There truly are very few musicians who could be said to have changed the way in which people listen to and appreciate music written several centuries ago. There can be no doubt, however, that Jordi Savall is one such musician. Since 1974, when he co-founded the pioneering Hesperion XX ensemble with Montserrat Figueras (the group was renamed the Hesperion XXI in 2000), he has shone a light on aspects of the European early music repertoire which had previously been totally unknown to all but a few specialists. His approach to music has always combined great attention to historical detail with energetic interpretations as dynamic as they are convincing.
Savall has done more than anyone else to spotlight the musical links between Western Europe and, initially, the Arab and Ottoman world. More recently, he has ventured still further afield, to Armenia and beyond, building cultural bridges with firm foundations in musical experience rather than in some vague commitment to ‘globalization’. In 2011, the Guardian described him thus: “What really mark him out are his wanderings beyond the temple of high culture. An omnivorous troubadour, he roves from Manchester libraries to Colombian villages to salvage musical traditions – with recordings that move from Berber beats to the raptures of a raga, from the thrilling stillness of an Armenian lament to the sprightliness of an Elizabethan galliard”.
His vast discography, which includes over 160 releases, covers vast expanses of our collective musical heritage ranging from Bach and Lully to Matthew Locke, Tobias Hume and Monteverdi, and from the music of the Spanish Renaissance to the Sephardic tradition and the sound worlds of Israel, Turkey and Armenia.
In this, his second appearance at the OCC, Savall and his associates will perform works for viola da gamba by Marin Marais (1656-1728), a composer whose writing for the instrument imbue it with an almost human timbre and expressive power. Marais’ music has become more widely known thanks to the film Tous les matins du monde
[All the world’s mornings], whose soundtrack was performed by Savall.