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WAR & PEACE (1614-1714)
WAR & PEACE (1614-1714)

“[…] there is greater glory in

killing war itself with words

than by killing men with swords;

and by achieving or maintaining peace through peace

rather than through war.”

Augustine (354-430)

Letter to Darius, 229, 2

In this new CD-Book War & Peace in Europe in the Age of the Baroque, we evoke through music the great century which preceded the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1714: a rich musical fresco and an in-depth historical review of a very brief but highly representative period in the history of Europe and its conflicts. From the Ottomans’ attack on Hungary in 1613, the Massacre of the Jews in Frankfurt in 1614 and the beginning of the Thirty Years War, to the Peace Treaty of Utrecht and the fall of Barcelona, we can see the extent of this unremitting tragedy of European civilization: the widespread use of the “culture of war” as the principal means of settling cultural, religious, political and territorial differences. This inventory of the long, sad succession of confrontations, wars, invasions, attacks, massacres, aggressions, sacking and fighting between peoples and ethnic groups throughout the history of mankind (in this case in Europe), teaches us that it is both necessary and urgent to acquire new ways of relating to each another if we are to reconcile differences in a world that is fertile in action, word and thought.

A century at war: 1614 – 1714

The 17th century began with numerous attempted invasions, constant skirmishes and repeated attacks by the Ottomans, who invaded and laid waste to Hungary on several occasions, and by the Thirty Years War. The length and violence of the war, of which the causes were multiple, had a grave impact on the economy and the demographics of central Europe and Spain. The various armed conflicts collectively known as the “Thirty Years War” tore Europe apart from 1618 to 1648, pitting the Habsburgs of Spain and the Holy Roman Empire against the mostly Protestant neighbouring European Powers, and sometimes also against France, which was mainly Catholic. The various episodes of the war including constant conflicts in the Netherlands, the Peace of Prague of 1635 (which, although it did not put an end to the Thirty Years War, brought about a change in the belligerents); the war against Spain, where the battlefronts shifted geographically from North to South; the war of the Ottoman Empire against Venice; the civil war in England, another nation which intervened on the international scene in a war as long as it was complicated; the Peace of the Pyrenees; the conquest of Crete by the Ottomans; the Treaties of Nimeguen and Ryswick and the Ottoman war against Russia, show that, far from being a separate issue, peace is always inevitably bound up with war. Our selection of music concludes with pieces celebrating the Peace Treaty of Utrecht, which in 1713 partially concluded the great War of the Spanish Succession. This large-scale conflict, in which the leading European Powers were locked in battle from 1701 to 1714, was the last great war waged by Louis XIV in his bid for the succession to the Spanish throne and, therefore, domination in Europe; the war of succession to the Spanish crown, which ended on 11th September 1714 with the capitulation of Barcelona, and was to have profound and lasting consequences for the organisation and relations between European nations, particularly between Catalonia and Spain. The Peace of Utrecht, which marked the end of the conflict, was one of the most important peace treaties of Modern Europe, drawing a new geopolitical map which would influence international relations throughout the 18th century and which would remain largely unaltered until the beginning of the 19th century, following the Napoleonic campaigns and another international alignment of similar importance arising from the Treaty of Vienna.

Music, Emotion & Memory

As a counterpoint to these moments in history, we have chosen to perform the most representative musical works by contemporary composers, both known and anonymous, from the period: Samuel Scheidt, Ambrosio Cotes, Lope de Vega, Johann Hermann Schein, Guillaume Dumanoir, Philidor, Johann Rosenmüller, John Jenkins, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Dimitrie Cantemir, Francesco Cavalli, Joan Cererols, John Blow, Joan Cabanilles, Marc-Antoine Charpentier, Antonio Caldara, Vasily Titov, Heinrich Ignaz Franz Bibern and George Frederick Händel, among the former, and Jewish (Aramaic), Ottoman, Catalan, Spanish and French composers, among the latter. Music, one of the highest artistic expressions of human sensibility, has been the constant companion of men and women in times both of war and peace. Sometimes it has been used as a rallying call to war, but it has also marked the signing of the peace. Music has been present at the battle-front as well as at the negotiating tables where peace treaties are signed, when former enemies finally decide to reach an agreement. It has roused men to fight, but it has also fostered friendship, harmony and respect between them. One of the fundamental characteristics of all civilizations is their capacity to remember the past, because without memory it is impossible to build a better future. Music is the art of memory par excellence, the most spiritual of all the arts (it only exists when the sound of a voice or an instrument brings it to life) and as such it is the earliest language of human beings.

“Without the senses there is no memory, and without memory there is no mind,” wrote Voltaire. Without the power of music to touch us with its emotion and beauty, it would not be possible for us to be fully human; in Goethe’s words “He who merely loves music is only half a human being, but he who practises it is fully human.” In Goethe’s opinion, musical sound goes straight to the human soul, with which it immediately resonates, “because music is inherent to human beings.”

The great century which concerns us here was graced by some extraordinary artists, scientists, explorers and thinkers, but it also witnessed numerous conflicts in which Christian Europe was embroiled in wars fuelled by religious strife and territorial ambitions. The century also saw the westward advance of the Muslim world and, ultimately, a new balance of power in which sovereign States prevailed over residual pockets of feudalism, resulting in absolute monarchies such as that of Louis XIV. The emotion of music in conjunction with these historical events offers us a new perspective, giving a powerful insight into the origins and the persistence of violence, which is inherent in all war, as well as the difficulties of achieving a durable and just peace between conquerors and conquered, and between peoples of different cultures and religions.

Royal armies versus national armies

It should not be forgotten that, more often than not, those wars were the result of power struggles in which the royal armies of one or several countries were sent to fight against the people of an invaded nation or country. Sometimes those armies fought against each other, while the local inhabitants stood by as more or less willing or helpless onlookers. In the 17th century, armies normally consisted of mainly professional soldiers: the officers were aristocrats, while the troops were mercenaries. This is what Erasmus of Rotterdam wrote in 1500 in his warning to the princes of his day: “And now, Princes, ponder and reflect on whether you have ever seen cities ruined, towns and villages reduced to ashes, churches burned or fields laid waste, and whether this spectacle appeared to you as devastating as it really is… For such is the fruit of war. If you lament the need to open the gates of your realm to the great, accursed multitude of mercenaries, to feed them at the expense of your own subjects, to curry their good will and even flatter them; and if, moreover, it grieves you to entrust yourself and your safety to their whim, then you should know, O Princes, that such misfortune is the fruit of war. War is the scourge of States, the tomb of justice. When the world is at arms, laws are reduced to silence.”

It was after the French Revolution – or, more precisely, from the time of Napoleon, that a terrible, systematic change came about with the conscription of young men from each and every family in both town and country. From then on, conflicts became all-out wars between nations: the French nation against the Russian nation, the German nation against the French nation, etc. Class differences between the aristocracy and the people translated into an elitist distribution of tasks and responsibilities; the result was the terrible carnage of ordinary soldiers in the First World War and the even more appalling and universal slaughter of the Second World War, in which millions, many of them civilians (between 65 and 75 million), were killed.

The culture of war

War has been a constant in the lives of men and women for more than 5,000 years, and today, at the beginning of the 21st century, the culture of war is stronger and more prevalent than ever. More and more armed conflicts all over the world take a daily toll of thousands of often innocent victims. With more than 35 million displaced people in the world, never in the history of mankind have there been such dramatically high numbers of refugees and people who cannot return to their countries of origin.

Like slavery, war is a form of institutionalised violence; it is neither natural nor normal, but is cultural in origin. As Raimon Panikkar so aptly observed in his book entitled Paz y desarme cultural (1993), “The first permanent army, in the sense of an entity specialised in violence, appeared in Babylon at a time when society was changing from being a matriarchy to a patriarchy.” Jan Smuts writes, “When I look at history, I am a pessimist, but when I look at prehistory, I am an optimist.” Indeed, wars were unknown in prehistory, even though tribal violence existed to a greater or lesser degree.

Civilization founded on power began around 3000 BC, when the invention of writing enabled power to become organized and to establish a strict control over society, which in turn led to an increase in slavery as a source of cheap labour and soldiers. From that time forward, the number of wars and their victims steadily increased.

And yet, we should not forget that “for more than 95% of his existence, Man has been a hunter, not a warrior. The urban transformation that accompanied the Neolithic revolution was characterised by the passage from a matriarchal civilization to a patriarchal civilization.”

Peace & Disarmament

The search for peace has also been a constant in the lives of men and women for more than 5,000 years, yet even in today’s world it seems to be an unattainable utopia. Nevertheless, the art of living as a human being is precisely to attempt the impossible. Having said that, as Raimon Panikkar points out, “The attempt to achieve peace by means of a single culture has not gone beyond the archetype of the Pax romana … The objective of peace is necessary if we wish to impose our culture, our economy, our religion or our democracy.” In fact, peace is not possible without disarmament, but the disarmament required is not merely nuclear, military or economic. As Panikkar suggests, we also need a genuine cultural disarmament, “a disarming of the dominant culture that threatens to become a monoculture which, in stifling all other cultures, is ultimately itself asphyxiated.” Is there any way of halting the increasingly deadly arms races and the worldwide proliferation of all manner of ever-more sophisticated weapons of destruction? We cannot forget the more than 124 million victims of the numerous wars waged in the 20th century, from the First World War to more recent conflicts, or the more than 800.000 people who die each year as a result of armed violence, when in more than 50 countries, armed violence is among the ten major causes of death.

Reconciliation

History also has a memory, and it teaches us that “victory never results in peace, that peace is not the fruit of victory,” as demonstrated by the tens of thousands of documents on which Jörg Fisch based his book Krieg und Frieden im Friedensvertrag (Stuttgart, 1979). These documents reveal not only the most unimaginable shortsightedness of human beings, but also their even greater naïveté. In conclusion, history teaches us that peace is not delivered by treaties, just as love is not summoned by decree. There is something in the nature of both peace and love which cannot be created to order, and that “only reconciliation can lead to peace.” All peace is made up of three equal and essential elements: freedom, harmony and justice. But, as Raimon Panikkar, says, “Justice is not to be confused with legality.” In this context, we need only remember that the original Constitution of the United States excluded slaves and black Americans.

I firmly believe that we can only combat the arch enemies of mankind – which are ignorance, hatred and selfishness – through love, knowledge, empathy and understanding. And isn’t that the ultimate purpose of art and thought? That is why it is essential to understand today’s globalised world, to be more aware of the complexity of the circumstances in which we live in order to reflect independently on how we might contribute to change “the dreadful chaos in which exhausted humanity currently lives, seemingly having lost touch with the essential values of civilization and humanism” (Amin Maalouf).

A world in crisis

The chaotic state of the world has been exacerbated in recent years by inhuman economic policies that have sacrificed millions of lives in the pursuit of completely outdated systems of exploitation. That is why, in these times of grave economic crisis, the sharp increase in military spending in the world is all the more surprising, reaching the astronomical figure of more than 1,700 billion dollars and serving merely to fuel and prolong the numerous armed conflicts which currently rage in the East and the West, many of them still unresolved and with little prospect of being resolved in the near future. Unfortunately, this proliferation of long-term conflicts (in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Palestine and Africa), as well as more recent conflicts (Syria) and the so-called “irregular” guerrilla wars (in Latin America) and various forms of terrorism, have so far claimed the lives of thousands of innocent victims and resulted in more than 35 million displaced people in the world. As Erasmus accusingly wrote in 1516, “War almost always takes its heaviest toll on those who have no part in it.” Twenty years after having allowed the systematic destruction of Sarajevo and the massacre of thousands of innocent Bosniaks, we are now witnessing the martyrdom of the Syrian people with the same human indifference and total impotence on the part of the world’s great nations. Absolute evil is always that which man inflicts on man, and it is a universal fact that concerns all mankind. Hannah Arendt was perhaps the first to recognize that fact when in 1945 she wrote: “The problem of evil will be the fundamental question facing postwar intellectual life in Europe.” Can art, music and beauty save mankind from that evil?

In Dostoyevsky’s novel The Idiot, an atheist called Hippolite asks Prince Myshkin, “Is it true, my Prince, that you once said that “beauty” would save the world? Gentlemen,” he exclaimed, addressing the whole company, “the prince contends that beauty will save the world […] What kind of beauty is it that will save the world? […] Myshkin stared at him in silence.” The prince has no answer, but, like Antoni Tàpies, we believe in an art that is useful to society, an art that through beauty, grace, emotion and spirituality, has the power to transform us and make us more sensitive and altruistic.

I would like to conclude with a quotation from a great writer, a man of great commitment and a very dear friend, José Saramago: “If I were asked to place charity, justice and goodness in order of priority, I would put goodness first, justice second and charity third. Because goodness in itself is already a source of justice and charity, and true justice is a source of charity. Charity is what is left when there is neither goodness nor justice. […] And there is one more thing I would like to add. I am old and sceptical enough to realize that “active goodness”, as I call it, is unlikely to become the common social framework. However, it can be the personal driving force of each individual and the best antidote to the ‘sick animal’ that is man.”

JORDI SAVALL

Bellaterra, Autumn 2014

Translated by Jacqueline Minett


Grammy Awards Nomination
Grammy Awards Nomination

LES ROUTES DE L’ESCLAVAGE (ALIA VOX 2016) has been nominated to “Best classical Compendium”. It is the 7th nomination that Jordi Savalls receives, besides having won the award, in 2010, for DINASTIA BORGIA (Best Small Ensamble Performance). The final decision will be known on January 28th during the 60th ceremony of the Grammy Awards. LES ROUTES DE […]


COUPERIN – Apothéoses
COUPERIN – Apothéoses
ALIA VOX AVSA9944
Heritage
CD : 47,02
FRANÇOIS COUPERIN
Les Apothéoses

CD

LE PARNASSE OU L’APOTHÉOSE DE CORELLI
Grande Sonade, en Trio

  • 1.Corelli au piéd du Parnasse
  • 2.Corelli, charmé de la bonne réception
  • 3.Corelli buvant à la Source D’Hypocrêne
  • 4.Enthouziasme de Corelli
  • 5.Corelli, aprés son Enthouziasme
  • 6.Les Muses reveillent Corelli
  • 5.Remerciment de Corelli (gayement)

CONCERT INSTRUMENTAL SOUS LE TITRE D’APOTHEOSE
Composé à la mémoire immortelle
de l’incomparable Monsieur de Lully

  • 1.Lully aux Champs Elysés
  • 2.Air pour les mêmes (gracieusement)
  • 3.Vol de Mercure aux Champs Elysés
  • 4.Descente d’Apollon
  • 5.Rumeur souteraine
  • 6.Plaintes des mêmes
  • 7.Enlévement de Lulli au Parnasse
  • 8.Acueil entre doux et agard
  • 9.Remerciment de Lulli à Apollon
  • 10.Apollon persuade Lulli et Corelli
  • 11.Air léger pour deux violons
  • 12.Corelli, aprés son Enthouziasme
  • 13.Second air. Corelli
  • 14.La Paix du Parnasse (gayement)

 

 Monica Huggett, Chiara Banchini violons
Ton Koopman
clavecin
Hopkinson Smith
théorbe · Bernard Hervé récitant
Jordi Savall
basse de viole et direction

Enregistrement réalisé par Radio France du 19 au 22 mars 1985 en l’église luthérienne Saint-Jean à Paris. Prise de son : Agnès Boissonnode – Montage : Patent Bernard
Direction artistique : Michel Bernard
Mastering SACD : Manuel Mohino.

