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4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
The Forgotten Kingdom
Format: MP3 Download|Change

on 11 January 2010
I did not purchase this from Amazon or from anywhere else -- it was a Christmas present.

Beg, steal or borrow to get this treasure if you are an early music enthusiast, because essay CDs don't get any better than this. It is impeccably presented, with scholarly texts and imaginative esays in the form of a hard cover book in several languages, with full colour illustrations and many documents from the period. There are three CDs accompanying the book, and the whole will provide you with many hours of discovery, pleasure and study.

The participating musicians -- Jordi Saval, his ensemble and the superb Montserrat Figueras are all at the very top of their profession, and the music is supplemented by Latin and French texts of the times, such as, for example, the Papal Bull from 1252, "Ad Extirpanda", which establishes the Inquisition. That and the other similar texts are read by legendary Rene Zosso, the masterful interpreter (and singer) of medieval poetry.

This one is definitely not for the i-pod!
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on 7 February 2011
ANYONE even vaguely interested in ancient music could not fail to be enchanted with these three SACDs presented in an albeit somewhat difficult to store, unconventional format in the shape of a 563 page book with the CDs tucked in to the front and back covers.

The presentation is luxurious, comprehensive and highly informative written in no less than seven languages: French, English. Occitan, Castillian, Catalán, German and Italian. The book is also illustrated with photographs of Hesperion XXI and the Capella Reial de Catalunya as well as photographs of medieval manuscripts.

The works are beautifully recorded and with the added dimension of surround sound, really brings the music to life. There are recitations in Occitan by Gérad Gourian and in French and Latin by René Zosso and added to the line up there are musicians from Armenia, Turkey, Bulgaria and Morocco.

All in all a wonderful and meaningful collection covering a short lived and bloody period of history.

I purchased these CDs after having purchased Jordi Savall's excellent "Istanbul: Dmitrie Cantemir: ""The Book of Science of Music"" and the Sephardic and Armenian" also in SACD
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on 17 April 2010
This is a lavish release: a stunning book packed with images and information about the history, persecution, and destruction of the Albigensian cathars, and three well-filled CDs. Savall and his ensemble make a haunting, wonderful sound, but I cannot help feeling that it is in every last detail the sound they have been making for the last twenty years. Even though I can put my feet up and enjoy both the book and the music, I cannot make myself believe that the performances I hear have any specific connection to the history I am being told - which is slightly disturbing when the history is so tragic.
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on 6 February 2014
This is a 3-CD set, of music from the period of the persecution of the Cathars (950 -1463 CE), performed by the maestro Jordi Savall, and his ensemble Hesperion. A great deal of research has clearly gone into the production of this work. Much of it comprises original texts, in Occitan or Latin, set to music and sung or in some cases, recited. The music covers three periods: the rise of Catharism in Langedoc, Southern France; the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars; and the instigation and progress of the Inquisition, set up expressly to eliminate the last vestiges of Catharism.

The package is essentially a book with a 3-CD soundtrack, which transports you immediately to that time and place: the book (which comes in seven languages - English, French, Occitan, Catalan, Castillian, Italian and German) is lavishly illustrated with medieval pictures, and it supplies all the source texts, in the original and in translation, as well as several scholarly but highly readable chapters, on Occitan and Cathar history, the progress of the crusades and the Inquisition, the musicology of the time, the theology of the Cathar 'heresy', and much more. As a Catalan himself, Jordi's personal involvement in the legacy is always apparent.

It is, in my opinion, a triumph of both fascinating scholarship and highly empathic beautiful music-making. It stands out, even by the towering standards of Jordi and Montserrat, and Hesperion. The voice of Montserrat Figueras, the principal female singer and life-long wife and musical partner of Jordi, is just sublime here, and perfectly suited to the medieval cadences she articulates. Her death in 2011, after a long battle with cancer, is a catastrophic loss to lovers of early music (as well as an unimaginable loss to Jordi Savall) - may this masterpiece stand as a monument to her genius, and their partnership.

Martin Williams
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on 17 May 2010
Brilliant music, brilliantly performed and brilliantly recorded. This 3-CD set is a specialist item and comes in book form with a number of essays on the history of the period from which the music is taken. While this knowledge enriches the experience of the music, it is not essential for full musical enjoyment; however, it will prevent puzzlement for those who hear the small number of spoken tracks. As for the rest of the music, as other reviewers have said - it's pure delight. I recently played some of it for a friend who was bowled over by it and had never heard anything from this era. That just demonstrates its appeal at a purely musical level.
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on 13 April 2011
The outcome of an enormous research project, this book/SACD set really does rank as a genuine 'must have' purchase. Haunting, sparse and seemingly exotic music from a forgotten kingdom - what could be better.

The 5.1 mix is, unsurprisingly, immaculate and should serve as a text book example of how to produce surround recordings. Across the three discs a tragic hidden history is revealed; a tale of the demise of a now mythic society, only remembered distantly by virtue of various dialects and the odd traditional regional recipes that persist in the face of globalisation. And here of course is the lesson Savall and his fellow travellers seek to teach us.

