Jordi Savall’s Venice
Gateway to the Orient

One of this year’s best concert, bringing together influences from around the Mediterranean

By Luc Archambault

Jordi Savall. Anyone who knows a little about music, or even cinema, can appreciate this man’s reputation. May it be through the scores of movies like Tous les matins du monde, or Jeanne la pucelle, or by the voluminous discography attributed to Savall or his many ensembles (Hespèrion XXI, La Capella Reial de Catalunya, The Concert of Nations), more than 230 compact albums, reaching into the repertoires from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, the Baroque or classical periods, this giant works masterfully to reassert and promote ‘historical’ music.

This concert… chronologically explores the musical and historical evolution of Venice, from its founding around 700 to its demise as a republic in 1797

He has been many times in Montreal before. His last visit was in 2010, during his world tour entitled Jerusalem—City of Two Peaces, an ode to peace and a mixture of musics opening a perspective on the three monotheistic religions. He came back this year with Millenial Venice, gateway to the Orient, putting the spotlight on the kaleidoscoic role the city has played throughout the ages, at the crossroads of Europe, the Latin east and the Orthodoxe world, while being heavily influenced by Ottoman, Armenian, Jewish and Muslim cultures.


Orchestre Jordi Savall _

This concert, with 34 musicians on stage, coming from Jordi Savall’s ensembles, to which the vocal ensemble of orthodox singers Orthodoxe/Byzantin and oriental musicians were added, was to chronologically explore the musical and historical evolution of Venice, from its founding around 700 to its demise by Napoleon as a republic in 1797.

What marvels, what discoveries! From the sober chants of Byzantine orthodoxy, with dark and low voices of singers modulating reality almost with an out-of-time quality, to oriental soloists placed at the forefront of the stage, punctuating the soarings of more classical musicians. Even if a saqueboute, a psalterion and a doulçaine don’t necessarily belong to a symphonic orchestra, they are however an integral part of the Hespèrion XXI ensemble. With all the subtility of its not-so-foreign tonality, this reunion of profound influences from the mediterranean was thus made concrete and exploded like fireworks into the privileged ears of the lucky ones who had the privilege of obtaining tickets for this magnificent concert.

Jordi Savall _

Because one must call this a privilege, a great privilege. In the musical world, one-day fads often propose hastily consumed goods, to be thrown away after usage, and without any retention value whatsoever. To the contrary, here with maestro Savall, we are invited to take a journey into time, at the very limit of magnificence, through mastery of ancient musical instruments.

Those who discovered Jordi Savall through Alain Corneau’s film Tous les matins du monde – and who let themselves get caught up in the cogs of his discography, his multiple incarnations with his many ensembles and his world tours – have rapidly understood the importance of his vision which embraces the centuries. With him, the opposition between ‘baroque’ and ‘modern’ doesn’t hold for long because, even though he has a deep concern for authenticity, the transcendance with which he injects each one of his performances puts him apart, out of the reach of time or style. Unsurprisingly, the European Union named him Ambassador for intercultural dialogue, and UNESCO awarded him and his wife Montserrat Figueras the title of ‘Artist for Peace’ under its Good Will Ambassadors programme.

Jordi Savall _

And it’s precisely this empathy towards others, this dialogue with all cultural players, wherever they might be from, that characterize Jordi Savall. During the concert, he asked for a minute of silence to commemorate the victims of the recent mosque killings in Quebec City. And, as an encore, he and his ensemble played Arvo Pärt’s ‘Da pacem Domine’ (2004), thereby invoking a call to solidarity and the instauration of an era of peace on this ravaged planet of ours. What more could one ask for ?

Presented by Traquen’Art, a company specializing in world music and traditions, this has been, for my part, one of the great concerts I have attended. I just cannot recommand you enough to follow intensely the upcoming concerts this company organizes. In the past, they had the Philip Glass Ensemble, le Mystère des Voix Bulgares (the Mystery of Bulgarian Voices), the late and fondly remembered Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Youssou N’Dour, and many others come to Montreal.

Their next concert huddles together the groups Dakhabrakha, Ukrainian Gypsies, and Kleztory, a local klezmer band, Wednesday April 12th, at salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.

Images : Hespèrion XXI

Luc Archambault

Luc Archambault
Writer and journalist, globe-trotter at heart, passionate about movies, music, literature and contemporary dance, came back to Montreal to pursue his unrelenting quest for artistic meaning.


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