War & Peace 1614-1714

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COMPOSERS: Dumanoir,Lully et al,Rosenmuller,Scheidt,Schein
LABELS: Alia Vox
ALBUM TITLE: War & Peace 1614-1714
WORKS: Works by Scheidt, Schein, Dumanoir, Rosenmüller, Lully et al
PERFORMER: La Capella Reial de Catalunya; Hespèrion XXI; Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall
CATALOGUE NO: AVSA 9908 (hybrid CD/SACD)

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This latest manifestation of Jordi Savall’s ongoing historical peace project presents works from between 1614 – when the Ottomans attacked Hungary, Jews were massacred in Frankfurt, and the Thirty Years War began – and 1714 with the Treaty of Utrecht. He could have chosen other centuries to make the same moral point, but this is his musical comfort-zone, and by reaching out to the Eastern Mediterranean it allows him to bring in the music of the Turks and their Jewish neighbours as well.

This double-CD follows his standard mode of presentation, with a fat book in eight languages containing background essays by a variety of academics. But this mode now feels very routine: most of the writers offer high-flown political sermons, with only one – Josep Maria Vilar – providing the obligatory essay on Baroque style.

And if Savall had really wanted to bridge the gulf between East and West, he would have included an essay on the subtle and arcane mechanics of Turkish makam: there’s no point in applying labels like taksim and usul without giving some indication of what those key words in Turkish music actually mean.

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Yet the Turkish tracks (despite the glaring lack of information on who plays what) are among the more interesting elements in this collection, which otherwise dashes between the capitals of Europe offering mostly two- and three-minute evocations of battle, defeat, victory, and royal pomp and circumstance. We get some Lullyan splendour, some Lutherian choral grace, and some lovely Andalusian melodies, but the concluding Handel Jubilate Deo only serves to put Biber and co. in the shade, and acts as a reminder that there are British ensembles who would have delivered that magnificent work much better. Michael Church