 

François Couperin
Les Apothéoses

Couperin is too easily seen as the tender, graceful and somewhat melancholy composer, whose soft-toned palette was the same as that which served the brush of Watteau. There was another Couperin who was a master of humour and whose claws were sharp. And yet another who was a musician involved in the aesthetic battles of this time and in the avant-garde. There were great battles, like the one to which the lovers of Italy rallied, and which led him to write, at the age of twenty-two or twenty-four, the first sonatas to appear in France. There were skirmishes, like that in which the sworn masters of the guild of minstrels opposed the royal musicians. In each case we find him participating zealously and actively – but also translating his own positions into music with his characteristic skill and lighthearted humour.

The battle between the Muses – the Italian Muse and the French Muse – had fired up the whole of the seventeenth century, whose history was a vast battle-field in which the Italian troops led by Cavalli or Rossi under the banner of Mazarin advanced and were repulsed by the supporters of the “ballets de Cour”, with tactical withdrawals from the composers of the “airs de cour” and counter-marches from the virtuosi, until the final victory of the renegade Lully, who betrayed his side, seizing the French banner after having changed to a y the Italian ending of his name. This aesthetic struggle should not be taken lightly: it was a serious matter which often affected the very destiny of French art. When Couperin was born, a forced truce succeeded in turning back for ever the transalpine invaders. Lully had his unquestioning supporters, his fanatics. But secretly Italy was re-arming hers, and the early years of the eighteenth century would see Italians and lovers of the beauties of Italy entering the fray again.

It is against this background that the work of François Couperin was written. The attraction of Italian music influenced him first. It was in its name that he first engaged in music, with the zeal of youth. Infatuated with Corelli, it was under an Italian pseudonym, that he presented his first sonata – which was also the first to be composed in France. In the eyes of his contemporaries he was, as the Lullyist fanatic Lecerf de la Viéville scornfully noted – “the passionate servant of the Italian”. Couperin never denied this vein. But, as he grew older, his great achievement would be to attempt the synthesis which he himself was to call “the styles reunited”. This did not represent an inconsistent neutrality but a bilateral engagement, destined to increase the qualities of both styles of music. To the greater richness and melodic generosity which he had learned from Italy, he brought more measure, a more delicate sense of fragility of forms and a taste for the dance which characterized French musical sensibility. Couperin belonged to the country of Descartes in his lucidity and clear consciousness of what he has doing and seeking: and it was in this that his work displayed “commitment”. He did what he wanted, but he said why. It was no longer enough even that he said it: he proclaimed it, but with a smile and a wink which established a modicum of objectivity.

L’Apothéose de Corelli (1724)  and L’Apothéose de Lully (1725) were two declarations of intent, two proclamations of faith, two messages of acknowledgement – and two affirmations, both strong and ambiguous at the same time, by Couperin himself, through the two great ancestors to whom he paid homage. “The Italian and French styles have for a long time (in France) shared the Republic of Music; in my view, I have always admired the things which deserve it, without regard to Composers or Nationalities; and the first Italian sonatas which appeared in France more than thirty years ago, and which encouraged me to compose some afterwards, did no harm, in my opinion, either to the works of Monsieur de Lully or to those of my ancestors, which will always be more admirable than imitable. Thus, by a right which gives me my neutrality, I still sail under the lucky flags which have hitherto been my guides.”

LE PARNASSE OU L’APOTHEOSE DE CORELLI is part of the Goûts réunis.

It is a sonata in the Italian manner, the largest and strongest that Couperin ever wrote. It is not a pastiche, but a serious and grave work that is consistently beautiful, harmonious and noble: it is in this respect, rather than in similarity of style, that it is a homage to Corelli. Each movement is provided with a title, one which is neither an argument or a commentary, but a little wit superimposed on the music, which remains “pure”.

Corelli at the foot of Parnassus begs the Muses to receive him into their midst (gravely).

A powerful melodic bass line in the Corellian manner, long phrases sung in a single breath, elusive harmonies, deceptive progressions, sensuous and delicious clashes.

Corelli, delighted by the good reception given to him on Parnassus, expresses his joy. He continues with those who accompany him (gaily).

A very fine fugato, developed at length.

Corelli, drinking at the Fountain of Hippocrene, his Flock continues (moderately).

A limpid movement, the only one that could be considered descriptive, with long, sustained notes, smooth dissonances evoking the sacred fountain which gushed forth when Pegasus struck the ground with his hoof.

Corelli’s enthusiasm aroused by the waters of Hippocrene (lively).

A short, almost concertante, movement, with fleeting and shivering string figures which recall Corelli’s reputation for playing “like one possessed”.

Corelli, after his enthusiasm, falls asleep; and his Flock plays the following slumber (very softly).

Sommeil, like those found in many Italian operas of the time, but also in the Sinfonie da chiesa, with admirable harmonic refinement.

The Muses awaken Corelli and place him alongside Apollo (lively).

This is a tromba, with dotted figures and semiquaver triplets achieving a joyful effect.

Corelli’s thanks (gaily).

One of Couperin’s finest fugal movements, based on a fine theme of Italianate build, almost more like Vivaldi than Corelli.

 

CONCERT INSTRUMENTAL SOUS LE TITRE D’APOTHÉOSE COMPOSÉ A LA MÉMOIRE IMMORTELLE DE L’INCOMPARABLE MONSIEUR DE LULLY. (Instrumental Concert with the title of Apotheosis composed to the immortal memory of the incomparable Monsieur de Lully).

The title is grandiloquent and emphatic, but it reveals the humour of Couperin; it would seem to be addressed to the worshippers of the Surintendant with their own hagiographic jargon… In every bar of this new work we can find humour, tinged with seriousness: this immediately sets it apart from L’Apothéose de Corelli, which was a sonata provided with titles; this is true programme music, whose wit might escape us if we did not know what it was about.

Lully in the Elysian Fields, concertizing with the lyric Shades (gravely).

This is a grand operatic ritournelle in a simple style like that of Lully. In the Elysian Fields Lully was clearly in charge. Even there he found a way to be director (Surintendant).

Air for the same (gracefully).

This is a kind of Entrée de Ballet with dance rhythm.

The Flight of Mercury to the Elysian Fields to announce the descent of Apollo (very quick).

This was a direct allusion to the operatic scenes in which the gods were preceded by messengers.

Descent of Apollo who comes to offer Lully his violin and his place in Parnassus (nobly).

This is an orchestral piece, traditionally used in opera, to celebrate the majesty of the event, and to cover up the noise of the machines…

Subterranean rumbling from Lully’s contemporaries (quick).

Couperin begins to amuse himself. Those jealous of Lully were the Italians and their imitator whom he had destroyed and who brooded on their vengeance. Hence the style, different to that of the opening, which came straight from the other side of the Alps.

Complaints of the same: by the Violins much softened (dolefully).

Were they complaining in French?

The raising of Lully to Parnassus (very lightly).

A little embryo of the fugal style, with a few Italianate syncopations …

Part friendly, part aloof reception given to Lully by Corelli and the Italian Muses (largo).

This is built upon a typical Corellian moving bass.

Lully’s thanks to Apollo (gracefully).

A fine, richly ornamented air, totally French in style and manner.

Apollo persuades Lully and Corelli that the reunion of the French and Italian styles must be perfection in Music. Essay in the form of an Overture.

Corelli greatly admired the Overture to Armide, which he had had framed: it is therefore not at all surprising that Apollo-Couperin should greet the reconciliation of the two rival styles with an overture in the French style, somewhat Italianized!

Light Air for two violins, with Lully playing the Subject and Corelli the accompaniment. Second Air, with Corelli now playing the Subject and Lully the accompaniment.

Here Couperin was clearly enjoying himself with this little duet in the form of a double pastiche, in which each of the two styles appears in turn. It is one of the most attractive examples of “in the style of…” music.

The Peace of Parnassus, made on condition, following complaints by the French Muses, that, when their language was spoken, one would henceforth say Sonade, Cantade, just as we say Ballade, Sérénade and Sonade en Trio.

Here are the “Goüts réunis”: the French Muses play the first violin part, the Italian Muses the second. The fusion of the genres is perfect, the synthesis ideal.

The triumph of Apollo … and of Couperin!

 

PHILIPPE BEAUSSANT
Translated by Frank Dobbins


Marin Marais Alcione. Tragédie lyrique
Marin Marais Alcione. Tragédie lyrique

An all-round spectacle

The last great tragédie en musique or “musical tragedy” of the reign of Louis XIV, Alcyone (Alcione, as the title appears in the 1706 edition) is an all-round spectacle poised between the 17th and 18th centuries. From the 17th century it takes its mythological source, its prologue in praise of the king, its high literary quality and its vocation for spectacle, combining choreography and changes of scenery. In the depth of the emotions experienced by its protagonists, more sensitive than heroic, as well as in the expressiveness of the orchestra which envelopes them in a true sound décor, it ushers in the 18th century.

Structured, like all musical tragedies, in the form of a prologue and five acts, Alcyone was conceived by a successful young librettist, Antoine Houdar de La Motte, and Marin Marais, the most famous violist of his day. The magnificent portrait of Marais by André Bouys was widely distributed at the time in the form of an engraving. At about the age of fifty, Marais had just been appointed to the prestigious position of batteur de mesure (in modern terms, conductor of the orchestra) of the Royal Academy of Music at the Paris Opéra. Alcyone’s premiere on 18th February, 1706, was a major event, both for the composer and for the institution itself, which since 1673 had been installed in the Théàtre du Palais-Royal, at that time the residence of the Duke of Orléans, in what is now the Conseil d’État or Constitutional Council, and which was roughly the same size as the present-day Salle Favart, home to the Théâtre National de l’Opéra Comique.

In 1706, 19 years had passed since the death of the former director of the Opéra, Jean-Baptiste Lully, and the institution found itself in a fragile state. At Versailles, pleasure had long since been ousted by piety. Under the influence of Madame de Maintenon and Bossuet, the monarch was reconciled to Rome before dragging France into the long War of the Spanish Succession. New operas were very rarely staged at court, and they were not necessarily performed in the presence of the king. The fragile financial health of the realm’s foremost public theatre led the Opéra’s privilege-holders to put management in the hands of contract employees: a director and a number of sponsors. The repertory was opened up to Lully’s successors and embraced new lyrical formulas. The opéra-ballet, an entertaining genre represented by the works of Colasse and Campra, had for ten years enjoyed a roaring success.

Louis XIV did not attend the first performance of Alcyone, of which the prologue, as was de rigueur in this official genre, nevertheless extolled his might. Following the custom of the previous  fifty years, the king is represented in the guise of Apollo, who triumphs over Pan by singing a hymn to peace: “Amiable Peace, […] / Happy, happy the victor who takes up arms / Only to restore you to the world.” Apollo then orders “a fine pageant” to mark his victory and instructs the muses to repeat the story of the Halcyons, the divinities who watch over the calm of the oceans, which was so vital to the prosperity of the French navy!

The following five acts tell in five tableaux the story of the Halcyons, or rather that of their parents, as taken from Book XI of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, the source of numerous operatic subjects of the period. It revolves around Ceyx, King of Trachis in Thessaly and the son of Phosphorus, the god of light, and Alcyone, the daughter of Aeolus, the god of the winds. Like Alceste, Armide, Dido and many others, the heroine gives her name to the opera, guiding the spectators through a labyrinth of passions which are less political and more intimate in nature than masculine passions. The daughter of a god who rules the elements, she anchors the work in the marine environment, a judicious choice for a show which, in the Baroque period, owed its spectacular qualities (scenic carpentry, stage machinery, set-change mechanisms) to naval engineers and technicians.

The heterogeneous audiences at the Opéra were less reticent than royalty when it came to being won over, from the very first evening, by Jean Bérain’s sets and the remarkable performance conducted by the composer himself. The finest singers and dancers of the company graced the stage, and in the orchestra pit, brightly lit like the rest of the theatre, sat the finest orchestra in Europe. It brought together some forty musicians, most of whom were reputed soloists and even composers in their own right. Inventive, colourful and varied, Marais’s score was all the enthusiastically received in that it included an already popular character from opera, Peleus, the friend and unhappy rival of Ceyx, and at least one folk tune transformed into the sailors’ chorus in Act III. When Alcyone was performed, box- office takings were almost 60% higher than on other evenings.

The revivals of Alcyone at the Opéra bear witness to its enduring popularity, despite the fact that the nature of musical spectacles at that time was undergoing a shift toward dance, variety and entertainment. The 1719, 1730, 1741, 1756, 1757 and 1771 revivals of the work suffered changes and cuts, the brunt of which were borne by the prologue, but the sea storm and, above all, the tempest, remained a must. The storm was included in  a revival of Lully’s Alceste in 1707, quoted by Campra in Les Fêtes vénitiennes in 1710… Proof of its huge popularity were the parodies accompanying a number of revivals: Fuzelier wrote L’Ami à la mode ou parodie d’Alcyone in 1719 for the actors and marionnettes of the Foire Saint-Germain, and in 1741 Romagnesi composed a parodic Alcyone for the Théâtre-Italien.

If the storm scene enjoyed particular success, it was because of its ability to depict unbridled nature by “concealing art with art”, something for which Jean-Philippe Rameau also strove – in other words, by using all the resources of serious music to translate the chaos of the elements. With his descriptive symphony, Marais promoted a new vision of his art: henceforth, not only would music be able to portray everything, but it would pull no punches to achieve that goal, incorporating new instruments as well as new ways of playing them. The doors opened to musicians by Marais would never again be closed.

It is this creative freedom and this art of enchantment that is brought to life by Jordi Savall as director of the Concert des Nations, playing on period instruments, and Louise Moaty, assisted by Raphaëlle Boitel, in the first Paris stage production of Alcyone since 1771.

