Eclectic, sonorous, lively and ever-interesting!
Brianna Neal | USA | 11/25/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This recording by Sarband offers creative and varied interpretations of the songs of medieval pilgrims at Santa Maria de Montserrat. In the late 14th century, to dissuade enthusiastic travelers from profaning the monastery church with secular songs and dances, the monks of Montserrat gathered together some songs they felt were more appropriate. Ten of these selections have been passed down to us as part of a volume of folios later bound in red velvet--the "Libre Vermell". Sarband's director Vladimir Ivanoff, also of the group Vox, is well known for his focus on the cultural exchanges that have occurred over the centuries between European and Arabic music. Such influences were especially prevalent in Spain, which was occupied by the Moors for centuries. Tracks #9, "Stella splendens", and #10, "Los set gotxs", are standouts, and for lack of a more period term, they "really rock"! Indeed, they are specified as "round dances" in the text of the Red Book, with which the pilgrims could celebrate in a state of religious fervor the culmination of their long journey. Four vocal soloists and five instrumentalists perform, and are joined at key points by a full choir. Other fine recordings which also feature music from the Llibre Vermell include the Toronto Consort's "The Way of the Pilgrim: Medieval Songs of Travel", and Ensemble Unicorn's "The Black Madonna: Pilgrim Songs from the Monastery of Montserrat (1400-1420)". Sarband's subsequent recording, "Sacred Women: Women as Composers and Performers of Medieval Chant", continues to explore the pure and expressive power of the voice in expressing religious devotion--Catholic, Byzantine and Muslim."