LABELS: Alia Vox
WORKS: Works tracing the life of Francis Xavier: Lloyd, Isaac, Sermisy, Escobar, Ponce, Tye, Morales, Encina etc.
PERFORMER: a Capella Reial de Catalunya; Hespèrion XXI/Jordi Savall (viol)
CATALOGUE NO: AVSA 9856
This sumptuous package, with the CDs nestling inside the covers of a hardback book, celebrates the life of St Francis Xavier and provides a musical soundtrack to his travels, tracing his early days, including studies in Paris and missions to Africa, India and the Moluccan islands, and his years in Japan.
Accompanying the recordings are extensive notes in five languages, including essays on the historical context, interspersed with superb illustrations.
As well as being a gorgeous visual and aural experience, this collection raises intriguing questions about the interaction of faith-systems, artistic taste, and the degree of respect shown for tradition: in Europe the music of that era was largely superseded by later fashions until, in the last century, the likes of Jordi Savall and his predecessors resurrected it in what we trust are relatively accurate realisations.
In Africa, India and Japan the past was preserved with an inherited continuity that informed and enriched later developments.
This isn’t a fusion/crossover project: Iberian Renaissance music is not mixed with, but rather stands alongside the classical and vernacular music of the non-European cultures, and Savall invited exponents of these traditions to perform in their own manner.
The highlights here include performances by El Maloumi (oud), Zuckerman (sarod) and Seki (shakuhachi), while the singing of Yukio Tanaka (accompanying himself on biwa), though not an easy taste to acquire, undoubtedly displays great skill. Savall’s regular colleagues – Hespèrion, La Capella Reial and the divine Figueras – areas superb on this recording as ever.