Semper Fideles

Jordi Savall + Le Concert des Nations, Emmanuel Chruch, October 27, 2007
By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  October 30, 2007
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Jordi Savall

Some 400 BSO season subscribers, I’m told, exchanged their tickets Saturday night so they could stay home and watch the Red Sox beat the Rockies. Emmanuel Church, on the other hand, was full up for the Boston Early Music Festival’s presentation of Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations. The last time the superstar Catalan gambist was in town, at the Jesuit Urban Center in the South End in March 2006, he brought members of his two “Hesperia” (the Greek name given to the Iberian and Italian peninsulas, since they lay to the west) ensembles, La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Hespèrion XXI, and they played music from Villancicos y Danzas Criollas, the disc the New Yorker’s Alex Ross calls Savall’s “party record.” Saturday’s program, “Les Goûts Réunis,” was an altogether more sober affair, late-17th- and early-18th-century French pieces by Lully, Sainte-Colombe père and fils, Charpentier, Marais, Couperin, Forqueray, and Leclair. It was a stripped-down Concert des Nations as well, with Philippe Pierlot joining Savall on viol da gamba (a lighter, nimbler ancestor of the cello), plus Riccardo Minasi on violin, Marc Hantaï on flute, Enrique Solinis playing theorbo and guitar, and Luca Guglielmi at the harpsichord. The earlier program, with its castanets and percussion and five vocalists, was aptly called “Encounters of Fire and Air.” This one was more like “Earth and Water.”

The evening opened with Lully’s “Marche pour la cérémonie des Turcs,” music that will be familiar to anyone who’s seen Alain Corneau’s 1991 film Tous les matins du monde: it was faster, rougher, and more intimate than Savall’s recorded versions. What followed bespoke a luminous mortality, meditations on the ebb and flow of life, and no stinting the ebb — more than once the words “Pulvis est” (“Dust thou art”) came to mind. Flute and violin dominated, but there was a plaintive Sainte-Colombe père duo for Savall and Pierlot and a plangent Couperin harpsichord solo for Guglielmi. The dance pulse picked up with the encores, a “Bourrée d’avignonez” from the time of Louis XIII and the third air from the “Matelots et Tritons” suite of Marais’s Alcyone. It was every bit as good a show as the Sox put on.

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