La Sublime Porte: Voix D’Istanbul

COMPOSERS: Angeli,Ashot,Cantemir,Çavus,Efendi,etc
LABELS: Alia Vox
ALBUM TITLE: La Sublime Porte: Voix D’Istanbul
WORKS: Various
PERFORMER: Gürsoy Dinçer, Montserrat Figueras, Lior Elmaleh: Hespèrion XXI/Jordi Savall

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As Moorish Spain had done, Byzantium-Constantinople-Istanbul provided a fertile environment for interaction between Christian, Islamic and Jewish music, and, particularly from the mid-16th-century, became home to Jewish, Greek, Levantine and European communities. In Mozart’s time (witness, most notably, Rondo à la Turque and Die Entführung aus dem Serail) the trendsetters of Europe developed an interest in Turkish music and the military Janissary bands, and just a few years ago there was a revival of this interest, with recordings demonstrating the two-way traffic of musical influences. Savall takes us back further, covering the period from 1430 to 1750, focusing on pieces collected and published by historian, musicologist and sometime Prince of Moldavia, Dimitrie Cantemir (1673-1723).

This is a typical Alia Vox Hespèrion release: sumptuously packaged, richly illustrated, and supported by edifying scholarly notes about the music and its historical context. It’s recorded in clear yet atmospheric sound, featuring convincing realisations of a well-planned programme in performances that, regardless of how ‘authentic’ they may or may not be, are beautiful and affecting. In addition to the late Montserrat Figueras, there is wonderful singing by the Israeli Lior Elmaleh and the Turk Gursoy Dinçer, with the gorgeous sounds of such ‘exotic’ instruments as the santur, duduk and rebab generously featured.

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Barry Witherden