• MARE NOSTRUM. Orient-Occident : Dialogues
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MARE NOSTRUM. Orient-Occident : Dialogues
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  • Montserrat Figueras, Lior Emaleh
  • Hespèrion XXI
  • Jordi Savall

The essential idea behind all our CD-Books, and in particular this one devoted to Mediterranean civilisation, is to discover elements that can establish links between music and history. Or rather, to re-live and understand the key moments in our historical memory, thanks to the emotion and beauty of music, and in light of the reflections and commentaries of our historians, philosophers, writers and poets.

Additional Information

Montserrat Figueras, Lior Elmaleh

Y. Dalal, G. Dinçer, D. El Maloumi, P. Estevan, H. Güngör, P. Hamon, P. Memelsdorff, A. Lawrence-King
G. Mouradian, N. Nedyalkov, D. Psonis, H. Sarikouyoumdjian, F. Savall, M.S. Tokaç, Y. Tokcan, D. Türkan, F. Yarkın


Llista de temes

CD 1
1. La Guirnalda de rosas (M. Figueras, L. Elmaleh). Romance Sépharade (Espagne XVe s./Rhodes)
2. Saltarello [Mss. CSM 77-119]. Alfonso X El Sabio (Espagne)
3. Kamti Beivshan Layla (L. Elmaleh). Chant Hébreu (Israël)
4. Gagauski (kaval, morisca & percussion). Danse turque (Balkans)
5. Berceuse Amazig (M. Figueras, D. El Maloumi). Tradition Berbère (Maroc)
6. A la una yo nací (inste.). Sépharade (Sarajevo)
7. Üsküdar (G. Dinçer). Chant traditionnel (Turquie)
8. Las Estrellas de los cielos (improvisation instr.). Sépharade (Alexandrie)
9. LaMoledet shuvi roni (L. Elmaleh). Asher Mizrahi (Jérusalem)
10. Taksim & Makam Kurdi Pesrev (instr.). Angeli (Grèce ca.1680)
11. Alef, mem shin (M. Figueras). Sépharade (Turquie)
12. Taksim – Pesendîde « Saz Semârsi » (instr.). Selim III. Istanbul (1800)
13. Noumi noumi yaldati (M. Figueras, L. Elmaleh). Berceuse Hébraïque (Israël)
14. La Armada Turca (instr.). Mélodie Sépharade (Istanbul)

CD 2
1. En la Santa Helena (instr.). Sépharade (Sophie)
2. Shaar petach Dodi (L. Elmaleh). Chant Hébreu (Israël)
3. Taksim Kanun (improvisation). Hakan Güngör (Istanbul)
4. Nana andaluza : Duerme mi niña (M. Figueras). Traditionnel (Espagne)
5. El Rey que tanto madruga (instr.). Sépharade (Maroc)
6. Ana Av Rajman (L. Elmaleh). Chant Hébreu (Maroc)
7. Chominciamento di gioia (Istanpitta) (P. Hamon, P. Estevan). Mss. Trecento (Italie ca.1300)
8. Berceuse Κοιμησου Χαiδεμενο Μου (M. Figueras). Chant traditionnel (Grèce)
9. El cant dels Aucells (instr.). Chant traditionnel (Catalogne)
10. Hon Tahon (L. Elmaleh). Chant Hébreu (Israël)
11. Taksim & Makam «Rast Murass’a» Mss. D. Cantemir n.214 (Istanbul, 1690)
12. Adonenu Elohenu (M. Figueras). Sépharade (Tunisie)
13. Taksim & danse Bulgare. Traditionnel (Bulgarie)
14. Mireu el nostre mar (F. Savall) improvisation, M. Forcano (texte) F.Savall (mus.)


Enregistrements réalisés à la Chapelle de la Miséricorde (Bordeaux) en Décembre 2009, à l’église de à la Collégiale de Cardona (Catalogne) en Novembre 2010, Janvier et Mai 2011 et à l’Abbaye de Fontfroide (France) en Juillet 2011 par Manuel Mohino.