AGNÈS TERRIER

Opéra Comique, Paris, April 2017

Translated by Jacqueline Minett


W.A. MOZART – Le Testament Symphonique
W.A. MOZART – Le Testament Symphonique

Mozart’s Symphonic Testament

1787-1788
Years of creative maturity, years of distress

By the middle of 1788, at the age of 32, Mozart had reached the height of his creative maturity, dominated by the last three symphonies, absolute masterpieces that he composed in a very short period of time – barely one and a half months. This extraordinary “symphonic massif” consisting of three peaks – Symphony No. 39 in E-flat major, completed on 26th June, Symphony No 40 in G minor, completed on 25th July and Symphony No. 41 in C major, the “Jupiter”, dated 10th August – is unquestionably the composer’s “Symphonic Testament”. A titanic task that he carried out without any specific commission, and, moreover, in extremely precarious personal circumstances, as can be seen from the following letter, penned almost at the same time as the Symphony in G minor (K.550), which was finished on 25th July, which he sent to Michael Puchberg, a member of the Zur Wahrheit (“To Truth”) Masonic lodge, who at that time frequently responded positively to his desperate pleas for help by regularly lending him money:

“My very dear friend and brother in the Order,

Owing to great difficulties and complications, my affairs have become so beleaguered that I find myself having to raise some money on these two pawn-broker’s tickets. In the name of our friendship, I beg you to do me this kindness, but it must be immediately. Forgive me for bothering you, but you know what my circumstances are.”

It is difficult today to imagine a more brutal contrast between the unremitting distress experienced by Mozart in his daily life, particularly in the final years, and the grandeur and dazzling richness of his unique and remarkable musical inspiration. It is therefore a great honour for us to present this “Symphonic Testament” of Mozart, with the recording of his last three symphonies, performed by the orchestra of Le Concert des Nations on period instruments, fully aware of Mozart’s suffering and extreme hardships at a time and in a society that failed to grasp his true musical greatness and to provide him with the moral and financial support he needed to fully develop his incomparable genius.

It was during the process of studying and understanding Mozart’s context and creative motivations at the time of composing his last three symphonies that I realised that it was essential to delve once more into his work and the most significant events of his life during the second half of 1787 and the following years. The summer of 1788 was a period of extraordinary creativity and maturity for the composer, but it was also the moment at which his life crossed the threshold of financial difficulties and declined into the most abject poverty, a situation which constantly obliged him to enter into unsustainable debts by regularly seeking loans from his friends at the Masonic lodges of which he had been a member after being admitted to the Order on 14th December, 1784.

The impressive research carried out by H. C. Robbins Landon during the 1980s clearly confirms Mozart’s links with Freemasonry during the last years of his life, in particular the Masonic lodge Zur gekrönten Hoffnung (Crowned Hope) in Vienna. It is for this reason that we have specially chosen the anonymous painting depicting a meeting of the Crowned Hope Masonic lodge in 1790 as the cover illustration of our edition. Mozart is distinctly visible as the first figure on the right of the painting. To reinforce the visual presence of Mozart in the cover image, we have taken the liberty of replacing the illustration on the wall in the background of the painting with the unfinished portrait of the composer by his brother-in-law Joseph Lange (1789 and 1790). The allegorical painting hanging on the wall in the original (reproduced in the booklet) represents an expanse of water and a rainbow. Given that the rainbow which appeared after the Flood, is a symbol of hope in the Bible and in Masonic iconography, it must have been obvious to the initiated that the painting depicted the Crowned Hope Lodge.

These links with Freemasonry are further corroborated by the recent discovery of an authentic document in which Mozart is referred to as member

Nº 56: “Mozart Wolfgang: Kapell Meister III Degree”.

We also know that Mozart’s most important Masonic work, the Maurerische Trauermusik (K.477), was performed in 1785 at the funeral following the death of two members of that lodge – Georg August, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (who died on 6th November) and Franz, Count Esterházy von Galántha (who died on 7th November). As the count was a brother of the lodge, a funeral was held there on 17th November with the participation of an orchestral ensemble as extraordinary as it was fortuitous, including the two brothers Anton David and Vincenz Springer, who played the basset horn parts, very likely joined by Mozart’s friend Anton Stadler on the clarinet. We entirely agree with Robbins Landon when he writes: “The dense symbolism of this Masonic Funeral Music shows that Mozart was thoroughly imbued with the theories and philosophy of death and their relevance to the first degree of the Order.”[1]

Two years later, in 1787, Mozart began the year under more auspicious circumstances following the enthusiastic welcome he had been given in Prague, a city which offered him everything that Vienna had denied him: success, official support, a stage and a theatre company. But he was at a critical juncture and he turned the offer down, saying: “I belong too much to others, and too little to myself.” He needed solitude in order to compose and think. Over the following months, various factors closely linked to his personal life were to have a profound effect on him: the departure from Vienna of Nancy Storace (who had sung Suzanne in The Marriage of Figaro), thus drawing to a close the sweetest love of his life, the death of his third child, as well as that of his friend Hatzfeld, and the news (received on 4th April) of his father’s worsening state of health and his eventual death, which occurred in Wolfgang’s absence on 28th May, 1787.

It was at this time that he fraternally (in the Masonic sense) spoke to his father about the meaning of death. In a famous letter, written on 4th April 1787, Wolfgang confided in the dying Leopold: “As death (when closely considered) is the true goal of our life, I have made myself so thoroughly acquainted with this good and faithful friend of man, that not only does its image no longer alarm me, but rather it is something most peaceful and consolatory! And I thank God that He has vouchsafed to grant me the happiness, and has given me the opportunity (you understand me), to learn to see it as the key to our true felicity. I never lie down at night without thinking (young as I am) that I may be no more before the next morning.”

A month later, in the letter dated 11th May of the same year, addressed to his daughter Nannerl, Leopold Mozart voiced his concern: “Your brother is now living at 224, Landstrasse. He has given me no explanation regarding this matter. None at all! Unfortunately, I can guess the reason.” Mozart had already started to get into debt, but what were the reasons and circumstances that had led him to live beyond his means? We can only speculate on the answer to these questions.

On 29th October in Prague he performed his opera Don Giovanni, based on Tirso de Molina’s famous play, in an admirable stage version by Lorenzo Da Ponte, working to instructions from Mozart himself, who wished to give greater prominence to the secondary characters in the quartet, the mask trio, and the sextet. The sublime vision of this opera reveals Mozart as a dramatic genius on a par with Shakespeare or Molière.

In spite of his enormous financial difficulties, his creative energy, encouraged by his success in Prague was not diminished. On the contrary, after the opera he enjoyed a burst of creativity which was to culminate in the composition of his last three symphonies. We agree with Jean-Victor Hocquard, who writes: “He suggests the concept of a vast 3-part symphonic project; it is therefore appropriate not to see these three masterpieces in isolation, but to consider them as the three movements of a single, vast symphonic work.” Mozart the Freemason knew that he was not separate from the universe, and that his own personal story and human society were connected in many ways that were sometimes mysterious and sometimes evident. Like J. & B. Massin, we believe that “It was from his most intimate Erlebnis (experience) that the 1788 trilogy was born, yet it transcends the composer’s personal circumstances while remaining true to them, and the victory proclaimed in the Symphony in C major is both Mozart’s victory over poverty and solitude and the victorious future towards which humanity is progressing.”

This unity strikes us as quite evident, both in terms of performance and as a listening experience: one need only feel the naturalness and eloquence of the development of the first movement of the Symphony in G minor, performing or listening to it after the final Allegro of the Symphony in E-flat major. The same perfect continuity of musical discourse is apparent when we approach the Symphony in C major after the Finale of the Symphony in G minor Hence our proposal of the three symphonies on two CDs, with Symphonies 39 and 40 on CD1 and Symphonies 40 and 41 on CD2. (Repeating the Symphony in G minor on the second CD, enables us to listen to them one after the other, without having to change CDs).

These works, which Mozart possibly never heard performed, were not readily understood in his own day, or even by later generations. At the end of 1790, Gerber published in his Historisch-Biographisches Lexicon der Tonkünstler the following entry on Mozart, referring to his isolation and the difficulty of his contemporaries in understanding his work:

“Thanks to his precocious knowledge of harmony, this great master acquired such a profound and intimate familiarity with this science that it is difficult for an untrained ear to follow his compositions. Even the most seasoned audiences need to listen to his compositions several times.”

Berlioz writes of these last symphonies that they contain “Too many pointless developments to no effect, too many technical tricks”. “If one requires of music an imaginative and impassioned exaltation, sustained and taken to extremes thanks to a rhetoric in which the ‘effects’ are judiciously or obligingly tempered, then he is right”. What is distinctive about Mozart”, argues Jean-Victor Hocquard in his magnificent biography of the composer (Ed. du Seuil, Paris 1970) – “is not only that he did not contrive these effects, but rather that, having tried them, he then broke the mould. His symphonies were unparalleled, and what the maestro had done for the string quartet and quintet, he now achieves in his writing for the orchestra independently of the piano: he makes it the substance of pure poetry.” Mozart reached maturity and the peak of symphonic composition in his day at the age of 32. It was not until eleven years later (1799) that a 29-year-old Ludwig van Beethoven would follow Mozart’s lead and compose his Symphony No. 1 in C major.

———

In 1789 Mozart’s circumstances had deteriorated even further. But what a contrast between the creative intensity of this musical giant and his wretched and increasingly desperate financial situation, one which too often forced him to borrow money from his friends at the Masonic lodge.

In another letter to Michael Puchberg dated 12th July, 1789, he writes:

“Oh, God. Instead of thanking you, I come to you with new requests! Instead of paying off my debts, I come asking for more! If you can see into my heart, you must feel that same anguish that I am experiencing I hardly need remind you that this unfortunate illness is slowing me down with my earnings: however, I must tell you that, in spite of my miserable situation, I decided to go ahead and give subscription concerts at my house so that I can at least meet my numerous current expenses, which are considerable and   frequent; for I was absolutely convinced that I could rely on your friendly help and support; but in this respect also I have failed! Unfortunately, fate is so against me, albeit only in Vienna, that I cannot earn any money, no matter how hard I try. For two weeks now I have sent round a list for subscriptions, and the only name on it is Swieten!”

One year later, on 20th January, 1790, Mozart wrote once again to his friend Puchberg:

“If you can and will lend me a further 100 florins, you will oblige me very greatly. We are having the first instrumental rehearsal at the theatre tomorrow. Haydn is coming with me. If your business allows you to do so, and if you would like to hear the rehearsal, please come to my quarters at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning, and we shall all go there together.”

Your very sincere friend.

  1. A. Mozart”

Joseph Haydn and Puchberg followed closely the birth of Così fan tutte, and Puchberg continued to lend Mozart money on the security of the composer’s fees. The premiere took place at the national theatre on 26th January, 1790. The critics’ reactions were good, and it appears that for the first time in Vienna there was unanimity concerning one of Mozart’s operas. The day after the premiere, Mozart celebrated his 34th birthday. It was to be his last full year of life; he would not see out the year 1791. Così fan tutte was performed another four times, but on 20th February Emperor Joseph II died and the theatres remained closed during the official period of mourning until 12th April. For Mozart, Joseph II’s death was a total disaster; the performances of his opera were immediately cancelled and he was unable to organise any concerts. The less immediate consequences were even more serious.

From the end of January until the end of April, he had written nothing – a state of affairs that he had not experienced since the winter of 1779-1780 at Salzburg. It was a clear sign of his depression; he had never been in such dire straits. On 14th August, 1790, he sent Puchberg an S.O.S. – the most tragic of his begging letters.

“My dear friend and brother, I was tolerably well yesterday, but I feel absolutely wretched today: I could not sleep all night because of the pain; I must have got overheated yesterday from walking so much and then I must have caught a chill without realising it. Imagine my situation! Sick and overcome with worries and anguish! Such a situation prevents a quick recovery. In a week or fortnight I shall be better off, certainly, but at present, I am destitute. Could you not help me out with a trifle? The smallest sum would be very welcome just now and for the time being you would provide relief for your true friend and brother.”

  1. A. Mozart”

As Jean and Brigitte Massin so aptly observe in their indispensable book on the life and work of Mozart (Paris 1970): “This time, Mozart had reached rock bottom. That same day, Puchberg sent him 10 florins, the most modest sum he had ever been loaned. This brought Puchberg’s loans to Mozart since those of the previous winter to a total of 510 florins, the composer’s expected fees from Così fan tutte being offered as security. The amounts of money lent by Puchberg closely reflect Mozart’s perceived social standing. In April-May, it seemed likely that Mozart would obtain a coveted position at Court, and Puchberg accordingly answered Wolfgang’s requests by sending him sums of 150 or 100 florins; but when it became clear that he could no longer hope to secure the position, the value of the loans decreased to 10 florins following Mozart’s desperate letter written in August.” Events showed that the increasing distance between the Court of the new Emperor Leopold II and Mozart was due to fear that the French Revolution, which had succeeded in toppling the monarchy of Versailles, would spread, as well as Leopold II’s growing conviction that Freemasons – and particularly those who sympathised with the Enlightenment – were in league with the French Jacobins. Mozart had written the opera The Marriage of Figaro, inspired by the Beaumarchais play of which Louis XVI had said: “For the performance of this play not to be a danger, the Bastille would have to be torn down first.” And he never made any secret of belonging to the Freemasons. Moreover, the most notable among his friends at the lodges were followers of the Enlightenment. “It was unthinkable that the musician who had praised liberty in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, equality in The Marriage of Figaro, and who would go on to raise a hymn to fraternity in The Magic Flute, would not wholeheartedly espouse the slogan “LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY!” that was already familiar to the Grand Orient Lodge of France, and today is proclaimed by revolutionaries.” “The fact that Mozart was not included on the list of the guest musicians at the coronation celebrations was not an oversight or a matter of indifference: it expressed the wish to bury him alive.” (J. & B. Massin).

Towards the end of that grim year of 1790, he received an interesting invitation from the director of the Italian Opera in London to carry out various engagements between December 1790 and June 1791. However, Mozart was not able to accept the offer. To be available at such short notice, he needed to be free of commitments, and Mozart enjoyed no such freedom. His position and his duties prevented him from travelling without making the necessary arrangements to take leave of absence. How was he to sort out such a complicated situation? How was he to find the money necessary to make the trip to England? Mozart was a prisoner of his own hardship, trapped in Vienna. The tour that he had been forced to decline was taken up by one of his closest friends. On 15th December, 1790, Joseph Haydn left Vienna to embark on a London concert tour. After Haydn’s departure, Mozart was once again left to face his financial problems alone. Projects, resolutions, realisations and all his endeavours failed to change the distressed circumstances of his household. His last winter was to prove one of his most difficult: his friend, Joseph Deiner, the owner of the “Zur silbernen Schlange” (The Silver Snake) inn, where Mozart liked to spend time in the company of other musicians, recounted the following: “In 1790, he called on the Mozarts. He found Mozart and his wife in the workroom which overlooked the Rauhensteingasse. The couple were busily dancing around the room. On asking Mozart if he was giving his wife dancing lessons, Mozart laughingly answered: ‘We are warming ourselves up, because we are cold and we can’t afford firewood.” Deiner immediately went and brought some of his own firewood, which Mozart accepted, promising to pay him back as soon as he had some money.” (Joseph Deiner, Memoirs). Ludwig Nohl, Mozart nach den Schilderungen seiner Zeitgenossen, Leipzig, 1880. 

