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A,erican Record Guide: (01/2017) 
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Alia Vox 

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Reviewer: John W. Barker

This is the latest of Savall’s “CD books”, even if it is cast in a standard CD-size album. Like so many of its predecessors, it explores multi and intercultural patterns in the music of the past. This one also is from a public concert in June 2013.


It uses the history of the city of Granada (with its fabulous palace of the Alhambra) as its platform. The program follows that history in a series of seven subdivisions, period by period. The scope is somewhat broader than the dates in the album title suggest: there were already five centuries of Muslim rule over the Iberian peninsula before the regimes that ruled from Granada were established, so the program has a fuller context that allows attention to Savall’s interest in how the cultures of Christians, Jews, and Muslims “coexisted” for centuries.

Savall pulls back from what has become the long assumption about the centuries of Muslim rule in al-Andalus: that such “coexistence” was not only genuine but generally harmonious — in contrast with the world of intolerance imposed by the Christian Reconquista. One of the three long essays presented in the book is by Catalan historian Dolors Bramln, titled “The Fallacy of the Fabled ‘Three Cultures’”, which offers critical perspective on traditional stereotypes.
Nevertheless, Savall’s goal of exploring “cultural dialog” is earnestly pursued. There are 24 tracks. Four of them do not contain music but texts, read in the original by Manuel Forcano, one of the designers of this program. Their inclusion made sense for the public concert, but they are a disruption when listening to a record — though translations of the texts are given, along with full texts and translations.


Of the 20 tracks with musical selections, 2 are in Hebrew, 2 are in Ladino, 4 are in Arabic, 2 are in Latin, 1 in Galician, 4 in Castilian (Spanish); and 5 are instrumental. Only three actual composers (Alfonso El Sabio, Carlo Verardi, and Juan del Encina) can be credited. A number of the tracks are simply improvisations in traditional styles. Each selection is pegged to an event in Granada’s history. With two or three exceptions, the musical selections are not explicitly connected with the events, but serve more as scene-setting “music-in-the-time-of” examples.

Savall employs eight singers and instrumentalists of “Eastern” backgrounds, in his usual patterns of inter-cultural collaboration. I am not qualified to appraise their work, but they balance well with the period-music singers and instrumentalists, and the performances maintain high musical standards.

Of the three major printed essays, two are devoted to the history and importance of Granada (which was to be the last stronghold of Muslim rule). A detailed chronology of its Muslim rule and Spanish epilogue (1009-1493, 1499-1609) is also given. These sets of written material are given in Spanish, French, English,

Catalan, German, and Italian There is also a number of color illustrations. This seems to me one of the better of Savall’s thematic CD books. It is the strongest of his explorations of cultural interaction, without the preachiness that has burdened its predecessors. And, despite some glitches, it offers some very unusual, satisfying listening.

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