Erasmus Von Rotterdam: In Praise Of Folly

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COMPOSERS: Erasmus Von Rotterdam
LABELS: Alia Vox
ALBUM TITLE: Erasmus Von Rotterdam: In Praise Of Folly
WORKS: In Praise Of Folly: texts by Erasmus paired with music of the time
PERFORMER: Louis Moaty (reader), Marc Mauillon (baritone), René Zosso (hardy-gurdy_; Capella Reial de Catalunya; Hespèrion XXI/Jordi Savall
CATALOGUE NO: AVSA9895

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Jordi Savall’s CD booklets grow ever more substantial. This one is the size, shape and weight of a house-brick and demands commensurate attention, though it does offer a short cut: the first three CDs offer the full experience of words and music, while the second three simply give the music. And though the spoken sections are in French, it’s so well delivered – and translated in the book – that even those with minimal French will not feel excluded. Erasmus’s In Praise of Folly is the work by which he is best known, but in his day it was his ‘adages’ which caused more waves. These proverbs – which often ran to essay-length – were culled from both antiquity and from the folk-lore of his native Holland: ‘War is a treat for those who have not tried it’ was one of the most popular, and it was for his anticlerical humanism that he was celebrated in life. This chimes with Savall’s own crusade for multicultural harmony in the Mediterranean lands.

What he and his musical army give us is a tissue of words and music in the style we have learned to expect from him. Letters and literary extracts are interspersed with music, and also accompanied by harps, lutes, drums, and choral episodes, to create a beguiling sonic tapestry. Turkish instrumental improvisations and Sephardic songs sit alongside motets by Dufay, Josquin and Ockeghem, periodically giving way to beautifully sung lullabies and laments. The book’s text comes in six languages, and the first three CDs can be downloaded in all of them.

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Michael Church