In 1791, the Mozart family’s financial circumstances began to improve. Unlike 1790, which had been a disastrous year in which Mozart had composed no works of major importance except the two Prussian Quartets, the String Quintet in D major and his Organ Piece for a Clock – 1791 was one of Mozart’s most prolific years, notably yielding the Piano Concerto No. 27, the Six German Dances for orchestra, the Ave verum corpus, The Magic Flute, La Clemenza di Tito, the Clarinet Concerto in A, Eine kleine Freymaurer-Kantate and the greater part of the Requiem.

On 14th October, 1791, Mozart was in Vienna, and he took Salieri and the latter’s mistress, the singer Caterina Cavalieri, to a performance of The Magic Flute. In his last surviving letter, he wrote to his wife: “Both said that it is an opera worthy to be performed on the greatest occasions before the greatest of monarchs.” That same day, Emperor Leopold II, at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna, received an unsigned letter from a confidant (whose handwriting he recognised), accusing Archduke Franz von Schloissnig, of plotting a revolution against him. One of the ensuing investigations mentioned one of Mozart’s principal patrons, Baron Swieten, as well as many other members of Masonic lodges, whom the Austrian government suspected of wishing to follow France’s example by establishing a constitutional monarchy. There can be little doubt that, as a prominent Freemason, Mozart must also have come under suspicion.

This terrible situation, combined with his delicate state of health and a punishingly intense work schedule, progressively took its toll on his mental and physical condition. The fatal blow came on 12th November, 1791, when a harsh sentence was handed down to Mozart following a trial in which Prince Carl Lichnowsky[2], a member of the same lodge as Mozart during the period 1784-1786, was also involved. Documents discovered by the leading Mozart scholar H. C. Robbins Landon at the Hofkammerarchiv in Vienna concerning a previously unknown court case provide the first evidence of what was probably the chief cause of the composer’s death at the age of 35. They reveal that on 12th November, 1791, Mozart was ordered to repay a debt of 1,435 florins and 32 Kreuzer, as well as 24 florins in costs, involving the embargo of half of his stipend as Imperial-Royal Court Composer and his assets going into receivership. The details of this extraordinary trial are not known, but taking into account Mozart’s extremely precarious situation, it is more than likely that the emotional and financial blow dealt by such an implacable sentence contributed to hasten the composer’s untimely demise. 24 days later, following a grave illness characterised in its later stages by kidney failure, Mozart died at 12.55 a.m. on 5th December, 1791, at the age of 35.

His Freemason brothers organised a funeral ceremony in his memory, and the funeral oration was printed by Ignaz Alberti, a member of the composer’s lodge, who had published the first libretto of The Magic Flute.

At three o’clock in the afternoon of 6th December, 1791, in the afternoon, following a funeral service in the Chapel of the Holy Cross of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Mozart’s s remains were transferred to St. Mark’s cemetery outside the city walls, where they were buried in a common grave.

_________

“I was for some time quite beside myself over Mozart’s death;
I could not believe that Providence should so quickly have called
an irreplaceable man into the other world.”
Joseph Haydn

When Rossini was asked,
“Who was the greatest musician?” he replied, “Beethoven!”
“And Mozart?”  “Oh! He was unique!”

Two hundred years later, this judgment still holds true.

 

 

 

JORDI SAVALL
Melbourne, 28th March, 2019
Translated by Jacqueline Minett


HENRICUS ISAAC
HENRICUS ISAAC

Splendour of the Humanist Renaissance before the Protestant Reformation
Homage to one of the greatest Renaissance composers
With the release of this new recording dedicated to Heinrich Isaac, in memory of the 500th anniversary of his death, ALIA VOX pays tribute to one of the greatest Renaissance composers. Heinrich or Henricus Isaac, as we shall call him, was born in Brabant but spent most of his life travelling around Europe, from his native Flanders to the court of Burgundy, Austria, and then Italy and Germany. At the invitation of Lorenzo the Magnificent, in 1488 he moved to Florence, the city he continued to call home through all his travels, and where he became a highly regarded and much admired member of the Medici court. Some years after the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1492, he also became the principal composer at the court of Emperor Maximilian I of Habsburg (1497) until his death, and, notwithstanding his extensive travels, spent most of his time in Florence.

An extremely prolific and innovative composer, Isaac left one of the most important musical legacies of his day and was distinguished by his absolute mastery of the art of counterpoint and polyphony – an art in which he was supremely gifted, both in his religious works and his secular songs and instrumental music. We echo the opinion of Anton Webern, who observed that Isaac’s compositions, which in terms of their absolute mastery of counterpoint are comparable to those of other illustrious Flemish composers such as Pierre de la Rue, Jacob Obrecht and Josquin des Prés, clearly stand out from his contemporaries in “the unfailing and exceptional vivacity and independence of the voices” (Anton Webern, 1906) in his many beautiful, complex forms of polyphony.

Until 1680, and although the sublime art of his music was recognized and highly acclaimed throughout Europe both during his lifetime and after his death, Isaac’s work was gradually relegated to the vaults of libraries and musical archives; more than 400 years were to pass before there was a revival of interest in his music.

During the process of preparation, study and performance of this selection of magnificent choral works by Isaac with the solo vocalists of La Capella Reial de Catalunya and the musicians of Hespèrion XXI, I often wondered and speculated about the reasons for this lack of knowledge and recognition of such a great composer. How was it possible that so much of the work of such a great genius was so little known in the musical world of the 21st century? Was it a question of ignorance or historical amnesia? Or was it the consequence of a lack of interest on the part of performers, musical institutions and concert programmers?

It should be borne in mind that at that time people believed in progress in the art of music, whereby each new generation of composers ushered in new musical forms, thus rendering the works of earlier generations obsolete. Let us not forget that music only truly exists and comes to life when it is sung by a voice or played on an instrument. When that music ceases to be played, it is unjustly considered less modern than the works of recent and contemporary composers, and all memory and trace of its existence begins to be lost. Consequently, all these wonderful compositions were gradually consigned to the long sleep of oblivion, which was to persist until the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The fact that it was still very difficult to access the original, together with the dearth of modern editions that were faithful to the original sources, merely prolonged this already long amnesia.

This is precisely the subject addressed by the great writer and poet Aldous Huxley in his eloquent essay entitled “Gesualdo: Variations on a Musical Theme”, written around 1960. In the essay, he cites Isaac as one of the great unjustly forgotten composers of the Renaissance and reminds us of the circumstantial causes leading to that unjust oblivion, which in his view was the result of “the tragic loss of memory suffered by European musical awareness, an amnesia which persisted until the end of the Second World War. As late as the 1950s, the musical repertoire before Monteverdi, which lay buried under the successive cultural layers of modernism, was still waiting to be rediscovered.” Let us not forget that even one of the great masterpieces, Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine, composed in 1610, was not performed again in modern times until 1935!

The origins and the consequences of this lamentable misconception are to be found in the great cultural upheaval that took place at the beginning of the 15th century. It was the period which would later be called “the Renaissance”, in reference to a vigorous new flourishing of the Arts, influenced and inspired by the discovery of the artistic treasures of the extraordinary Greek civilisation (treasures which would subsequently become models that inspired and shaped a fabulous and totally new artistic departure). What actually happened is almost banal: the arts which were “reborn”, inspired by the still extant and accessible ancient artistic creations, were the “tangible” arts – in other words, those which the artists of the 15th century could “see”, “touch” or “read”. Obviously, music, the most spiritual and therefore “intangible” of all the arts, went untouched by the Renaissance, because the composers of that period were not able to take their inspiration from the music of Ancient Greece; indeed, sadly, nobody could “listen to” or even “read” an ancient legacy kept alive for two thousand years through oral transmission, and of which nothing tangible remained. Aside from the numerous philosophical texts, which refer to the importance of music in education and everyday life, no written accounts survive of what the musical life of the Ancient Greeks was really like. Lacking any tangible information, 15th century musicians were unable to reconstruct or even to imagine the musical equivalent of the great epic and dramatic texts such as Homer’s Iliad.

The existence of refined works of art dating back more than two thousand years was evident in all the other arts, proving that there was no such thing as progress when it came to art; instead, there were sublime, transcendent creations which nevertheless bore the imprint of their age. Unfortunately, finding no trace or proof of the musical genius of the Ancient Greeks, musicians continued to confuse the evolution of musical language and style with the notion of progress until well into the 19th century, as witnessed by Stendhal’s The Lives of Haydn, Mozart and Metastasio (1806).

Eventually, one hundred years later, in the 20th century, there emerged a new awareness of the importance of Isaac’s work. In 1902 a 19-year-old student called Anton Webern submitted his dissertation on the edition of the second book of Propers of the Mass of Isaac’s Choralis Constantinus as part of his musicology studies at the University of Vienna under the direction of Guido Adler. This profound interest in Renaissance music and Heinrich Isaac’s music, in particular, was to be a great influence on Webern’s own compositional technique, and during his studies under Arnold Schönberg, which he concluded in 1908 with the publication of his Passacaglia, Op. 1. Together with Alban Berg, another of Schönberg’s disciples, he was to become one of the great composers of the dodecaphonic and serial school. It is in the preface to this edition of the Choralis Constantinus that he draws our attention to the importance of the late 15th century composer and explains with wonderment what he admires about Isaac’s art of composition.

The programme for our CD was conceived as a true “musical homage” that could illustrate in the brief space of a recording the immense richness and creative diversity of this great Renaissance composer. We also offer a short, chronological evocation of some of the key events in the life of this great musician, as well as the key moments in history for which his music was composed or performed; these works include A la battaglia, which illustrates the battle between Genoa and Florence for Sarzanello Castle, and Quis dabit capiti meo aquam, a deeply moving lament composed on the occasion of the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici.

Because we begin our musical journey with Isaac’s birth, we have included some exceptions to our chronological musical narrative, choosing to illustrate the early years of his life with some of his most beautiful compositions (naturally written several years later): these include the instrumental piece Palle, palle, which evokes the fanfare of the Medicis and serves as an introduction to the programme of music on this CD, the motet Parce, Domine composed on the death of Cosimo de’ Medici in 1464 and the motet Sustinuimus pacem, with which we symbolically celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Picquigny in 1475 between Louis XI of France and Edward IV of England, marking the end of the Hundred Years War.

The beautiful song Innsbruck, ich muß dich lassen illustrates Isaac’s departure from Innsbruck (1484?), although the sources of its discovery date from somewhat later. The Florentine carnival song Hora e di maggio evokes his arrival in Florence (1485) and his subsequent marriage. The great motet Sancti spiritus assit nobis gratia, composed in honour of Maximilian I at the beginning of the Imperial Diet at Constance, evokes the celebrations in honour of his succession, following the death of Emperor Frederick III, as the new Holy Roman Emperor in 1493.

The Motet for 6 voices Angeli, Archangeli reminds us of the remarkable “Perpetual Peace” between all the Nations of the Holy Roman Empire, decreed by the Diet of Worms in 1495. The instrumental canzona La Mi La Sol recalls his time at Ferrara (La Mi La Sol are the notes of the Duke of Ferrara’s musical motif) about 1502. And what better than the impressive motet Optime divino / Da pacem / Sacerdos et pontifex (1514), the text of which refers to Giovanni de’ Medici as Pope Leo X, to conjure up the solemnity surrounding his coronation in 1513, a ceremony that Isaac attended as the Medicis’ guest of honour. Another very moving moment is the musical evocation of Isaac’s death on 26th March, 1517, with the performance of the chorale Circumdederunt me gemitus mortis, one of the most poignant funeral prayers from the Choralis Constantinus cycle (transcribed and published in 1906 by Anton Webern). Six months later, on 31st October, Luther published his theses against Rome, marking the birth of what would later become the Protestant Lutheran Church, which is evoked here with the spiritual text O Welt, ich muss dich lassen, adapted to the music of the song Innsbruck, ich muß dich lassen, a typical contrefacta which rapidly gained popularity as a Protestant chorale. And finally we conclude by evoking the celebrations for the coronation of Charles V as King of the Romans at Aachen in 1520, his coronation as Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Clement VII finally taking place at Bologna in 1530.

This event is illustrated by the Contrefactum of one of Isaac’s loveliest motets, Virgo prudentissima prudentissima (composed for the Imperial Diet of Constance in 1507), whose text celebrates Maximilian I as Holy Roman Emperor), adapted using the new text Christus, filius Dei by an anonymous author (after 1520) in which the original text referring to Maximilian as Cæsare Maximiliano is replaced by the words Carolo Cæsare romano in reference to Charles V as Holy Roman Emperor.

Given the considerable formal grandeur and rich polyphonic complexity of some of the motets we have selected (Angeli, Archangeli for 6 voices, Christ ist erstanden for 5 voices, Imperii proceres Romani, etc.,) and the often exceptional occasions on which his works were performed (coronations of Emperors, Imperial Diets, etc.), we decided to use quite a large choir and orchestra: a vocal ensemble of 8 soloist singers and 6 ripieno singers, and an instrumental ensemble of 13 instruments (including 6 wind instruments, 4 viols, organ, lute and percussion), which enabled us to perform certain motets with the addition (in the cantus firmus and the solemn tutti passages) of the appropriate instrumental colours and, at the same time, to play some of the composer’s major instrumental pieces, such as A la battaglia, the fanfare of the Medicis Palle, palle and the instrumental Motet/Canzona La Mi La Sol, which Isaac composed in 1502 after spending time at the court of the Duke of Ferrara.

This homage to Henricus Isaac was first performed at Drassanes Reials in Barcelona on 22nd December 2016 as part of L’Auditori’s “El So Original” early music season, the recording being made the day after the concert, thanks to the extraordinary artistic and personal dedication of all the singers and musicians who took part in this project.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude and warmest thanks to the musicologist Dr. Stefan Gasch, not only for his excellent commentary on Henricus Isaac, but also for his additional critical reflections on the project and his essential collaboration on the sources and historical references for Isaac’s works and the corresponding historical events.

I would like to conclude this introduction with another quotation from Anton Webern, in which he expresses his great admiration for the profound qualities of Isaac’s work, an admiration shared by all those who have taken part in this project: “It is wonderful to see the way in which Heinrich Isaac captures the spirit of these chorales (Gregorian chants) and their great depth of feeling, which he makes his own, so that the chorale in the composer’s music as a whole appears not as something extraneous, but, on the contrary, seems to fuse with it in a sublime union – a magnificent testament to the greatness of his art.”

