COMPOSERS: Dufay,Francis Borgia etc,Isaac,Josquin Des Prez,Morales
LABELS: Alia Vox
WORKS: Works by JS Bach, Bellini, Caldara, Duruflé, Fauré, Franck, Giacomelli, Handel, Mascagni, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Persiani, Rossini, Vinci & Vivaldi
PERFORMER: Montserrat Figueras (soprano); La Capella Reial de Catalunya; Hespèrion XXI/Jordi Savall
CATALOGUE NO: AVSA 9875A/C
From Victor Hugo to video games, Donizetti to Disney, creators and entertainers have seized on the Borgias as the epitome of papal, political and sexual corruption. But this multi-media project tells a different story, focusing on the family’s musical world rather than on their venality.
The history of the controversial Andalucian-Italian dynasty spans six centuries, from 11th-century Muslim Valencia to Baroque Rome, and unfolds here across three discs (with some pieces drawn from earlier releases), a glossy book in six languages and a DVD documentary which looks behind the scenes of the recording.
The spicy family saga allows Jordi Savall the freedom to evoke a vibrant and eclectic soundscape encompassing Moorish, Sephardic, Turkish, Hispanic and Franco-Flemish music. Improvisations and recitations interweave with large-scale celebratory works, popular songs and dances, laments and devotional motets.
Savall animates the whole to fine effect, drawing performances that range from the poetic to the bellicose. To vocal pieces more commonly performed a cappella he adds wind and
stringed instruments (as was the Spanish tradition), as well as percussion, bells and exotic touches – colouristic effects that some may find over indulgent.
The consort singing is not always immaculate, some pieces suffering from a rather muddy recorded sound and imprecise ensemble, others from an overly-close perspective. Yet despite a few rough edges, this is nonetheless an impressive musical journey which enhances our understanding of a powerful clan and its enduring cultural impact. Kate Bolton