Catàleg complet


The essential idea behind all our CD-Books, and in particular this one devoted to Mediterranean civilisation, is to discover elements that can establish links between music and history. Or rather, to re-live and understand the key moments in our historical memory, thanks to the emotion and beauty of music, and in light of the reflections and commentaries of our historians, philosophers, writers and poets.

Our choice of music to illustrate this diversity was drawn from two main sources: the Sephardic, Berber, Greek, Arab, Hebrew, Andalus and Catalan oral traditions, and the medieval manuscript repertoires of the “trecento”, Cantemir and composers such as the great Greek maestro Angeli and the Ottoman Sultan Selim III, as well as the Taksims (improvisations) preceding the Ottoman Makams, and improvisations on traditional themes such as the Sephardic Romances or melodies and the wonderful Catalan melody El Cant dels Aucells, which is performed first in an instrumental version using early instruments and finally in a contemporary version to a poem by Manuel Forcano, consisting of a dialogue between the voice of Ferran Savall and the kanun, the oud, the kaval, the double bass and percussion.

The civilisations and peoples of “Our Sea” were forged out of two great independent but always mutually permeable flows: invasions and migrations and the development of the three major religions. That is why, as Maurice Aymard so rightly observes, the history of the Mediterranean is above all the history of multiple migrations, invasions, expansions and diasporas; it was shaped as much by the arrival of new peoples as by their successive expansions: Greek, Phoenician, Roman, Arab, Christian and Ottoman. The vast majority of the peoples who live in the region today came from elsewhere sufficiently recently for us to be able to date their arrival, with a certain degree of accuracy, to a period spanning from the second millenium before the current era up to the Middle Ages.

But the Mediterranean is also the history of the mythology, philosophy, ancient beliefs, spiritual thought and conflicts that are intimately linked to the three major monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As Roger Arnaldez so aptly writes, “Whatever the origin of religions, it seems that polytheism was well suited to the practical experience of human beings battling with a hostile natural world, the arena in which opposing forces, the winds and the seas, the fires of heaven and earth, were pitted against one another, dragging along in the furious wake of their conflict the destinies and endeavours of mankind. The incessant wars between peoples were themselves a reflection of that constant discord.” For their part, the philosophers endeavoured to make sense of the chaos. For Heraclitus, “Polemos (war) is father and king of all” and he ardently searches for the principles of concord in what he calls “the Logos”. But only “that which struggles against itself can achieve harmony: movement back and forth like that of the bow and the lyre”, and he adds that “it is out of opposition that the loveliest harmony is born: everything comes into being through discord.” The evolution of Greek thought towards the idea of a unique God was no doubt long hampered by the religious particularities of the city states. It was not until the Empire of Alexander that a certain cosmopolitanism emerged, which had an undeniable influence on the affirmation of monotheism in the Greek world.

The one God revealed himself to the Hebrews, but this was a Jealous God who wanted men to worship Him alone. It was a highly exclusive form of monotheism in which He demanded that His people completely turn away from “idols” and even that they cut themselves off from all idolatrous peoples. Unlike the Greeks, whose evolution was more an adventure of thought than the result of a historical reversal of fortune, it was through their constant struggle with the foreign peoples who surrounded them and threatened their existence and freedom as a nation, as well as their faithfulness to their God, that the Children of Israel came to conceive of their God: the King of Nations, who fundamentally remained the King of Israel, who hade made a covenant with his people under the Law. In the final centuries of Antiquity and the early centuries of the Christian era, the Jews spread throughout the Mediterranean, particularly in Alexandria and Rome, thus constituting the first diaspora. As Roger Arnaldez explains, it was chiefly the sizeable Jewish population in Alexandria, together with the fact that Greek culture prevailed there, which paved the way for the authoritative works of Philo of Alexandria, which strove to bring the profound idea of Mosaic thought and the symbolic meaning of the Law within the grasp of Hellenistic thinking, nourished as it was on Platonism and stoicism, but also equally curious about Eastern mystery religions.

