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American Record Guide: (03/2020) 
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Alia Vox
AV9933



Code-barres / Barcode : 84354080919332

 

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Reviewer: Charles Brewer

This is another of the Alia Vox extravaganzas, this time centered on the musical culture of the Basque country (Euskal Herria). The major topic is the circumnavigation of the globe that was initially under the command of Ferdinand Magellan, but following his death in the Philippines on 27 April 1521, the voyage was completed by the Basque navigator, Juan Sebastian Elkano (c.1476-1526).
 

More than in the other Alia Vox collections I have heard, this recording has an eclectic selection of pieces. There are a few selections in Basque, but many of these are based on folk song collections from the 19th Century or adaptations from other musical sources. Others seem rather distant from the central theme, such as the Greek Epitaph of Seikilos from the First Century, which is used to illustrate that the Roman Empire “led directly to cultural relations between what are now the Basque territories and the Mediterranean world”. With no similar explanation there is an arrangement of the 16th Century English keyboard piece, ‘My Lady Carey’s Dompe’. There are works that refer to the connections between Basque whalers in Iceland and the New World. Related to the circumnavigation are examples of traditional music from the Moluccas Islands.

 

As in Jordi Savall’s earlier releases (M/J 2008: 246, M/J 2009: 197, J/A 3010: 236, J/A 2015: 207, M/J 2018: 196) the selections are given an early music “big band” treatment of elaborate arrangements in a variety of musical styles that even involve a chamber choir on this new release. There is no doubt that the performances are of the same quality expected from the earlier releases in this series; the vocal and instrumental performers are excellent. It is perhaps my taste that the best interpretation is the unaccompanied performance by an unnamed singer of ‘Kama goli’, a simple love song whose text is written in “Errominxela”, the mixture of Basque and the traditional language of the Roma.

 

From the photographs in the extensive multi-lingual book (which does include the original texts and translations) it was evident that the concert performances were enhanced by the presence of traditional dancers, and in the case of this release a video with subtitles would have been more effective.

 

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