Monday, January 30, 2017

Compare & Contrast 32: Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI

Okay, this will be a somewhat unusual media round-up, because I am dipping into the past for some of my comparisons.

I saw Jordi Savall and a current incarnation of Hesperion XXI the other night at Zellerbach - a terrible venue for an unamplified Renaissance string ensemble, but, well, First Congregational wasn't available - and hoo boy was it dull and disappointing. Dull for reasons you can see in my review; disappointing because on record the Savall Cabal is anything but dull.

And yet, Joshua Kosman's 1997 review reflects what I heard Friday night, so I can't chalk up the problems to the absence of Montserrat Figueras. Then again, there's Alex Ross's 2005 review from The New Yorker, which memorialies a concert that's what I would have expected based on Hesperion's recordings. Allan Ulrich, in 2001, is in line with Alex Ross.

Maybe I should have just withdrawn from reviewing as soon as I saw that this year's Hesperion is a viola da gamba ensemble plus percussion plus theorbo/guitar. Yeah, make any old viola joke you'd like; I refrained in my review.
  • Lisa Hirsch, SFCV
  • Alex Ross, "The King of Spain," NYer, 2005
  • Joshua Kosman, Chronicle, 1997
  • Allan Ulrich, Chron/Ex, 2001
Not sure who else reviewed last week's program but I'm happy to link to other reviews.

As to the why of all of this: everyone in the group seemed a little bit in his or her own world, removed from each other and from the audience, including Savall. There were ensemble problems in a couple of numbers, where Savall himself seemed out of synch with the other instrumentalists; that was very strange. 

The Hesperion tour page shows you all of their concerts and the locations of those concerts. They're currently touring several different programs and playing 14 concerts (maybe 15, not sure who is doing what at "Conference") in different configurations in February. That's a lot of playing and a lot of travel.

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