Day By Day

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hesperion Diminished But Still Fun

"She Who Must Not Be Named" has taken an interest lately in classical music, so we are attending a lot of concerts. I grew up with the stuff and can take it or leave it [except for a few favorites], but she approaches it with all the wonder and enthusiasm of a convert. I tag along and enjoy. Virtuosity can still send chills up and down my spine.

This weekend it was a somewhat diminished Hesperion XXI [itself a diminished version of the original Hesperion XX], featuring the great Jordi Savall and his family. Ferran Savall was absent and David Mayoral was substituting for Pedro Estevan, but Jordi's wife and daughter were there to hold up their end and performed well. Jordi brought his famous 500 year old Treble Viola da Gamba for people to "ooh" and "ah" over. I have to admit it, I was impressed.

The program included compositions by Diego Ortiz, Bartolomeo Carceras, Tobias Hume, Giulio Caccini, Santiago de Murcia, Henry du Bailly, Sebastian Duron and others. Chronologically it spanned the mid-sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries, focusing on the Iberian baroque, little heard in this country.

This was the time of Spanish dominance, of the great explorations and conquest, of Carlos Quinto and Felipe Segundo. Under the Habsburgs Madrid ruled most of three continents and its power spanned the world. There lay the center of European civilization. Then came the long, slow decline.

We here in the U.S., if we approach the baroque at all, tend to start with Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi. The Spanish traditions are usually overlooked. Here, though, we could hear the evolution of traditions that Bach and his contemporaries inherited. It was fascinating.

Read about Hesperion XXI here.

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