Anon: El cant de la Sibella

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LABELS: Alia Vox
WORKS: El cant de la Sibella
PERFORMER: La Capella Reial de Catalunya/Jordi Savall
Various versions of The Song of the Sibyl survive from the medieval period – many of them in Spanish sources. The text first turns up in St Augustine’s City of God and tells of the coming of Christ and the Day of Judgment. It was usually sung during the church service of Matins on Christmas Day. Jordi Savall has already recorded versions from Barcelona (Astrée label, 1988) and Toledo (Fontalis, 1996), and here he gives us those from Majorca and Valencia.


The surviving music for these items is actually rather limited with a one melody for the chorus and another to be repeated for all of the verses. In the case of the Valèncian source, though, the chorus melody is embellished with polyphony. The interpretation of the Majorcan version is the least interesting: it is pleasant and atmospheric but ambles in a dramatically weak and meaningless way through the (apocalyptic) text. In the Valèncian version Monserrat Figueras’ vocal maturity and finesse put the pale and unschooled rival attempt by Serendipity on the Mosaic label (reviewed February 1999) in the shade. But the only recording of the Sibyl’s song to capture the sheer theatre of the text is the marvellous 1995 performance of the Barcelona version by Obsidienne on the Opus 111 label which alone manages to combine the tingle factor with the terror factor. Anthony Pryer