COMPOSERS: Cornago,de la Torre,Dufay,Encina,Escobar,Narváez,Sefardi,Tordesillas,Trad. & Anon,Triana,Verardi
LABELS: Alia Vox
ALBUM TITLE: Isabel I, Reina de castilla
WORKS: Works by Triana, Dufay, de la Torre, Encina, Cornago, Verardi, Narváez, Sefardi, Tordesillas, Escobar, Trad. & Anon
PERFORMER: Montserrat Figueras, Ariannna Savall (soprano), Begoña Olavide (mezzo-soprano); La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Hespèrion XXI/Jordi Savall
CATALOGUE NO: AVSA9838
This is the kind of thing that Jordi Savall does effectively and often. Here he has taken events in the life of Isabel I of Spain (1451-1504) and told her story through music – some of it definitely linked historically to those events (for example, the villancico, ‘Muy crueles’, on John of Portugal), but most just requisitioned so as to provide a vaguely appropriate backdrop to the chronology outlined in the booklet. The result is a pleasingly atmospheric concert, but one where the pleasures might decrease in proportion to the attention one pays to the detail. Take, for example, ‘Paseabas el rey moro’ which does indeed describe the capture of Alhama from the Moors in 1482. This tale is entrancingly sung by Montserrat Figueras in her best plangent manner, but why are some of her most ornate, affective embellishments applied to words such as ‘mula’ (mule) or ‘cavallo’ (horse)? Again, why do these performers change the characteristic ‘3 against 2’ rhythms clearly notated in the second section of Enzina’s ‘Levanta pascual’ to something blander and simpler? Some of these performances are truly entertaining or moving – especially the ‘Canción’ on the expulsion of the Muslims – but superficial ‘depth’ is the norm.