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An expanded reprise,
This review is from: Altre Follie (Audio CD)In the fictional account of Marin Marais' life, his mentor commands him to "improvise on The Spanish Follies". The implication is that by the mid-17th Century any string musician, aspiring or established, should be able to launch into one of the many versions of this ancient Iberian tune. Jordi Savall, who has already produced a collection of "The Follies" ["La Folia"] including a version by Marais, has assembled a new set of interpretations. As usual with Savall, those "interpretations" from composers represented on the previous CD and this one are subtle, but they are there. There's no question this disc is unique.
As with the earlier CD, the order of presentation is roughly chronological, with the first being something of a surprise. It's a Peruvian version of the dance extracted from a 17th Century collection. The use of Amerindian instruments in a genre generally overwhelmed by European interpretations perks the listener's attention. Savall also skips over France [enough Marin Marais?] to tap Britain's John Playford's 1684 version for this set. That side trip accomplished, Hesperion XXI returns to the Mediterranean to present familiar figures such as Mudarra, Correlli and Vivaldi. It is the latter's "Sonata" on La Follia which rightly concludes the set. Vivaldi's version must have been something along the lines of the original dance, but with fuller orchestration. The term "folia" is Tuscan for "mindless" or "crazy". Vivaldi's approach starts with a rather sedate, morose opening, but builds to an almost crashing crescendo at the conclusion. It is the favourite of many, and rightly so. Vivaldi's finale certainly reflects the original phrase.
The musicians of Hesperion XXI show a shift in emphasis from the group Savall assembled for La Folia in 1998. Percussionist Pedro Estevan has been replaced by David Mayoral and Marc Clos. Philippe Pierlot, who drifts in an out of Savall's ensembles has returned for this CD. The real change however, is the introduction of Manfredo Kraemer from Musica Antiqua Koln. The voice of the violin in this collection is anything but discordant, even if it seems novel. Assigned the leading string in five of the fifteen pieces rendered here - mostly later composers - Kraemer brings an additional vigour to the renditions.
It need not be said that the performances are flawless - this is, after all, Jordi Savall. The recording is equally precise and well up to Alia Vox's high standards. As usual with their productions the sound is clear, crisp and the listener is left with needing nothing more than time to listen to this disc often. If there's any shortcoming in this CD, it's the insistence on the notes writers to incorporate original texts along with the translations. Given that six languages are represented, this seems a wasteful use of space. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]