At the time when Jesus of Nazareth was born, Judaism was beset by social and political crises and was in a state of ferment as a result of the welter of religious views. Pharisees, Sadducees and Zealots disputed with one another, and there were also the Essenes, of whom we have a better understanding, thanks to the Dead Sea scrolls, and the Therapeuts, who may have been associated with the Essenes, and whom Philo mentions in his Da Vita Contemplativa. The one God preached by Christ is of course the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But He is not exclusive to those with whom He made his covenant. He is above the squabbles between humans. “God is love”: that was the great new revelation proclaimed by John in his first Epistle (4,8), who uses the word “agape” to rule out any reference to the theogonies and cosmogonies based on sexual imagery; he reveals the intimate mystery of the living God as proclaimed by the prophets and teaches that man is called to participate in this life through love: “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God” (Ibid, 4, 7-10). As an offshoot of Judaism, Christianity’s eartliest existence was in a Judaeo-Christian context. But, going further than Philo of Alexandria, Saint Paul understood that his faith could only be accepted by the Gentiles if it was separate from the Law of Moses: “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one.”

Christianity scored a political victory under Emperor Constantine. It is no wonder that, despised and ill treated by the Romans, and even more so by the triumphant Christians, these people of the Old Testament, now deprived of their Temple in Jerusalem and bereft of prophets, retreated under the guidance of their scholars into the preservation of what they still had left: their Book. They transcribed it, fixed it, studied its every word throughout their lives, for it was their very reason for being and living. It was in this hothouse atmosphere of isolation that gave rise to an immense body of literature based on the Mishnah, the Talmuds of Jerusalem and Babylon, the Halakha and the Aggada, culminating in the Cabbala and Jewish mysticism.

The Christians, on the other hand, followed very different paths. Of course, they also studied the sacred books, but they had become the vehicles of Graeco-Roman civilisation. Once it was the official religion of the Empire, Christianity was confronted with a great danger: the love of wealth and luxury and the taste for power. At the same time, however, a spirit of poverty, simplicity and humility was preserved and developed through Western monasticism with Saint Benedict and his rule: a life of obedience, prayer, penitence and work.

The last of the events to rock the medieval world of the Mediterranean was the rapid conquest of cities and countries by the “Knights of Allah”. Once again, it is Roger Arnaldez who reminds us that those “Knights from the deserts of Arabia” were no ordinary invaders, driven simply by an appetite for conquest and booty (although human beings are never entirely without greed): they brought with them a new faith, preached by the prophet Mohammed, which presented itself as a return to the faith of Abraham, the father of all believers, the friend of God. That faith needed to be restored, because the Jews and the Christians had distorted it, obscuring or altering the truths contained in the true Torah and the Gospel, as revealed to the prophets Moses and Jesus. Absolute monotheism is affirmed in the Coran, the eternal uncreated word of God, in the bluntest, most uncompromising terms. “Preach, in the name of your Lord who created” (96,1). It is not for man to question God’s actions or commandments; on the contrary, it is He who questions man (21, 23). From his servants He demands strict obedience and submission to his will. In fact, the word “islâm” means submission, and Islam portrays itself as the restoration of a unique truth which must create unity among all believers. “Say: O people of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not from among ourselves Lords and patrons other than Allah.” (3, 64-71). Certainly, in terms of the simplicity of its dogma, Islam can be presented as the faith which should be common to the three monotheistic religions: one God, one faith, one community. According to one well-known hadith, “faith consists of believing in God, His angels, His Books, His Messengers and the Day of Judgement, and that fate, both good and bad, is divinely preordained” (Iman-e-Mufassil, or the Detailed Declaration of Faith).

One might suppose that such a creed should gather all the monotheistic faiths in agreement, but in fact, as revealed religions they fail to see eye-to-eye. The Books and the Messengers are not the same, or, if they are, they are not understood in the same way.