JORDI SAVALL

Oslo, 19th March, 2017

 

Translated by Jacqueline Minett


LES ROUTES DE L’ESCLAVAGE
LES ROUTES DE L’ESCLAVAGE

Slavery remembered
1444 – 1888

Humanity is divided into two: masters and slaves.
Aristotle (385-322 B. C), Politics
Homo homini lupus est.
Plautus (c. 195 B. C) Asinaria
Man is a wolf to his fellow man.
Thomas Hobbes (1651), De Cive 
Despite the fact that for more than four centuries, from 1444 (the year of the first mass slaving expedition, described in a text from the period) to 1888 (the year slavery was abolished in Brazil), over 25 million Africans were shipped by European countries to be bound in slavery, this period of history – one of the most painful and shameful in the history of mankind – is still largely unknown by the general public. The women, men and children who were brutally deported from their villages in Africa to the European colonies in the New World had only their culture of origin to accompany them on the journey: religious beliefs, traditional medicine, dietary customs, and music – songs and dances that they kept alive in their new destinations, known as habitations or plantations. We shall try to evoke those shameful moments in the history of humanity through a series of eloquent texts and accounts, accompanied by the emotion and vitality of the music to which the slaves sang and danced.
And yet, how could they think of singing and dancing when they were reduced to the condition of slaves? The answer is simple: song and dance, rhythmically structured by music, were the only context in which they could feel free and express themselves – something that nobody could take away from them. Singing was, therefore, their chief means of expressing their sorrows and their joys, their suffering and their hopes, as well as a reminder of their origins and their loved ones. It enabled all those people with their diverse origins and languages to create a common world and withstand the negation of their humanity.
First documented 5,000 years ago, slavery is the most monstrous of all the man-made institutions created throughout history. In fact, its existence only began to be objectively documented when “history” (as opposed to prehistory) began; in other words, with the invention of the earliest writing systems. Its organisation is closely linked to the invention of the State in the modern sense of the term, that is, an organ of centralised coercion, supported by an army and a civil service. Indeed, both, – as pointed out by Christian Delacampagne in his Histoire de l’esclavage (Paris, 2002) “came about five thousand years ago, in the region that historians call the ‘fertile crescent’ […] There is a simple explanation for this apparently surprising connection between the emergence of writing, slavery and the State: all three became possible when the forces of production of a given social group, in a given time and place, became sufficiently developed to enable them to produce a greater quantity of food than was required for the survival of the community. “
As Paul Cartledge explains in his interesting text, in Ancient Greece there were a thousand or so separate political entities, and the principal cities based their social, political and economic relations on slave labour. “Aristotle’s definition of a citizen – that of a man who actively participates in public affairs and sits as a magistrate – corresponds to the perfect citizen of a democratic Athens […] Thus it appears that there was a mutually strengthened circle or loop between slavery in the mines and democracy – a virtuous circle for free citizens, but a vicious circle for the exploited and harshly treated slaves.”
In Antiquity and the Middle Ages, black slaves were a rare, exotic and very costly merchandise for their owners. For more than two thousand years, the majority of slaves were white, originating in Northern Europe and the regions around the Mediterranean Sea. All this changed when a sizeable commercial trade, instigated by the Crowns of Portugal and Spain from the middle to the late 15th century was established between Europe, Africa and America.
Slavery already existed in Africa before the massive Portuguese and Spanish slaving expeditions began. It was the need to replace the feeble workforce of native Indians, especially when it was recognized that Indians had a soul and must be converted to Christianity, that the modern trade in black African slaves to the New World began. We know that there were black slaves on board the ships of Christopher Columbus, and also that in the years immediately after 1500, King Ferdinand I sent instructions for the purchase and transfer of black slaves to the island of Hispaniola, where they were sent to work in the gold mines. Alonso de Zuazo, appointed judge in residence on the island by Cardinal Cisneros, recommended in a letter dated 22nd January 1518: “Dar licencia general que se traigan negros, gente recia para el trabajo, al revés de los indios naturales, tan débiles que solo pueden servir en labores de poca resistencia.” (To issue a general authorisation to import Blacks, who are strong and can withstand hard work, unlike the native Indians, the latter being so weak that they are only useful for tasks that do not require much stamina.) It was on this same island that the first revolt of black slaves took place in the New World in 1522.
The French began to trade in black African slaves in the 1530s at the mouths of the Senegal and Gambia Rivers.  From the beginning of the 17th century, the English arrived in the Caribbean, first in the Bermudas (1609) and then in Barbados, while the Dutch were the first to unload twenty African slaves (20th August, 1619) in the port of Jamestown in the English colony of Virginia, which became the centre of the tobacco-growing industry. It was the first time that Blacks had set foot as slaves on the soil of the future United States. It was also the beginning of a particularly painful history: the history of today’s Afro-Americans.
Paradoxically, it was during the “Age of Enlightenment” (1685-1777) that the Black slave trade reached its apogee. Like Christian Delacampagne, we ask ourselves the questions: “Are light and shadow truly inseparable? Was the progress of reason incapable of heralding the age of justice? Are reason and evil inextricably linked? Such would appear to be the lessons of European history. But it was to be another two hundred years, dozens of wars and several attempts at genocide later, in the aftermath of 1945, before this bitter lesson was explicitly learned by the philosophers Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno (Dialektik der Aufklärung, 1947).”
In this CD/DVD book from ALIAVOX, featuring the live audio and video recordings of the concert at the Festival of Fontfroide Abbey on 19th July, 2015, we aim to present the essential facts surrounding that terrible history, thanks to the extraordinary vitality and profound emotion of this music, preserved in the ancient traditions of the descendants of slaves. The music lives on, etched into the memory of the peoples concerned, from the coast of West Africa and Brazil (Jongos, Caboclinhos paraibanos, Ciranda, Maracatu and Samba), Mexico, the islands of the Caribbean, Colombia and Bolivia (songs and dances from the African traditions), together with the traditional Griotte music still found in Mali. The music is performed by musicians from Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Mali, Morocco and Madagascar in dialogue with Hispanic musical forms inspired in the songs and dances of slaves, native Indians and racial mixes of all kinds based on African, Mestizo and Indian traditions. The contribution of the more or less forced collaboration of slaves in the Church liturgy of the New World is represented in this recording by the Villancicos de Negros, Indios, and Negrillas, Christian songs by Mateu Flecha the Elder (La Negrina), Juan Gutiérrez de Padilla (Puebla mss.), Juan de Araujo, Roque Jacinto de Chavarria, Juan Garcia de Céspedes, Fr. Filipe da Madre de Deus, etc., performed by the vocalists and soloists of La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Hespèrion XXI, together with musicians from Brazil, Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, Spain and Catalonia. For the first time, they come together in a triangular relationship, linking the three continents of Europe, Africa and Latin America, and the heritage of Africa and America with borrowings from the European Renaissance and the Baroque, resulting in a disturbing and at the same time deeply hope-inspiring record of a musical heritage which is the positive reverse side of a culture of conquest and forced conversion.
There could be no starker contrast than that which exists between the striking beauty and mysterious power of this music and the brutal accounts and detailed descriptions that our selection of chroniclers and religious of the period (texts recited by Bakary Sangaré) gave concerning the expeditions to capture men and women in their African villages. We are given an insight into those accounts through the studies, historical research and reflections on the subject contained in the excellent articles contributed by our formidable team of experts: Paul Cartledge, José Antonio Piqueras, José Antonio Martínez Torres, Gustau Nerin and Sergi Grau (timeline and selection of source texts).
Through the music of the descendants of slaves, we also wish to pay a moving tribute as we remember that dark period, and appeal to each one of us to recognize the extreme inhumanity and the terrible suffering inflicted on all the victims of that heinous trade. It was an ignoble enterprise perpetrated by the majority of the great European nations against millions of African men, women and children, who for more than four hundred years were systematically deported and brutally exploited to cement the great wealth of 18th and 19th century Europe. Those civilized nations have not yet deemed it necessary to make an unreserved apology, or even to offer any kind of compensations (symbolic or real) for the forced labour carried out by the slaves who were regarded as chattels (nothing more than “tools” without a soul). On the contrary, the four-centuries-long slave trade, during which they became established on the coasts of Africa, paved the way for the principal European countries’ “colonisation” of Africa. In other words, it confirmed them in the belief that the continent was their property. It is as if from the end of the Middle Ages to the end of the 19th century, Europe had relentlessly pursued one common goal: to subjugate, one after the other, all the lands stretching south of the Mediterranean.
In view of the extremely serious situation of large numbers of people risking their lives to reach Europe from Africa (so far, more than 3,000 have died since the beginning of 2016) by crossing the sea once known as the MARE NOSTRUM and now a sad MARE MORTIS, why is it that today, in the 21st century, none of the those responsible for immigration in European countries remembers our enormous moral and economic debt to the Africans who are now forced to flee their homelands, currently mired in abject poverty or ravaged by tribal or territorial wars, and frequently abandoned to corrupt dictators (propped up by our own governments) or insatiable multinational companies?
The period which saw an official end to slavery (1800-1880) saw the rise – particularly strong in those countries where it had lasted the longest – of another aberrant, inhuman kind of relationship, characterised by a visceral hatred of the other, the foreigner and, above all, of the former slave: racism. Slavery was built on contempt for the other – whether Black, Mestizo, or the native Indian – while racism feeds on hatred of people who are no longer slaves, but different. As Christian Delacampagne writes: “The history of slavery preceded and paved the way for that of racism. Historically, slavery came first. Racism was merely the consequence of a civilisation’s long habituation to the institution of slavery, whose victims have always been foreigners.”
We also want to draw attention to the fact that, at the beginning of the third millennium, this tragedy is still ongoing for more than 30 million human beings, of whom many are children or young girls subjected to new forms of slavery brought about by the demands of production and prostitution. We need to speak out in indignation and say that humanity is not doing what it should to put an end to slavery and other related forms of exploitation. Although absolutely illegal in the vast majority of countries in the world, and despite also being officially condemned by the international authorities, slavery still exists today, even in the supposedly democratic developed countries. Again, as Christian Delacampagne writes, “In the face of slavery, as in the face of racism, there is no possible compromise. There is no possible tolerance. There is only one response: zero tolerance.” Against the absolute outrage of the exploitation of child labour and the prostitution of minors, against these endemic ills in human society, which continue to breed new forms of slavery, and against that hatred of the other, which is the inhuman force of racism, the struggle is not over.
Through the texts and music of our CD/DVD book, we hope to contribute to that struggle. We firmly believe that the advantage of being aware of the past enables us to be more responsible and therefore morally obliges us to take a stand against these inhuman practices. The music in this programme represents the true living history of that long and painful past. Let us listen to the emotion and hope expressed in these songs of survival and resistance, this music of the memory of a long history of unmitigated suffering, in which music became a mainspring of survival and, fortunately for us all, has survived as an eternal refuge of peace, consolation and hope.
JORDI SAVALL
Sarajevo/Bellaterra
21/23 October, 2016
Translated by Jacqueline Minett

BAL·KAN Miel et Sang
BAL·KAN Miel et Sang

To Voltaire’s statement “Without the senses there is no memory, and without memory there is no mind”, we would add that without memory and mind there is neither Justice nor Civilisation. Music is the most spiritual of all the Arts. In fact, it is the Art of Memory par excellence, which only exists when a singer or an instrumentalist brings it to life. It is then, when our senses are moved by the beauty and emotion of a song or by the surprising vitality of a dance, that, thanks to memory, we can capture it in our minds. Such intense yet fleeting moments bring peace and joy or sweetness and nostalgia to our hearts, moments that we cherish in our memory.

In today’s world of instant communication, the overriding influence of globalisation is one of the principal causes of the daily loss of ancestral memories. We are faced with such an avalanche of information, visual stimuli and leisure activities that age-old local cultures belonging to the oral tradition can be crowded out. Often these include unique musical traditions passed down over the centuries from parents to children and from teachers to pupils, which have been kept alive to the present day, thanks to the essential role they play in the daily lives of individuals and families, and because they are an integral part of the ceremonies and festivals that celebrate the natural Cycles in the Life of both Man and Nature: music that has survived and has helped us to survive.

“Progress” is finally making inroads in some of those parts of Eastern Europe, which, for more than four centuries, were isolated from the social and technological development experienced in mainstream Europe. However, this modernisation of our everyday lives has meant that much of the music that had survived unscathed by the passage of time and oblivion is now gradually disappearing and being replaced by more “modern” and “universal” music. The moving songs and the beautiful old dances are gradually being ousted by the global music that floods the modern mass media: TV, Internet, Radio, Cinema, CDs, etc.

We hope that our new CD/Book “The Voices of Memory” in the BAL·KAN countries (“Honey & Blood”), driven by a creative approach that is characterised by its respect for original stylistic differences, will contribute to introduce these repertories to new audiences. At the same time, we wish to pay a sincere tribute to all those musicians, to all those men and women who, with their sublime and profoundly authentic art, continue to breathe life into the music that has been the backdrop to their own and their ancestors’ lives. In our opinion, it constitutes one of the richest and most moving examples of the intangible heritage of humanity. In this new recording, true “Voices of Memory” will accompany us on a fascinating and illuminating musical journey: an imaginary voyage, but one which exists in time and space and in the “Cycles of Life” of this ancient part of Europe that the 15th century invading Ottomans called Bal Kan (Honey & Blood), a region which, more than three thousand years ago, was the cradle of our European civilisation.

