LABELS: Alia Vox
WORKS: The Spirit of Dance 1450-1650
PERFORMER: Montserrat Figueras (soprano); Hespèrion XXI; La Capella Reial de Catalunya; Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall
CATALOGUE NO: AV 9853
This compilation is drawn from various albums recorded since 1997, the tracks now grouped into segments focussing on the Orient, Italy, England, France, Germany, Spain and the Spanish Americas, with the common theme of dance, courtly and vernacular.
As far as I’m concerned, the default setting for anything by Figueras and Savall is five stars,but then I’m a fan.
Re-assuming the critic’s habit I’ll confess that on the oriental pieces (a Berber berceuse and a Sephardic version of a Spanish song) I was slightly worried that Figueras’s vocal ‘snaps’ risked becoming rather mannered, but such minor blemishes on perfection only emphasise her general divinity.
I mustn’t overlook some other fine vocal contributions, notably Pascal Bertin and Josep Hernandez, sometime countertenors with La Capella Reial de Catalunya.
The instrumental performances are predictably gorgeous, too: both ensemble (from Hesperion XXI and, taking care of the 17th century repertoire, Le Concert de Nations) and individual (not least Andrew Lawrence-King on sundry harps).
Life-affirming music, exuberant yet elegant, given spirited, technically-brilliant, richly-textured realisations: five stars it is.