In one respect, they did have something in common. In all three religions the idea of one God poses problems, and each certainly had its share of literalists and fundamentalists. Ultimately, however, Greek philosophy came to be universally adopted as the basis for methods of rational thought. At Baghdad, the Beit al-Hikma (“House of Wisdom”), founded by Caliph al-Mamoun, became a repository for the philosophical and scientific heritage of Alexandria, where Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars came together to work on the translation of Greek texts.

In human terms, the modern-day Mediterranean is primarily the work of three great migratory movements, spread out over more than three thousand years. The first – and also the longest, from the year 2000 before our era until the end of the barbarian invasions, populated the peninsulas and the Northern shores: Hittites, Greeks, Italic and Celtic peoples from East to West, and then, following Rome’s failure to contain them, the Franks, the Lombards and the Slavs. All these invasions took their toll in terms of brutal upheaval and large-scale devastation, followed by long periods of regression. The destruction, in the 12th century before our era, of the Achaean kingdoms of Mycene and Argos by a second wave of Greek invaders, the Dorians, marked the beginning of a Middle Ages comparable to that which ensued after the collapse of Rome in the face of the barbarian onslaught.

The other two migratory movements described by Maurice Aymard are attributable to two groups, no doubt smaller in number than the first, of great nomadic peoples: the Arabs and the Turks. From the 7th century the former spread out from their tropical deserts in the Middle East, toppled the weakened resistence of Byzantium and, over the ensuing two centuries, imposed their brand new faith and their language from Baghdad to Gibraltar, even overrunning the North, occupying Spain and Sicily and ravaging the coasts of Italy and France. The latter emerged from the cold steppes of central Asia to settle in Anatolia in the 11th century: three hundred years later, the Osmanli state had successfully established itself in the Balkans before going on to seize Constantinople, and subsequently bringing the whole of Mediterranean Islam, as far as Algiers, under its control. Under Suleyman the Magnificent, Istanbul paradoxically became not only the capital city of Turkey, but also the foremost Greek, Armenian and Jewish city… It has to be said that there was no trace of forced conversion: “infidels” were free to live in the Empire, as is confirmed by the special tax, the jizya, that was levied on non-Muslims. Henceforth, the major rift was to be not between North and South, but between East and West.

Throughout the centuries, migrations had been the cornerstone of the history and unity of the Mediterranean, whereas today they threaten to unravel it. Today we can see how that threat is fuelling the spirit of revolt and the passionate search for identities which are in danger of being eroded by linguistic, political and economic levelling.

As the influence of Athens and Jerusalem spread throughout the Mediterranean, their combined philosophical and religious cultures laid the foundations of Western civilisation. We echo the hope expressed by Roger Arnaldez when he writes: “We must look forward to the renewal of such contact between thinkers of the three monotheistic religions of the Mediterranean in conditions which could be even more favourable than in the past.” Our cultures and civilisations have everything to gain from the establishment of a true intercultural dialogue between East and West; a genuine dialogue which, if our cultures and civilisations could find a way, would enable them, if not to achieve unity, then at least to rediscover a promising raft of common ideals and shared values which are the bedrock of their strength and their originality: ideals and values which stem from this ancient MARE NOSTRUM of the Mediterranean basin.

Let us allow history to help us gain a better understanding of our origins and tragedies, of our conflicts and our hopes. And let us allow music, through the dialogue of voices and instruments, to show us how the infinite richness of our “Mediterranean” musical diversity can provide an inexhaustible source of emotions and beauty, of dialogues and discoveries. Like Amin Maalouf, we believe that “If we are to restore some hope to our disoriented humanity, we must go beyond a mere dialogue of cultures and beliefs towards a dialogue of souls. As we stand at the beginning of the 21st century, that is the irreplaceable mission of Art.”

New York, 10/15th October 2011

Translated by Jacqueline Minett