Josquin des Prs, Juan del Enzina, Johannes Cornago, Anonymous etc

COMPOSERS: Anonymous etc,Johannes Cornago,Josquin Des Pres,Juan del Enzina
LABELS: Alia Vox
ALBUM TITLE: Christophorus Columbus: Lost Paradises
WORKS: Works by Josquin des Près, Juan del Enzina, Johannes Cornago, Anonymous etc
PERFORMER: Montserrat Figueras (soprano); various vocalists; Hespèrion XXI; La Capella Reial de Catalunya/Jordi Savall
CATALOGUE NO: AVSA 9850A + B (hybrid CD/SACD)
Lost Paradises, Hesperion XXI’s latest project, consists of a handsome hard-back book with two SACDs exploring the music and poetry of Ancient Hesperia up until Colombus’s discovery of the Americas in 1492. Beginning with the prophecy in Seneca’s Medea of ‘a great mariner [who] shall discover a new world’, the sequence vividly evokes an era of extraordinary cultural metamorphosis. The sonic journey takes in the exotic sounds of Al-Andalus, with Sephardic laments and improvisations inspired by Arab and Jewish oral traditions; elegan songs and dances from the Spanish court, and the haunting sounds of Amerindian cultures. The book is packed with insightful notes as well as texts and translations from contemporary diaries, chronicles, poems, prayers, letters, royal edicts, and the ship’s logbook from Columbus’s seminal journey. We hear readings in a melange of languages, including fragments of Arabic, Aramaic, Catalan, Hebrew, Latin, Nahuatl and Quechua, all creating a vibrant ‘mosaic of the air’. The plangent voice of Montserrat Figueras sets the scene while Begoña Olavide, Lluis Vilamajó and Furio Zanassi also offer some evocative singing. There’s some outstanding playing, too, by instrumentalists who convincingly recreate the delicate sounds and timbres of ancient, unwritten traditions. The languid, reflective mood may be a little too lugubrious for some, but it is, perhaps, aptly so for a sequence exploring the theme of paradise lost. Surround sound enhances a deeply sensuous experience. Kate Bolton

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