COMPOSERS: Various composers
LABELS: Alia Vox
ALBUM TITLE: Granada 1013-1502
WORKS: Vocal and instrumental works from the founding of the kingdom of Granada…to its incorporation in the kingdom of Castile and Leon
PERFORMER: W Bouhassoun, L Elmaleh, D El Maloumi; Hespèrion XXI; La Capella Reial de Catalunya/Jordi Savall
CATALOGUE NO: SVSA 9915 (hybrid CD/SACD)
Jordi Savall has an impressive track-record realising music from the Iberian Peninsula/al-Andalus in the centuries prior to the consolidation of Spain under Castile and Leon. Much of that music, with its rich blending of elements from Christian, Muslim and Judaic traditions, remains somewhat exotic to modern northern ears. As ever, Savall points up the sources’ colour, vitality, expressiveness and socio-political context in an exciting, fascinating and utterly beguiling programme.
In the typically sumptuously-illustrated, multi-lingual booklet Professor Dolors Bramon slips off the rose-tinted spectacles usual in assessing this period, observing ‘it was convenience, rather than the fabled harmony of the Three Cultures that characterised relations [between adherents of the three faiths]’. Nonetheless, there was significant cross-fertilisation between the traditions, enriching each, even after the 1492 edict expelling Jews and Muslims who would not convert.
The singers are superb, displaying gorgeous timbres and honest emotional dimensions. From ancient Judaic texts performed by cantor Lior Elmaleh and ascetic Mozarabic chant sung by La Capella Reial to more overtly passionate pieces from the Islamic tradition, some featuring Waed Bouhassoun (a worthy successor to the wonderful Montserrat Figueras) the realisations and performances are consistently moving and beautiful. Even the spoken texts sound mellifluous and resonant.