A Harmony of Nations with Jordi Savall and Friends

For more than fifty uninterrupted years, Jordi Savall has used the expressive sound of the viol to bring the world on an emotional musical journey through centuries and cultures. Now, he’s put together an album of 16th- and 17th-century pieces for viol consort by the greatest masters of the Renaissance and the Baroque, on WCRB's CD of the Week.

It’s no wonder that Jordi Savall finds the 16th century so thrilling. It was a time when new instruments were finding their own voices, and instrumental music was no longer only about dancing. The viol had been born in imitation of the human voice, with six strings that are bowed, like a cello. It can weep, whisper, and wail, and for the first time it was getting music meant to be played purely for the pleasure of listening.

With this new CD, Savall and Hesperion XXI present a ravishing collection of pieces meant to highlight a deeply interconnected Europe, where Spanish musicians like Diego Ortiz traveled to England, and English musicians like Dowland went to Italy, Germany, and Denmark. French musicians like Charpentier travelled to Italy, and Italians like Rossi and Lully had careers in France. It was a dialogue of nations that Savall offers up as a European harmony, resonating with the deep and touching sound of viols in concert.

Listening to Parabosco’s ricercare “Da Pacem” (track 5) you’re drawn into another world by the melancholy sound of the viol. The joyous sound of Dowland’s “King of Denmark Galliard” (track 9; listen below) makes it easy to see why being invited to dinner in 17th-century aristocratic British circles meant that you’d likely be handed a viol after eating (and if you couldn’t play your part, you’d go home guilty of a pretty grave societal failing). From the court of Louis the XIV, Charpentier’s suite of six movements (tracks 18-23) is a masterpiece of dancing and luminous woven lines.

The recording features the careful and brilliant research that Savall is known for, and the pieces unfold in chronological order, from country to country, winding up on the Iberian Peninsula in 1700.  But there’s nothing old about the way it feels – it’s fresh and timeless.

Jordi Savall says, "Music is the first language we understand, and it's the last thing we lose." Hear more of his thinking, from a Nexus Institute panel:

Listen to a track from the album:

For more information and to purchase this recording, visit ArkivMusic.