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GRAMOPHONE ( 11 / 2018)
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Alia Vox

Code-barres / Barcode : 8435408099264


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Reviewer: Lindsay Kemp

‘Musica Nova’ takes its title from a collection of ricercars published in Venice in 1540, even though only one of the pieces here (a delicately churchy Ricercare by Hieronimus Parabosco) comes from it. Instead the disc explores the concept of a ‘new music’ which – whether with origins in either vocal polyphony or dance music – was to be put in the hands of serious instrumental ensembles such as the consort of viols. What is more, Savall follows the idea beyond the expected consort repertoire of Dowland and Gibbons or the solemn dances of Scheidt, sidelines the arrival of the less polyphonically conceived genres of the Baroque and takes things up as far as the end of the 17th century, where we find Legrenzi sonatas, a Charpentier suite and Iberian composers implicitly inviting viols to help themselves to their contrapuntal organ pieces.

If that sounds like a slightly vague idea to get your head round, it is. But once you stop worrying about it, the good news is that this is an immensely enjoyable listen, its music both ravishing and substantial in the hands of these experienced performers. Savall makes no attempt to hide that they have recorded most of its music before, instead identifying the project as an excuse to celebrate over 50 years of working with it. Thus the best way to consume it is to sit back, treat it as the concert it once was and revel in the sound of viols, lute and percussion played with beauty and wisdom, and in perfect balance. So maybe I did find Charpentier’s Concert pour quatre parties de violes a little sluggish, but I’d defy anyone not to succumb to the grinding inner lines of Dowland’s Lachrimae, the peaty soulfulness of William Brade’s Schottisch Tanz, the noble gravity of Scheidt’s Paduan V or the guitar-driven, drum-rumbling adrenalin rush of his Galliard battaglia XXI.

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