Jordi Savall’s Latest

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Program: #17-04   Air Date: Jan 16, 2017

We will venture from a Baroque Psalm setting to a medieval collection of devotional songs.


I. Llibre Vermell de Montserrat (La Capella Reial de Catalunya/Jordi Savall). Alia Vox CDASVA 9919.

Llibre Vermell de Montserrat

New recording of one of Jordi Savall's first performances of this wonderful work, recorded at the Church Santa Maria del Pi, Barcelona, in November, 2013, as a tribute to Montserrat Figueras. 'As in the past, today in the 21st century and for generations to come, these songs and sacred dances will continue to move us deeply, thanks to their eternal message of spirituality, love and beauty.’

Jordi Savall had every historical, geographical and emotional reason to pay a well deserved tribute to one of the most famous manuscripts of ancient music. The 'Llibre Vermell de Montserrat' is a collection of devotional texts containing late medieval songs and dances. The 14th-century manuscript was compiled in and is still located at the monastery of Montserrat outside Barcelona in Catalonia (Spain). The title describes the red binding in which the collection was placed in the 19th century. The songs were written in Catalan, in Occitan and in Latin for the pilgrims to have something appropriately «chaste and pious» to sing and dance. In this beautiful live recording made at the Santa Maria del Pi church in Barcelona, the colorful succession of songs and dances offers us a pleasant trip to the heart of the medieval music.

From Gramophone (on the group’s original performance of these works): One of the most interesting manuscripts of [Medieval Spain] is the Llibre Vermell, preserved in the Library of the Monastery of Montserrat, near Barcelona. The works contained in the Llibre Vermell, of a simpler and more popular character than the extremely cultivated and refined music of the Court of Aragon, are certainly not the technical apogee of the Ars Nova, but their great interest lies in the fact that some have an indication that they were to be danced by the pilgrims in the square in front of the church on the Day of the Virgin, which makes them unique. In addition, their melodies are profoundly beautiful, almost magically so, and have caused the repertoire of the Llibre Vermell to be frequently recorded. Particularly notable is the coloured and idealized and extremely beautiful vision of Jordi Savall, directing Hespèrion XX as well as a large number of other singers and instrumentalists on one of his freshest and most moving recordings.

1. O Virgo splendens (monodie)

2. O Virgo splendens (canon a 2 i a 3)

3-4. Stella spendens

5-6. Laudemus Virginem

7-8. Los set gotxs

9-10. Spendens Ceptigera

11-12. Polorum regina

13-14. Cuncti simus concanentes

15-16. Mariam matrem Virginem

17-18. Imperayritz de la ciutat Joyosa

19-20. Ad mortem festinamus

21. O Virgo spendens (canon a 3 & monodie)

22. Quant ai lo mont consirat (Bonus track)

II. Dixit Dominus (Le Concert de Nations/La Capella Reial de Catalunya/Jordi Savall). Alia VOX CD ASVA9918.

Dixit Dominus: Vivaldi, Mozart, Handel

Dixit Dominus is the opening text of the Catholic Church’s Latin version of Psalm 110 (Psalm 110 according to the original Hebrew numbering, Psalm 109 according to the Greek Septuagint, which was subsequently adopted by the Vulgate). Traditionally attributed to King David, it most likely refers to a victory of Israel over its enemies, led by King David, who, figuratively speaking and using a symbol of Oriental origin, made his enemies a footstool for his feet (verse 1); it has also been suggested that it formed part of a coronation ceremony (“Sit at my right hand”, verse 1), perhaps belonging to the rite described in verse 9. In the rather confusing opening text, which reads “Oracle of the Lord to my Lord”, the first of these Lords is presumably God, while the second is King David himself. Later, in the New Testament, the text was interpreted as referring to the Messiah, in which the second Dominus referred not to David but to Jesus Christ.

This is one of the best known psalms, because since the Middle Ages it has taken pride of place at the beginning of Sunday Vespers, that part of the Divine Office which corresponds to evening prayer. This would explain the large number of composers who have written music for this psalm, especially since the Renaissance, as many places of worship required music to be composed for performance at major religious services on special feast days. Often, therefore, these verses were set to music by the chapel master of the church in question, or by some other well-known musician who was commissioned to compose the music or merely copy an already existing version. Whatever the case may be, there was a need for polyphonic or concertante music, depending on the tastes and practice of the time, for this part of the liturgy. As well as the famous composers who wrote settings of the Dixit Dominus, such as Francisco Guerrero, Tomás Luis de Victoria, Giovanni Gastoldi, Felice Anerio, Claudio Monteverdi, Alessandro Grandi, Orazio Benevoli, Dietrich Buxtehude, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Alessandro Scarlatti, Nicola Porpora, Johann Adolph Hasse and Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, this recording includes other more modern composers such as Andreas Romberg.

The text consists of 7 verses which, in one way or another, determine the musical structure of the compositions by Vivaldi and Handel, and, to a lesser extent, that of Mozart. In the version of the psalm that is included in the liturgy and set to music by these composers, the doxology (Gloria Patri) comes at the end.

Handel: Dixit Dominus, HWV 232

Mozart: Dixit and Magnificat, K. 193

Vivaldi: Dixit Dominus, RV595


Composer Info

Montserrat Figueras, George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91)

CD Info

CDASVA 9919, CD ASVA9918.