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Llibre Vermell de Montserrat. A fourteenth century pilgrimage
Atelier instrumental du Centre d'Abbaye aux Dames, Coral Carmina, Dulcis Harmonia
Llibre Vermell de Montserrat. A fourteenth century pilgrimage
Genres: Special Interest, Classical
 
  •  Track Listings (11) - Disc #1


      
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CD Reviews

Medieval Pilgrims' Entertainment
Leslie Richford | Selsingen, Lower Saxony | 06/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This 1978 analogue recording from St. Savinien in France is one of a series of discs made by Jordi Savall for EMI in the late 70?s and re-released in the 90?s on Virgin?s mid-price Veritas Edition. The quality of the remastering is, as on the whole series, excellent; I had my doubts about the sound on this particular recording because of the unusual church acoustics and the variations in volume, but after experimenting around for a while, I discovered that by placing my speakers approximately 4 metres (11 feet) apart, I was able to obtain quite a realistic panorama. Fact is that Jordi Savall brought together no less than seven entire ensembles for this recording (his own Hespèrion XX and one other instrumental group plus five choirs!), and all those participants placed around a fairly large church building require a wide and deep room at home to sound as they were intended.

The music itself is quite fascinating, although the individual pieces tend to be repetitive and comparatively simple once one has comprehended the Spanish rhythms and the medieval mix of Latin and Old Spanish texts (the manuscript from which these songs were taken originated about 1400). Jordi Savall performs them with a very Spanish touch, using some extraordinary period instruments to create some quite exotic effects on those more rhythmical numbers (e. g. ?Los set goyts recomtarem?) which are accompanied. Some of the other pieces are more reminiscent of Gregorian chant (?O Virgo splendens?) or even of today?s Taizé singing and are performed by the choirs much as they would have been all those centuries ago: as pieces intended for the entertainment and edification of Catholic pilgrims.

I also own the recording of these pieces by Philip Pickett?s New London Consort (published by Decca?s L?Oiseau-Lyre imprint in the 90?s). On the whole I think I prefer the Savall recording, although there are moments on the Pickett recording where he is able to transcend his rather ?English? approach to this music and to rival Savall?s beauty and expressivity; but in its entirety, the Pickett recording tends to be a little too uniform and, possibly, a little too much influenced by today?s pop culture. Although in the end nobody knows how this music really sounded when it was first performed; today?s performances of medieval music are always determined by the preferences and choices of the performers.
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