In devising and developing our programme, we invited and worked with 40 singers and musicians of various faiths: Muslim, Christian and Jewish, from 14 different countries: Armenia, Belgium/Manouche, Bulgaria, Bosnia, Cyprus, Spain, France, Greece and Crete, Hungary, Israel, Morocco, Serbia, Syria and Turkey. Performing as soloists or in ensembles, they offer a wide selection of music belonging to many living traditions that make up the vast mosaic of musical cultures of the Balkan peoples and their Gypsy and Sephardic diasporas. To provide a poetic and well-structured listening experience, we have grouped together songs and new music under the six different headings of “Cycles of Life and Nature”. This magnificent original idea by Montserrat Figueras was developed during 2009/2011, finally culminating in a concert programme devoted to the “CYCLES OF LIFE: The paths of the Sephardic Diaspora”, which was presented in Barcelona on 31st May, 2010, and at the Fontfroide Festival on 18th July, 2011. This dynamic structure allows the songs and instrumental pieces of the BAL · KAN project to combine and alternate in a highly organic way within the six principal parts of the programme:

I. CREATION:
UNIVERSE, ENCOUNTERS & DESIRES
II. SPRING:
BIRTH, DREAMS & CELEBRATIONS
III. SUMMER:
ENCOUNTERS, LOVE & MARRIAGE
IV. AUTUMN:
MEMORY, MATURITY & JOURNEY
V. WINTER:
SPIRITUALITY, SACRIFICE, EXILE & DEATH
VI. (RE)CONCILIATION

The selection of music for this recording has been carried out on the basis of our research into the Sephardic and Ottoman repertories conserved in the principal cities of the Balkans and, above all, thanks to the proposals made by the various specialist musicians and ensembles: Agi Szalóki, Meral Azizoğlu, Bora Dugić, Tcha Limberger, Nedyalko Nedyalkov, Dimitri Psonis, Gyula Csík, Irini Derebei and Moslem Rahal, whom we invited to work with us on the project. We thank them all for their remarkable commitment and their wonderful musical performances. Their variety and diversity have contributed to the shape and meaning of this “Bal·Kan: Honey & Blood” Ancient and modern musical traditions, rural and urban music, celebratory or evocative pieces, including songs and dances of very different origin, from Bulgaria to Serbia, from Macedonia to the furthest reaches of Ottoman Turkey, from Romania to the Hungarian border, from Bosnia to Greece, from Sephardic music to Gypsy traditions.
A veritable musical mosaic performed by the “Voices of Memory” and accompanied on original instruments from each culture: Kaval, Gûdulka (Bulgarian Lira), Tambura, Greek Lira, Kamancheh, Kanun, Oud, Tambur, Ney, Santur, Saz, Violin and Double Bass, Frula, Cymbalum, Accordeon, Organ and Guitar, etc. All this music, together with the earlier recording of instrumental music, “Spirit of the Balkans”, enables us to evoke a multicultural map of the musical traditions of this rich part of Eastern Europe, which astonish and entrance us not only with their vitality and passion, but also with their beauty and spirituality. We can see that, despite the national characteristics of the various peoples of the Balkan Peninsula, it is very often those very same traits that unite them at the deepest level.

* * * * *

The idea of embarking on a major musical and historical project on the peoples of the Balkans and the Gypsy and Sephardic diasporas was born towards the end of 2011 during the preparations for a concert dedicated to the city of Sarajevo, which we gave as part of Barcelona’s Festival Grec on 9th July, 2012. Twenty years ago, during the tragic events of the war, which led to the disintegration of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, the city had suffered a terrible siege by Serbian troops; more than 12,000 people were killed and more than 50,000 were seriously wounded. Europe in particular, and the whole world in general, responded with absolute silence and a more than questionable decision not to intervene in the conflict, the consequence of which was a brutal four-year siege of the Bosnian capital (1992-1996). International intervention did not decisively come about until 1995, but by then more than twenty thousand tons of missiles and shellfire had for ever disfigured the physical and human geography of a city which for centuries had been the cultural crossroads of the Balkan Peninsula. There the traditions of the Slavonic world, both Orthodox and Catholic, existed side by side in perfect harmony with more recent cultural traditions such as Islam, brought by the Ottoman Turks – who ruled the Balkans for more than four hundred years – and Judaism, brought by the Sephardic Jews, who found refuge there after being expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492. As Paul Garde observes, “This last Balkan war broke out suddenly in Europe after half a century of pacification, when the more troubled chapters of its history lay forgotten. Hence the incomprehension and the suspicion directed against the region, and the resurfacing of stereotypes which portray it as eternally doomed to a pattern of killing and misery.” Still regarded as the “powder keg of Europe”, we should not forget, as Predrag Matvejević points out, that the Balkan Peninsula was also “the cradle of European civilisation.” A peninsula forming part of the Mediterranean world, which stretches from the island of Cythera in the South, to the Danube and the Sava in the North, but one in which, as Georges Castellan points out, “the olive tree does not actually reach as far as Istanbul, and the Bulgarian countries owe nothing to the soft breezes of the Mediterranean.” And yet, from the Peloponnese to Moldavia, despite the changing landscapes, the towns and villages have much in common: everywhere there are dome-topped Byzantine churches, often a mosque, and the corbelled buildings (çardak) and inns (han), and caravanserai or caravan stops, that are to be found both in Patras and Bucharest, in Skodra and Plovdiv, not to mention the pavement workshops where the craftsmen invite you to join them in a Turkish coffee as they hammer away at their copper plates. A family resemblance? Yes, undoubtedly that of diverse peoples who, after a long shared adventure, have constituted within Europe a distinctive cultural expression.” Observant travellers pointed to a certain style of living, a sort of “spirit” of the Balkans, which combines a laid-back approach to life, conviviality and above all a sense of hospitality, a fundamental value that is still greatly respected by all Balkan societies, and in particular continues to be cultivated in rural areas.

However, for a true understanding of this distinctive Balkan character, we must take a look back in history. In the eastern Mediterranean, the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century gave way to a blueprint for the Byzantine Empire with its capital at Constantinople, which was to be the greatest and richest city in the Balkans for more than a thousand years until 1453. Byzantium was to unify the peninsula in both political and religious terms, leaving its legacy of Orthodox Christianity, which continues to be an essential characteristic of the majority of Balkan countries today. In the 16th century, however, the whole of the Balkans fell to the Ottoman Empire, which, in 1453, adopted from its capital at Istanbul the tolerant attitude of traditional Islam towards the Christian majority as another “People of the Book”, as long as they accepted Muslim rule and paid the taxes exempting them from military service. This Ottoman conquest also brought considerable upheavals in the human geography of the region. On the one hand, it introduced a third religion, Islam, and at the same time left a trail of devastation and mass migrations, resulting in an inextricable mixture of populations, languages and cultures. As Manuel Forcano reminds us, it was after this invasion that the Ottomans referred to the region using the term Balkan, which is derived from two Turkish words meaning “blood and honey”; they encountered not only the richness of the region – its fruits, and the sweetness of its honey – but also the courageous, warrior-like and rebellious nature of its inhabitants, who fought fiercely against the invaders.

In the late 17th century the might of the Ottoman Empire began to dwindle. The Austrians re-conquered Hungary, Vojvodina and Slavonia. Finally, in 1739, the Treaty of Belgrade was signed, thus putting an end to a long war between the two empires, and for a century and a half their borders remained stable along the Sava and the Danube and the peaks of the Transylvanian Alps.

In the 19th century, nationalism spread throughout Europe and, one by one, in the same surge of national feeling, all the Christian nations subject to the Turks revolted against their rulers: Serbia (1804), Montenegro (1820), Greece (1821), Wallachia and Moldavia united to form Romania (1877) and Bulgaria (in 1878). There followed a cultural, linguistic and literary renaissance of the various peoples in the region: Hungarians, Romanians, Slovenians, Croats and Serbs. In 1912 the First Balkan War broke out; Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro formed an alliance to fight against Turkey. The Second Balkan War broke out a year later following the defeat of the Bulgarians, while at the same time Macedonia was divided between the Serbs and the Greeks, and Albania became independent. Not long afterwards, the First World War was triggered in the Balkans when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo on 28th June, 1914.

A melting-pot of peoples, languages, beliefs and cultures, the Balkans are the mysterious face of that “other Europe”, which for 400 years as part of the Ottoman Empire was almost entirely cut off from the main cultural and social currents of Western Europe. The Balkans have always been a highly contentious crossroads, constituting at one and the same time a rich meeting-point and the theatre of dramatic confrontations.

Despite their turbulent history and their linguistic and political fragmentation, the peoples of the Balkans still share a great many cultural traits and the legacy of their historical past. And it is their shared features that we wish to highlight in this recording along with our guest musicians from the various cultures, religions and regions. With them we have studied, selected, prepared and recorded a variety of pieces to create a beautiful musical anthology, combining the ancient, the traditional and the popular from this fascinating and still very mysterious part of Eastern Europe. We firmly believe that the emotion, vitality and beauty of all these musical expressions will help us to understand more fully what can be seen as the musical image of the authentic “Spirit of the Balkans.”

In Western Europe today, “Balkan” culture, made popular thanks to the films of Emir Kusturica and the music of Goran Bregoviç, seems to have gained currency. Balkan music festivals abound, and concerts by Fanfare Ciocârlia and Boban Markovic play to packed audiences. Traditional Balkan music, or at least what the West regards as such, has secured its place on the world music shelves of all good record stores. But little is known about the less “folkloric” repertory, which doesn’t fit into the mental schemes of Western audiences. It should be remembered that Balkan music has been influenced at a very deep level by Roma, or Gypsy culture (see the article by Javier Pérez Senz “Music with a Gypsy Soul” in the booklet accompanying the CD Spirit of the Balkans) – a fact that appears to have been overlooked by the musicologists of the region, who talk about “Serbian”, “Bulgarian” or “Macedonian” music, without mentioning that its sources and the musicians who perform it are very often Tzigane (Gypsy).

Some of the most outstanding musicians representing the different cultures of this part of Eastern Europe, together with the soloists of Hespèrion XXI and myself, have delved into this extraordinary historical, traditional and even modern musical heritage to study, select and perform it, thereby creating a genuine intercultural dialogue between the different cultures that have so often been torn apart by dramatic, age-old conflicts.

The consolidation of Peace on the peninsula is an enterprise still beset with difficulties, particularly in those regions which have been most severely scarred by war: Bosnia and Kosovo. But understanding and integration between the different peoples of the Balkans can only come about through genuine reconciliation similar to that which was forged half a century ago between France and Germany and the integration of all the countries of the Balkan Peninsula in the European Union. As Paul Garde writes, “they don’t have to become Europeans, they are already”, but even as “the angel of history” moves forward, it does so looking back over its shoulder in what is a major process of reconciliation involving individual national identities and their own past, in which all the multiple layers of the Balkans’ past, and notably their Ottoman heritage, must be taken into account. Like Jean-Arnault Dérens and Laurent Geslin, we believe that “it is in this rediscovery of their own history and their multiple identities that the peoples of the Balkans will eventually once again be the masters of their own destiny and, to the surprise and wonder of Western Europeans, devise a different way of being European.”

JORDI SAVALL
Padua, 21st October, 2013

Translated by Jacqueline Minett

Select Bibliography and Works consulted:
–Timothy Rice. Music in Bulgaria: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
–Jean-Arnault Dérens and Laurent Geslin. Comprendre les Balkans. Histoire, sociétés, perspectives. Paris: Éditions Non Lieu, 2010.
–Georges Castellan. Histoire des Balkans: XIVe-XXe siècle. Paris: Fayard, 1991.
–Paul Garde. Les Balkans – Héritages et évolutions. Paris, Ed. Flammarion, Champs actuel, 2010.


25 YEARS LA CAPELLA REIAL DE CATALUNYA
25 YEARS LA CAPELLA REIAL DE CATALUNYA

In 1987, after 13 years of intense research, concerts and recordings with the ensemble Hespèrion XX, the decision to send our children to school in Catalonia led to us spending more time there and gave us the opportunity to contact and select various Romance language-speaking singers from Catalonia, Spain and other countries. Convinced of the defining influence that a country’s cultural roots and traditions inevitably have on the expression of its musical language, Montserrat Figueras and I founded La Capella Reial with the aim of creating one of the first vocal ensembles devoted exclusively to the performance of Golden Age music according to historical principles and consisting exclusively of Hispanic and Latin voices.

Taking as our model the famous medieval “Royal Chapels” which inspired the great masterpieces of religious and secular music of the Iberian Peninsula, this new “Capella Reial”, which in 1990 took the name La Capella Reial de Catalunya thanks to the sponsorship of the Catalan government, was the fruit of many years of research and performance in the early music field. Together with Hespèrion XX – founded in 1974 – and with the primary objective of deepening and broadening research into the specific characteristics of Hispanic and European vocal polyphony before 1800, the ensemble has been distinguished by an approach to performance which combines attention to the quality of the vocal sound and its appropriateness to the style of the period, as well as the declamation and expressive projection of the poetic text, and above all a respect for the deeper spiritual and artistic dimension of each and every work.

Under my direction, and with Montserrat’s close artistic collaboration, the ensemble rapidly built up an intense concert and recording activity, regularly appearing at the world’s major early music festivals from the time it was founded. Its repertory and principal recordings, collected in more than thirty CDs, range from the Cantigas of Alfonso X the Wise and El Llibre Vermell de Montserrat to Mozart’s Requiem, and include the Golden Age Cancioneros and the great composers of the Catalan, Spanish and European Renaissance and Baroque, such as Mateu Fletxa, Cristóbal de Morales, Francisco Guerrero, Tomás Luís de Victoria, Joan Cererols, Claudio Monteverdi and H.I.F. von Biber, as well as the Sephardic song repertory, the music from the Mystery Play of Elx, the ballads from Cervantes’s Don Quixote and 15th century Hispanic music from the age of Queen Isabella I of Castile and Christopher Columbus.

Some of the highlights of the ensemble over the past twenty-five years have been its participation in the soundtrack of Jacques Rivette’s film Jeanne La Pucelle about the life of Joan of Arc, as well as the operas Una cosa rara by Vicent Martín i Soler, and Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, staged at the Liceu opera house in Barcelona and at leading European concert halls and opera houses such as the Teatro Real in Madrid, the Konzerthaus in Vienna, the Teatro Regio in Turin, the Palais des Arts in Brussels and the Bordeaux Opera House. In 2007 La Capella Reial de Catalunya performed Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and the Vespro della la Beata Vergine during the Edinburgh Festival. Over the last few years the singers of La Capella Reial have partcipated in a number of major recording projects, including The Route to the Orient, on the life of St Francis Xavier, The Forgotten Kingdom, on the epic struggle and extermination of the Cathars, the Grammy Award winning The Borgia Dynasty, on the famous members of that Renaissance family, Joan of Arc, Erasmus of Rotterdam and, more recently, the DVD of Bach’s B minor Mass, recorded at the Fontfroide Festival in 2011.

We are delighted to celebrate the ensemble’s 25th anniversary in a creative new way by launching our Vocal Research and Performance Academies designed for young professional singers, which we hope to be able to offer regularly once or twice a year. This intense pedagogical work is carried out in conjunction with the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya (ESMUC), Barcelona City Council, the European Union, Fundació Banc Sabadell and our own foundation, Centre Internacional de Música Antiga (CIMA). Our forthcoming projects include J.S. Bach’s Magnificat in D, G.F. Handel’s Jubilate, Vivaldi’s Gloria, C.P.E. Bach’s Oratorio Die Israeliten in der Wüste, 16th and 17th century Christmas choral music, and the cycles War & Peace I: 714-1714 and War & Peace II: 1714-2014. At the same time we shall continue to perform around the world emblematic projects such as Jerusalem and Pro·Pacem, veritable historico-musical “oratorios” advocating Peace and intercultural dialogue.

