!” came from many in the crowd. For an encore, the group gave Tonada del Chimo (#180) and Cachua Serranita (#192). The Tonada del Chimo, a funeral march, was the most stately composition offered, yet still breathed just as easily as the rest of the program, if a bit slower. The Moroccan drum was a fixture in this piece, which seemed more reminiscent of the living left behind than of the departed. The Cachua Serranita felt considerably more lively, featuring frequent duets between the treble viol and violin, as well as a variety of percussion including the horse jaw seen earlier. The audience showed appreciation for the encores with a second standing ovation, even longer and more enthusiastic than the first. Once their applause was finally spent, the audience departed hall with glowing smiles Hesperion XXI with Tembembe (David-Ignaszewski photo) With degrees from Ithaca College and Longy, Teri Kowiak is a professional singer and voice teacher specializing in early music. She is founder and director of the medieval ensemble Meravelha. The post Stirring a Musical Melting Pot appeared first on The Boston Musical Intelligencer .

Tribuna musical

July 12

“Contemporary night”, a quartet of dissimilar ballets

In recent seasons the Colón Ballet offered varied Contemporary Trilogies, changing them each year. This time what we have is a quartet: two premières commissioned by the Colón to Argentine choreographers, and two famous works by established choreographers which hadn´t been seen at our great house. The results were uneven but sufficiently valid to justify the evening. And all four were very different from each other. The start wasn´t very enticing. "Amor, el miedo desaparecerá" ("Love, fear will disappear") is the work of Walter Cammertoni, who hails from Córdoba and has created "Consecuencias" for Maximiliano Guerra´s Ballet del Mercosur. Paradoxically what interested me was the music: Johann Sebastian Bach´s great Chaconne for solo violin (closing Partita Nº2) heard fragmentarily in its original form, in the cello adaptation by Robert Bockmühl, in the flashily Romantic Busoni piano transcription, and briefly at the end in Stokowski´s full orchestra version. But the dancing steps were morose and grey, too literally like the choreographer´s description: "a lost man, downtrodden and trampled, who also wounds and abandons". Although at the end there was an imaginative suggestion of raindrops in the stage design of Santiago Pérez, the cold impression was accentuated by Renata Schussheim´s costumes. Roberto Traferri´s lighting gave the requisite contrasts. Thirteen dancers from the Resident Ballet and five from the Art Institute did their best to give some life to a very static piece. Constanza Macras lives in Berlin since 1995; in 2003 she founded with dramaturgist Carmen Mehnert the company of dance theatre Constanza Macras/Dorky Park, combining dance, spoken text, video and live music, on such subjects as segregation or globalisation. She follows those guidelines in "Bosque de Espejos" ("Mirrors Wood"): in it reflexions on the human body by Michel Foucault are said by aged dancers; the music contrasts Lieder by Berg and Webern (admirably done by Carla Filipcic Holm and Fernando Pérez) with choral music by Purcell and Bach (a good chamber choir directed by Ulises Maino and accompanied by organist Ezequiel Fautario). Norma Molina and Ricardo Ale, veteran resident dancers, enact scenes from "Giselle" and "Romeo and Juliet" both dealing with death. Along with two younger soloists (Carla Vincelli and Alejandro Parente) an ample group of 21 dancers do complex psychological steps that seem to combine Merce Cunningham´s influence with classical ballet. Macras has brought along her production team: stage designs by Laura Gamberg, meaningful costumes by Allie Saunders and expert lighting by Sergio Pessanha. Macras is creative and audacious; even if one doesn´t always like the results, there´s a sensitive mind at work. Nacho Duato has had a distinguished career: after early experience in London, Brussels, New York, Stockholm and Holland with great choreographers, he was named in 1990 Artistic Director of the Compañía Nacional de Danza at Madrid and stayed there until 2007; during that period he came to Buenos Aires with his company twenty years ago, and presented at the Teatro San Martín among other things "Por vos muero" ("I die for you"), a beautiful Neoclassic ballet based on texts of Garcilaso de la Vega and with a fine selection of old Spanish music interpreted by Jordi Savall´s group. Guerra asked Duato´s permission to revive the ballet at the Colón, and Duato tells in the hand programme that he is very excited to present one of his works for the first time at the Colón; he even praises the rehearsals, so I suppose that Catharine Habasque and Kim McCarthy have been faithful to the original in this revival. Done with much style and precision by eleven dancers, with lovely music very adequate for dancing, fine stage design by Duato and costumes by Duato and Ismael Aznar (I liked the ones for women but found the bare-legged men contradictory with the refined ambience otherwise present), plus skillful lighting by Nicolás Fischtel, this was for me the best part of the evening. The voice of Miguel Bosé communicated the moving verses of De la Vega admirably. William Forsythe is considered in Europe an important choreographer; he was for twenty years at the head of the Frankfurt Ballet, and when it closed, he formed The Forsythe Company. Somehow his work was never seen at the Colón until now, when his most famous piece was premièred; it has a strange title, "In the middle, somewhat elevated", and it was commissioned by Nureyev for the Paris Opera in 1987. Frankly, I won´t mince words: I hated the music of his long-time collaborator Thom Willems, a continuous electronic clangor in strong but unvaried rhythm. Kathryn Bennetts was in charge of this revival; she says: "this work extends, prolongs and pushes classical technique...It is the most abstract and innovative choreography of its time". The girls dance in points but with expansive, athletic postures, and the men must certainly be in fine shape to cope with the material. Costumes and lighting are by the choreographer . Nine dancers impressed with their display of agility and coordination. Although the Colón Ballet is in dire need of institutional reform, it certainly has very capable artists. But due to the lack of competitions, right now there´s only one prima ballerina (no male counterpart), three official soloists (including Silvina Perillo, who danced her goodbye two years ago), and all the rest have no recognised rank, although as you read the names you find all those that dance main roles ... For Buenos Aires Herald

Jordi Savall

Jordi Savall (1941) is a Spanish Catalan viol player, conductor and composer. He has been one of the major figures in the field of early music since the 1970s, largely responsible for bringing the viol back to life on the stage. His characteristic repertory ranges from Medieval to Renaissance and Baroque music, though he has occasionally ventured into the classical or even the romantic period.



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