El Nuevo Mundo

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Various
LABELS: Alia Vox
WORKS: Folias Criollas: Vocal works from South America
PERFORMER: Montserrat Figueras (soprano); La Capella Reial de Catalunya; Tembembe Ensamble Continuo; Hespèrion XXI/Jordi Savall
CATALOGUE NO: AVSA 9876

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I am convinced that Peter Ackroyd is the code-name for a huge consortium of novelists and historians: no one human could sustain so substantial a workload. Moreover, I suspect the same applies to Jordi Savall: apart from his considerable commitment to performing live and on record, there is the extensive research and decision-making that goes into Hespèrion XXI’s sumptuous productions.

As ever with Hespèrion, the standard of performance never disappoints (indeed, it’s staggeringly high) but occasionally I have doubts about some of the realisations of these songs rooted in the Baroque period.

There’s no room here to discuss ‘authenticity’, or even whether ‘authenticity’ matters, but, as with Los Impossibles, L’Arpeggiata’s examination of similar material reviewed in the October issue, I cannot shake off the feeling that these interpretations are too-heavily imbued with 20th-century taste.

All the performers are technically impressive, and the wonderful singing of Ada Coronel of the Tembembe Ensamble gives Montserrat Figueras a run for her money, but otherwise I sometimes found the Tembembe Ensamble’s vocals a tad bombastic: maybe that’s my cold North-European blood and it’s probably a matter of taste.

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The music presented here is intriguing and colourful and the performances are passionate and of a high order. Barry Witherden