JORDI SAVALL
In Memoriam Montserrat Figueras
Bellaterra, February 2013

Translated by Jacqueline Minett


ESPRIT DES BALKANS
ESPRIT DES BALKANS

The idea of embarking on a major musical and historical project on the peoples of the Balkans and the Gypsy and Sephardic diasporas, was born towards the end of 2011 during the preparations for a concert dedicated to the city of Sarajevo, which we gave as part of de Barcelona’s Festival Grec on 9 July, 2012. Twenty years ago, during the tragic events of the war which led to the disintegration of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, the city had suffered a terrible siege by Serbian troops, more than 12,000 people were killed and more than 50,000 were seriously wounded. Europe in particular, and the whole world in general, responded with absolute silence and a more than questionable decision not to intervene in the conflict, the consequence of which was a brutal four-year siege of the Bosnian capital (1992-1996). International intervention did not decisively come about until 1995, but by then more than twenty thousand tons of missiles and shellfire had already disfigured for ever the physical and human geography of a city which for centuries had been the cultural crossroads of the Balkan peninsula where the traditions of the Slavonic world, both Orthodox and Catholic, existed side by side in perfect harmony with more recent cultural traditions such as Islam, brought by the Ottoman Turks – who ruled the Balkans for more than four hundred years – and Judaism, brought by the Sephardic Jews who found refuge there after being expelled from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492. As Paul Garde observes, “This last Balkan war broke out suddenly in Europe after half a century of pacification when the more troubled chapters of its history lay forgotten. Hence the incomprehension and the suspicion directed against the region, and the resurfacing of stereotypes which portray it as eternally doomed to a pattern of killing and misery.” Still regarded as the “powder keg of Europe”, we should not forget, as Predrag Matvejević points out, that the Balkan Peninsula was also “the cradle of European civilisation.” A peninsula forming part of the Mediterranean world, which stretches from the island of Cythera in the South, to the Danube and the Sava in the North, but one in which, as Georges Castellan points out, “the olive tree does not actually reach as far as Istanbul, and the Bulgarian countries owe nothing to the soft breezes of the Mediterranean.” And yet, from the Peloponnese to Moldavia, despite the changing landscapes, the towns and villages have much in common: everywhere there are dome-topped Byzantine churches, often a mosque, and the corbelled buildings (çardak) and inns (han), and caravanserai or caravan stops, that are to be found both in Patras and in Bucharest, in Skodra and in Plovdiv, not to mention the pavement workshops where the craftsmen invite you to join them in a Turkish coffee as they hammer away at their copper plates. A family resemblance? Yes, undoubtedly that of diverse peoples who, after a long shared adventure, have constituted within Europe a distinctive cultural expression.” Observant travellers pointed to a certain style of living, a sort of “spirit” of the Balkans, which combines a laid-back approach to life, conviviality and above all a sense of hospitality, a fundamental value that is still greatly respected by all Balkan societies, and in particular continues to be cultivated in rural areas.

However, for a true understanding of this distinctive Balkan character, we must take a look back in history. In the eastern Mediterranean, the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century gave way to a blueprint of the Byzantine Empire with its capital at Constantinople, which was to be the greatest and richest city in the Balkans for more than a thousand years until 1453. Byzantium was to unify the peninsula in both political and religious terms, leaving its legacy of Orthodox Christianity, which continues to be an essential characteristic of the majority of Balkan countries today. In the 16th century, however, the whole of the Balkans fell to the Ottoman Empire which, in 1453, adopted from its capital at Istanbul the tolerant attitude of traditional Islam towards the Christian majority as another “People of the Book”, as long as they accepted Muslim rule and paid the taxes which exempted them from military service. This Ottoman conquest also brought considerable upheavals in the human geography of the region. On the one hand, it introduced a third religion, Islam, and at the same time left a trail of devastation and mass migrations, resulting in an inextricable mixture of populations, languages and cultures. As Manuel Forcano reminds us, it was after this invasion that the Ottomans referred to the region using the term Balkan, which is derived from two Turkish words meaning “blood and honey”; they encountered not only the richness of the region – its fruits, and the sweetness of its honey – but also the courageous, warrior-like and rebellious nature of its inhabitants, who fought fiercely against their invaders.

In the late 17th century the might of the Ottoman Empire began to dwindle. The Austrians re-conquered Hungary, Vojvodina and Slavonia. Finally, in 1739, the Treaty of Belgrade was signed, thus putting an end to a long war between the two empires, and for a century and a half their borders remained stable along the Sava and the Danube and the peaks of the Transylvanian Alps.

In the 19th century, nationalism spread throughout Europe and, one by one, in the same surge of national feeling, all the Christian nations subject to the Turks revolted against their rulers: Serbia (1804), Montenegro (1820), Greece (1821), Wallachia and Moldavia united to form Romania (1877), Bulgaria (in 1878). There followed a cultural, linguistic and literary renaissance of the various peoples in the region: Hungarians, Romanians, Slovenians, Croats and Serbs. In 1912 the First Balkan War broke out; Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria and Montenegro formed an alliance to fight against Turkey. The Second Balkan War broke out a year later following the defeat of the Bulgarians, while at the same time Macedonia was divided between the Serbs and the Greeks, and Albania became independent. Not long afterwards, the First World War was triggered in the Balkans when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo on 28th June, 1914.

A melting-pot of peoples, languages, beliefs and cultures, the Balkans are the mysterious face of that “other Europe”, which for 400 years as part of the Ottoman Empire was almost entirely cut off from the main cultural and social currents of Western Europe. The Balkans have always been a highly contentious crossroads, constituting at one and the same time a rich meeting-point and the theatre of dramatic confrontations.

Despite their turbulent history and their linguistic and political fragmentation, the peoples of the Balkans still share a great many cultural traits and the legacy of their historical past. And it is their shared features that we wish to highlight in this first recording along with our guest musicians from the various cultures, religions and regions. With them we have studied, selected, prepared and recorded a variety of pieces to create a beautiful musical anthology, combining the ancient, the traditional and the popular from this fascinating and still very mysterious part of Eastern Europe. We firmly believe that the emotion, vitality and beauty of all these musical expressions will help us to understand more fully what can be seen as the musical image of the authentic “Spirit of the Balkans.”

In Western Europe today, “Balkan” culture, made popular thanks to the films of Emir Kusturica and the music of Goran Bregoviç, seems to have gained currency. Balkan music festivals abound, and concerts by Fanfare Ciocârlia and Boban Markovic play to packed audiences. Traditional Balkan music, or at least what the West regards as such, has secured its place on the world music shelves of all good record stores. But little is known about the less “folkloric” repertory, which doesn’t fit into the mental schemes of Western audiences. It should be remembered that Balkan music has been influenced at a very deep level by Roma, or Gypsy, culture (see the article by Javier Pérez Senz “Music with a Gypsy Soul”) – a fact that appears to have been overlooked by the musicologists of the region, who talk about “Serbian”, “Bulgarian” or “Macedonian” music, without mentioning that its sources and the musicians who perform it are very often Tzigane (Gypsy).

Some of the most outstanding musicians representing the different cultures of this part of Eastern Europe, together with the soloists of Hespèrion XXI and myself, have delved into this extraordinary historical, traditional and even modern musical heritage to study, select and perform it, thereby creating a genuine intercultural dialogue between the different cultures that have so often been torn apart by dramatic, age-old conflicts.

The selection of music for this recording has been carried out on the basis of our research into the Sephardic and Ottoman repertories conserved in the principal cities of the Balkans and, above all, thanks to the proposals made by the various specialist musicians and ensembles, including Bora Dugić, Tcha Limberger, Nedyalko Nedyalkov, Dimitri Psonis, Gyula Csík and Moslem Rahal, whom we invited to work with us on the project. We thank them all for their remarkable commitment and their wonderful musical performances. Their variety and diversity have contributed to the shape and meaning of this “Balkan Spirit”. Ancient and modern musical traditions, rural and urban music, celebratory music (track n. 14 Ciocârlia was composed and performed to mark the inauguration of the Eiffel Tower in 1889) and evocative pieces, songs and dances of widely different origins, from Bulgaria to Serbia, from Macedonia to the furthest reaches of Ottoman Turkey, from Romania to the Hungarian border, from Bosnia to Greece, from Sephardic music to Gypsy traditions. A veritable musical mosaic performed using the original instruments of each culture: Kaval, Gûdulka (Bulgarian Lira), Tambura, Greek Lira, Kamancheh, Kanun, Oud, Tambur, Ney, Santur, Saz, Violin and Double Bass, Frula, Cymbalum, Accordeon, Organ and Guitar, etc. All these musical expressions enable us to evoke a multicultural map of the musical traditions of this rich part of Eastern Europe, which astonish and entrance us not only with their vitality and passion, but also with their beauty and spirituality. We can see that, despite the national characteristics of the various peoples of the Balkan Peninsula, it is very often those very same traits that unite them at the deepest level. This first recording, Balkan Spirit, is the prelude to a major CD-Book project entitled Honey & Blood on the music and history of this region which we are preparing for release at the end of this year.

The consolidation of Peace on the peninsula is an enterprise still beset with difficulties, particularly in those regions which have been most severely scarred by war: Bosnia and Kosovo. But understanding and integration between the different peoples of the Balkans can only come about through genuine reconciliation similar to that which was forged half a century ago between France and Germany and the integration of all the countries of the Balkan Peninsula in the European Union. As Paul Garde writes, “they don’t have to become Europeans, they are already”, but even as “the angel of history” moves forward, it does so looking back over its shoulder in what is a major process of reconciliation involving individual national identities and their own past, in which all the multiple layers of the Balkans’ past, and notably their Ottoman heritage, must be taken into account. Like Jean-Arnault Dérens and Laurent Geslin, we believe that “it is in this rediscovery of their own history and their multiple identities that the peoples of the Balkans will eventually once again be the masters of their own destiny and, to the surprise and wonder of Western Europeans, devise a different way of being European.”

JORDI SAVALL
Bellaterra, Spring 2013

Translated by Jacqueline Minett

Selected Bibliography and Works consulted:
–Timothy Rice. Music in Bulgaria: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture. New York: Oxford University Press 2004.
–Jean-Arnault Dérens et Laurent Geslin. Comprendre les Balkans. Histoire, sociétés, perspectives. Paris: Éditions Non Lieu 2010.
–Georges Castellan. Histoire des Balkans: XIVe-XXe siècle. Paris: Fayard 1991.
–Paul Garde. Les Balkans – Héritages et évolutions. Paris, Ed. Flammarion, Champs actuel, 2010.


ERASMUS. Éloge de la Folie
ERASMUS. Éloge de la Folie

It is above all thanks to the beautiful portraits painted by Holbein, Dürer and Quintin Metsys, as well as the author’s youthful work, In Praise of Folly, that Erasmus of Rotterdam remains imprinted on our cultural memory. His immense output and his life, previously known only to a handful of specialists, began to be more widely studied and disseminated in the early years of the 20th century, and it was thanks to various essays, in particular that of Stefan Zweig, Triumph und Tragik des Erasmus von Rotterdam (published in Germany in 1934, in the United States in 1934 (under the title Erasmus of Rotterdam), in France in 1935, in Italy in 1935, etc.), that the wider public began to be aware of the true dimension of this great traveller and impassioned seeker after dialogue and peace: in his Querela pacis he proclaimed: “The whole world is the common fatherland of all” at a time when Europe was torn by bloody conflicts. He saw only absurdity in the hatred that pitted English, German, Spanish, Italian and French against one other.

Erasmus was always ready to take up his pen against injustice, wars, fanaticism and even the moral decline of his own Church. The “reign” of Erasmus, whose authority at the beginning of the 16th century extended throughout Europe, triumphed without the need for violence by virtue of spiritual force alone. As Stefan Zweig writes “For one wonderful moment, Europe was united by the dream of a shared civilization, which, thanks to its unity of language [Latin], religion and culture, would put an end to its dreadful, age-old discord. The memory of that unforgettable bid for unity will forever be linked to the personality and name of Erasmus. His ideas, his hopes and his dreams captured and held the imagination of Europe for a brief span in its history, and it is to his great chagrin, as well as ours, that such pure intentions turned out to be only a short interlude in the cruel tragedy of humankind.”

In Erasmus’s view, the tyranny of an idea amounted to a declaration of war against freedom of thought, which explains why throughout his life he refused to align himself with any ideology or group, because he firmly believed that political allegiance of any kind took away the individual’s freedom to believe, think and feel impartially. That is why Erasmus respected all ideas while refusing to recognize the authority of any. He was the first thinker to define himself as European; he advocated universal access to culture and knowledge as the indispensible basis for the education of mankind, arguing that only an uneducated, ignorant man will be an unthinking slave to his own passions. Unfortunately, towards the end of his life he was forced to confront the brutal reality of a violent, uncontrollable world: “At Paris his translator and disciple Louis Berquin was burned at the stake; in England his mutual friends John Fisher and Thomas More were beheaded (1535)…” Zwingli, with whom he had exchanged so many letters, was killed at the battle of Kappel…Rome was sacked by the mercenaries of Charles V (1527).

It was above all his clash with the theories of Martin Luther that was to cause him the greatest sorrow: knowing that his peaceful struggle was doomed to failure in the face of obstinacy and intransigence, he could see that disaster was inevitable. Overcome with foreboding, he exclaimed, “I pray that this tragedy will not end badly. It was at that time that Luther, seeing the peasant revolt turn against his powerful protectors, condemned the uprisings of 1525 in an unusually violent pamphlet, issuing nothing short of a call to massacre, entitled “Against the thieving and murdering hordes of peasants”. In it he writes:

“Whoever is able, let him stab, smite, slay (…), secretly or in public, remembering that nothing can be more poisonous, harmful or diabolical than a rebel (…). Now is the time of anger and the sword, it is not the day of grace. Rulers should be undaunted and strike with a clear conscience, and go on striking, as long as there is breath in the rebels’ bodies. (…) Therefore, dear lords, (…) stab, strike, slay whoever can” (quoted in J. Lefebvre, Luther et l’autorité temporelle, 1521-1525, Paris, Aubier, 1973, pp. 247, 253, 257). Luther promptly sided with the authority of the princes against that of the people. Finally, when the fields of Wurtemberg were soaked with blood, he boldly stated: “I, Martin Luther, slew all the peasants during the uprising, for it was I who ordered them to be put to death. I have their blood on my conscience.”

Erasmus was devastated to see “Rome, Zurich and Wittenberg a prey to bitter wars of religion; sweeping wars beat down like storms on Germany, France, Italy and Spain; the name of Christ has become a battle standard.” The cruellest illustration of the overestimation of man’s civilized state was finally to come in the history of the 20th century: Erasmus could not have imagined the terrible and almost insoluble problem of racial hatred. But, as Stefan Zweig writes, “The world always needs men who refuse to admit that history is anything more than a perpetual, drab beginning over and over again, the same play insipidly re-enacted against different backdrops; men who have the unshakeable conviction that history has a moral purpose; that it embodies a progress steadily pursued by the human race in its ascent from brute force to a spirit governed by order and wisdom, from bestiality to divinity, and that humanity is already within reach of the highest rung on the ladder… Soon, Erasmus and fellow-travellers joyfully told themselves, humanity, well educated and conscious of its own strength, would recognize its moral mission, and, after finally shedding the last traces of bestiality in its nature, would live in peace and brotherhood… But it was not the glow of a holy new dawn that they glimpsed through the darkness of this world: it was the conflagration that was about to destroy the ideal world of humanism. Like the German tribes who invaded Classical Rome, Luther, a fanatical man of action, was about to unleash a grassroots national movement of irresistible force, overrun the humanists and smash their internationalist dreams. Before humanism had truly begun its task of building universal concord, the Reformation brought its hammer down on the Eclessia universalis, thus shattering the last vestige of spiritual unity in Europe.”

