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Alia Vox

Code-barres / Barcode : 8435408099226(ID607)


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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

This year is Isaac year (he died in 1517) but so far it has seen few additions to the discography. Hespèrion XXI’s programme follows Jordi Savall’s favoured format of the musical diary, whereby major events of the composer’s life are commemorated with a piece. A high proportion of his most famous pieces is included, which some may think a missed opportunity given how much of his music is virgin territory on disc (the motet Christus, filius Deus is the famous Virgo prudentissima with a new text celebrating the imperial accession of Charles V two years after Isaac’s death).

That needn’t matter when the performances catch the ear but on this occasion Savall’s wonted flair seems to have eluded him. These interpretations might have been made 40 years ago, with drums and bells added to voices and instruments and tempos on the slow side, giving a rather static impression. (The bells are a particular distraction, being fractionally late much of the time.) The vocal ensemble sounds under-prepared and hesitant in the face of music that demands to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck (try the opening duet of Christus, filius Deus or the whole of Angeli, archangeli, which The Clerks’ Group performed with such gumption over 20 years ago – ASV, 3/95) or delivered with more feeling (Quis dabit capiti meo aquam?, the poignant lament for Isaac’s patron Lorenzo the Magnificent). Most surprising, even the instrumental ensemble sounds a touch jaded in La morra, Palle, palle and La mi la sol. This may be due to the sound recording, which lacks the intended opulence; but in sum, there are few pieces for which more stylish and satisfying recorded alternatives don’t already exist. The accompanying booklet is lavishly illustrated, as always with Alia Vox, though the painted representation of Lorenzo the Magnificent is in fact that of his grandson and namesake Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino.


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