This new CD-Book project initially grew out of the idea for an ambitious tribute to this exceptional humanist, articulated through the living dialogue of texts and music from the period, placed in their historical context. We reproduce Erasmus’s own words, with texts drawn from his correspondence and a number of his most important writings. Apart from Erasmus himself, we shall also hear the voices of Folly, Thomas More and Luther. On the 3 CDs accompanying this book, the texts heard in dialogue with music of the period are spoken by: Louise Moaty (Folly) in French, Marc Mauillon (Erasmus and the Adages) and René Zosso (Thomas More, Machiavelli and Luther). All the texts, with the same musical accompaniment, will also be published on the Internet in another six European languages: German, English, Spanish, Catalan, Dutch and Italian. Finally, for those who are only interested in listening to the music, we are releasing another 3 CDs featuring all the music without the spoken texts. The texts on Folly are accompanied by improvisations, variations and vocal or instrumental adaptations on the musical theme of folly, while in CDs 2 and 3 our tour of the landmark events in the life and times of Erasmus are accompanied by pieces by Dufay, Josquin, Sermisy, Lloyd, Isaac, Du Caurroy, Moderne, Morales and Trabaci, as well as anonymous pieces from the Western, Sephardic and Ottoman traditions.

We strongly believe that the ideas of this great humanist, his critical reflections and philosophical thought continue to be an essential source of humanistic and spiritual wisdom, and, even after 500 years, are still surprisingly relevant, as were the prescient words of his great friend, the remarkable intellectual Thomas More, from his book Utopia: “Wherever there is private property, and everything is measured in terms of money, one will never achieve justice and social prosperity, unless you consider as just the kind of society where the wickedest people have the best share, and you regard as perfectly happy a State in which public wealth is in the hands of a tiny minority of insatiable individuals, while the majority is a prey to poverty.” This exact description of the crisis currently gripping Europe and the world, written five centuries ago, shows how the study and knowledge of these great humanist thinkers can help us to reflect on our human destiny and seek out new paths of dialogue, justice and peace. Their ideas are an early blueprint, still not fully realised today, of a European Union bound together by a shared culture and civilization: a united Europe capable of developing according to a moral ideal that soars beyond merely economic or territorial interests.

JORDI SAVALL
Bellaterra, Autumn 2012

Translated by Jacqueline Minett


PRO·PACEM Textes, Art & Musiques pour la Paix
PRO·PACEM Textes, Art & Musiques pour la Paix

“Peace cannot be kept by force;
it can only be achieved by understanding.”
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Hiroshima 6 August 1945, 8:15.
“[…] I looked around: although it was morning, the sky was dark as twilight, with dust and smoke rising in the air. I saw streams of ghostly figures, slowly shuffling from the centre of the city of Hiroshima towards the nearby hills. They were naked and tattered, bleeding, burned, blackened and swollen. Parts of their bodies were missing, flesh and skin hanging from their bones, some with their eyeballs in their hands, and some with their stomachs burst open, with their intestines hanging out. We girls joined the ghostly procession, carefully stepping over the Dead or dying. There was a deathly silence, broken only by the moans of the injured and their pleas for water. The foul stench of burned skin filled the air […]”
Setsuko Thurlow, “Hibakusha”, survivor of the Hiroshima bomb.

Cambrai, January 1517.
“I can understand and excuse animals attacking each other because of their ignorance, but men should recognize that war is necessarily and inherently unjust, for it usually affects not those who ignite and declare it, but almost always takes its heaviest toll on the innocent, on the poor people who stand to gain nothing from victories and defeats. Almost always it takes its heaviest toll on those who have no part in it, and even when the outcome of war is successful, the joy of some is but the suffering and ruin of others.”
Erasmus. The Complaint of Peace.

Barcelona, 1 July 2004.
It is difficult to live without external peace in the world around us. It is impossible to live without inner peace, without peace in our hearts. Music creates a space of peace, both within and outside us. Few people create music and some are able to perform it, but we can all listen to it; however, this third musical art has to be learned by creating an outer and inner silence. To listen to music, we must be at peace, and at the same time music is a source of peace. It is a vital circle.
Raimon Panikkar. Introduction to the concert Da pacem. (Universal Forum of Cultures).

Barcelona, summer 1966 and January 1987.
“When Kant writes of the disinterested value of beauty, I do not understand. It is like when people assure us that they are apolitical, and that they do things with no specific purpose in mind, but I don’t believe them. To be apolitical is in itself a political option. The same is true of beauty. I believe in an art that is useful to society. If that were not possible, I would abandon it, because art would hold no interest for me […] More than ever, I also felt the need, as Penrose said of Picasso, “to seal a pact with my fellow men”, in short, to succeed in making my art intimately involved in the struggles, joys and hopes of the people, and above all those of my own people, the people of Catalonia.”
Antoni Tàpies. A Personal Memoir and Conversations.

I have chosen to introduce our PRO PACEM project with four different quotes which immediately take us to the crux of the debate: the personal account of Setsuko Thurlow, a “Hibakusha”, that is to say, a survivor of the Hiroshima bomb and an innocent victim of a horrific war; a reflection by Erasmus of Rotterdam, the great 16th century humanist and advocate of Peace, on the fact that it is always the innocent who suffer most in any war; a spiritual observation on the impossibility of living without peace in our hearts by the philosopher, theologian and writer of Catalan and Hindu origin, Raimon Panikkar; and a reflection rooted in experience by one of the leading artists of our time, the painter Antoni Tàpies, on the social commitment of the artist.

PRO PACEM

PRO PACEM is a new CD-Book project that makes a plea for a world without war or terrorism and for total nuclear disarmament. It presents a sound mosaic that takes the form of a living dialogue of spiritually expressive vocal and instrumental music from a variety of repertoires from East (Armenia, Turkey, Sepharad, India, Israel and China) and West (Greece, Spain, England, Portugal, Italy, Estonia and Belgium). These different musical expressions were inspired by the ancient Sibylline Oracles (Montserrat Figueras), the prayers of the Koran and the Hebrew liturgy, vocal pieces based on one of the earliest Christian chants invoking peace: Da Pacem Domine (Grant me Peace, o Lord), first in the Gregorian version, which is followed by Gilles Binchois’ 3-part version (14th century) and finally the new version by Arvo Pärt, which was specially composed for our concert for Peace performed during the Barcelona Forum of Cultures in 2004, and including pieces by Josquin, Parabosco, Orlando di Lasso and the Sephardic lament El Pan de la Aflicción. All these works are performed by the soloists of La Capella Reial de Catalunya. This PRO PACEM programme features other vocal music sung by Montserrat Figueras, such as the Motet Flavit auster from the Monastery of Las Huelgas, the Portuguese villancico from Goa entitled Senhora del mundo and the Motet by Francisco Guerrero, as well as improvisations by Ferran Savall in Deploratio IV. Finally, it includes instrumental pieces by Christopher Tye, Henry Purcell and one of my own compositions (Planctus Caravaggio), all profoundly spiritual in character. The performers featured in the recording are Montserrat Figueras, Lior Elmaleh, Marc Mauillon, Muwafak Shahin Khalil, Ferran Savall, the soloists of La Capella Reial de Catalunya, Hespèrion XXI, Le Concert des Nations and guest musicians from Armenia, USA, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, India, Japan and Greece.

The non-musical part of this project, introducing four interesting texts on the purpose of art and educational, philosophical and spiritual thought, as well as reproductions of three previously unpublished paintings by Antoni Tàpies on the theme of Peace, plays a major role in proposing a broad reflection on the paths of peace in the world through the collaboration of four outstanding cultural and artistic figures of our time: Edgard Morin, Raimon Panikkar, Fatema Mernissi and Antoni Tàpies. They address such the issues as the education of the future; the importance of intercultural dialogue as a means to achieve peace between East and West; the model towards which our globalised world will evolve – the Cowboy or the Simbad model; and, finally, the relationship and commitment of the creative artist to society and the world in general.

The project is neither more nor less than the desire to engage in a joint reflection, by means of information and intercultural dialogue, on how we can create the conditions necessary for true awareness of the importance of the present moment and what is at stake. Accordingly, the contents of our CD-Book are translated into eight languages (French, German, English, Catalan, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Hebrew).

We firmly believe that the principal enemies of mankind – ignorance, hatred and selfishness – can only be overcome by love, knowledge, empathy and understanding. Is this not the ultimate purpose of art and thought? It is our hope that the music, the works of art and philosophical and spiritual reflections, the analyses of the globalised world in which we live, and the knowledge provided by the statistics reproduced in the CD-Book, will shed a little more light and perspective objective on today’s obscure and complex world. Statistics may be cold and dull, but they give a precise account of important facts such as the number of innocent victims and displaced people trailing in the wake of the major wars and conflicts, as well as the military spending in the world and the number of nuclear weapons stockpiled throughout Europe and elsewhere. All this information should help us to become more aware of the situation in which we live and enable us to think independently about what might have led to the present dreadful disarray of our bankrupt humanity, which seems to have lost touch with its essential values of civilisation and humanism.

The very considerable public and media presence that we can all achieve thanks to the internet, whether as artists or as more or less committed private individuals in the public sphere, forces us to take stock of the inherent responsibilities of that situation: to contribute to the knowledge that is necessary to combat ignorance and fanaticism, to speak out for justice and peace, to work towards the increasing freedom and solidarity of men and women, to teach understanding and intercultural dialogue, in the realization that, as Joan Miro, another great Catalan painter, said, as artists (and, I would add, as human beings) “what really matters is not a work of art, but the spiritual journey of a man’s life as a whole, not what he has done during that life, but what he enables others to glimpse and achieve at some point in the more or less distant future.” These words echo the same attitude and strength of those great individuals who have devoted their lives to the struggle for the freedom and well-being of others, figures such as Gandhi, who reminds us that “If man will only realize that it is unmanly to obey laws that are unjust, no man’s tyranny will enslave him.”

But it is important to remember that we are still living in a cruel world where tyrants hold nations hostage (North Korea), or get away with massacring their own people (Syria), a world so profoundly unjust that 1% of its population possesses what is needed by the remaining 99%: better housing, better education, better doctors and a higher standard of living, but as Joseph E. Stiglitz (Nobel Prize in Economics 2001) points out, that minority is lacking something, “one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99% live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.” It is then, as Tony Judt (1948-2010) observes with extraordinary lucidity that “fear re-emerges as an active ingredient of political life of Western democracies. Fear of terrorism, of course; but also, and perhaps more insidiously, fear of the uncontrollable speed of change, fear of the loss of employment, fear of losing ground to others in an increasingly unequal distribution of resources, the fear of losing control of the circumstances and routines of one’s daily life. And, perhaps above all, fear that it is not just we who can no longer shape our lives, but that those in authority have lost control as well, to forces beyond their reach.” The danger foreseen by Judt is already a reality: “Our contemporary cult of untrammelled economic freedom, combined with a heightened sense of fear and insecurity, is leading to reduced social provision and minimal economic regulation; but these are accompanied by ever-extending governmental oversight of communication, movement, and opinion. “Chinese” capitalism, as it were. He concludes by arguing for the importance of recent history in an age of oblivion: “We think we have learned enough of the past to know that many of the old answers don’t work, and that may be true. But what the past can truly help us understand is the perennial complexity of the questions.”

The imbalance in the world has intensified in recent years as a consequence of an inhuman economic policy that has sacrificed millions of lives to the establishment of totally outmoded systems of exploitation. That is why, in this time of grave economic crisis, it is even more surprising that military spending has sharply increased, reaching the astronomic figure of more than 1,700 billion U.S. dollars, serving only to fuel and prolong the numerous armed conflicts which currently rage in the East and the West, many of them still unresolved and unlikely to be resolved in the near future. Sadly, this proliferation of long-term conflicts (in Afghanistan, Iraq, Chechnya, Palestine and Africa), as well as more recent conflicts (Syria) and the so-called “irregular” guerrilla wars (in Latin America) and various forms of terrorism have so far claimed thousands upon thousands of innocent victims and more than 33 million displaced people throughout the world. As Erasmus observed in 1517, “war almost always takes its heaviest toll on those who have no part in it.” Twenty years after failing to prevent the systematic destruction of Sarajevo and the massacre of thousands of innocent Bosnians, the same human callousness and absolute impotence of the world’s great nations are doing nothing to stop the martyrdom of the Syrian people. Absolute evil is always that which man inflicts on man, and it is a universal fact that concerns all humanity. Hannah Arendt was perhaps the first to recognize it when she wrote in 1945: “the problem of evil will be the fundamental question facing intellectual life in Europe after the war.” Can art, music and beauty save mankind from that evil?

In Dostoevski’s novel The Idiot, an atheist called Hippolite asks Prince Myshkin, “Is it true, Prince, that you once said that “beauty” would save the world?” And he then goes on, “Gentlemen,” addressing the whole company, “the prince contends that beauty will save the world […] What kind of beauty is it that will save the world? […] Myshkin stared at him in silence.” The prince has no answer, but, like Antoni Tàpies, we believe in an art that is useful to society, an art that through beauty, grace, emotion and spirituality, can have the power to transform us and make us become more sensitive and plus altruistic.

“I have learnt to love you late, Beauty, at once so ancient and so new!
I have learnt to love you late!

You were within me, and I was in the world outside myself
and that is where I searched for you, and, disfigured as I was,
I fell upon the lovely things of your creation!
You were with me, but I was not with you.
The beautiful things of this world kept me far from you,
and yet, if they had not been in you, they would have had no being at all!

You cried aloud to me; you broke my barrier of deafness.
You shone upon me; your radiance enveloped me and you put my blindness to flight.
You shed your fragrance about me, I drew breath and now I gasp for your sweet odour;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you.
You touched me, and I am inflamed with love of your peace.”

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) Confessions, 10, 27
Trans. R. S. Pine-Coffin

JORDI SAVALL
Bellaterra, beginning of autumn, 2012

Translated by Jacqueline Minett

Einstein was asked to predict what weapons would be used in a
Third World War. I am told that he answered:
“If the Third World War is fought with nuclear weapons,
the fourth will be fought with bows and arrows.”

Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900-1979)