It is a tragic, beautiful and probably pointless task but Savall, ethical to the last, is interested in the teaching, not the final moral. So the attention to detail is, as near as it can be (given we're dealing here with largely forgotten history) faultless.

A spectacular achievement.
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on 21 December 2016
The music's wonderful, in vigorous performances - but the odd packaging concept means that it's necessary to manipulate a heavy book in a multi-linguistic menagerie to find out what's going on. I also find the spoken passages and chants very annoying, and would have preferred a purely musical collection.
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on 4 November 2011
At first it is necessary to remember the Cathar extermination is the worst ever crime against humanity committed within Christianity against other Christians. It is at least as awful as Auschwitz and if it was not done industrially for obvious reasons it was done with the absolute and supreme aim to destroy for ever and ever a whole community of people who were your own brothers, at times members of your own family, your parents or your children, just for one reason: they dared to think differently from the official canon decreed by a bunch of people in Rome. Here we are only dealing with the music, and we should not forget that this movement is also political, economic and social. The religious deviance will be uprooted but not the political and social demands and reforms that will take place nevertheless and in spite of the resistance of those who had just destroyed the Cathars. The future was coming from the south as for city organization, political and social structure, feudalism and the new mercantile order coming up that will only take over after the Black Death and the Hundred Year War.

To understand, maybe, this division of the Christian world we have to understand that Europe was colonized by the Indo-Europeans starting around 5 or 6 thousand years ago via two routes. The Meditarranean route crossed Anatolia and then spread to Greece, Italy and Iberia and the coasts of the Mediterranean sea. But the other route was just as important. They crossed the Caucasus and then entered the vast plains of Central Europe and moved west and north. They will be rejoined later on by the Finno-Ugrian people.

But the important fact is that these Indo-Europeans did not migrate in great numbers but in small numbers but bringing a new economy, agriculture and herding, and new languages along with new cultures and religions. If we know little about the Turkic people who populated Europe and represent 80% of our DNA heritage as compared to 20% only to Indo-European people, we know for sure that they were the majority of the people as they are the vast majority of our DNA heritage. The two routes that imported religions and cultures led to different compromises and syntheses, and when the Christian faith took over the Mediterranean route to Rome it was the shortest way but it was not the only one and actually the eastern branch and the northern branch remained different and are still different as the Orthodox church that refuses the hierarchical organization of the Catholic church. It is closer to the people, maybe more contemplative too.

The Cathars are plunging their roots into this old and deep division and they had to come from the East, the heart of the Orthodox faith actually, Bulgaria, maybe even farther east and north. The mystery is why they spread so fast and so deep in the Mediterranean zone. I may suggest that what some consider as the hatred of the Roman Empire and civilization survived in the hatred of the Roman Catholic church and its imperial organization and brilliance if not wasteful and vain riches.

CD1 track 7, "Beside the Cross" is a way to look at the crucifixion that is entirely centered on the suffering and the acceptance of that suffering because you have to accept suffering and not because that suffering is saving you. The salvation is not in the suffering of Jesus or his mother but in the sad and submissive contemplation of the suffering as if it were yours and into which you project yourselves. You have to feel the suffering if you want to be saved in your own mind and not in some future promised land that is virtual at most and unreal definitely.

CD1 track 12, the divorce of Eleanor of Aquitania from the French king Louis VII is one of these personal events that will change the face of Europe since it will create the rivalry between England and France that was to last for centuries, cause the Hundred Years War and so many other differences. But once again it is not this private event, this divorce that produced this rift. The divorce and the subsequent rift was caused by a deeper rift and it slightly shifted it from what it was to what it became. It was the rift between the South and South West of Europe and the northern part, and in France itself (which did not exist as a nation yet) between the Occitan southern half and the northern part that spoke a completely different language and had a completely different culture. But what brought this southern past of France to Catharism, the religion of the poor? Probably the refusal and rejection of Roman norms that goes back to the way the conquest of Gaul and Celtic Europe was done brutally destroying its language and culture, not to speak of its religion based on the local community and not the imperial hierarchy of power or spiritual references.

That probably has to do with the fact that the older form of spirituality in Indo-European and Turkic cultures was the RSI (Indo-European name): a man who was the carrier and conveyor, possessor and voice of all spiritual levels: poetry and language, including religious rites and addresses to god, priest since he had the ritual language under control, political power and memory of the community, hence the legal adviser and law defender. Apparently that unique character was split in Europe along with the migrations. The Slavs kept the priest and the soldier together, the Germans gave pre-eminence to the knight and soldier, the Celts gave pre-eminence to the priest (and detainer of language), the Mediterraneans gave pre-eminence to the political figure to the point that a general had to conquer political power to be really recognized in Greece or the Roman empire. Occitania retained the old Celtic culture of a personal, introspective religious faith contained in the local community.

CD1 Track 15, what a beautiful dirge for burning bodies assassinated by the flames of the intolerant. And the stakes are burning and the bodies are dissolving in flames and the very glory of the catholic god is enhanced by these cruel murders, isn't it. But the music is so beautiful, so bleak and sad. What vision of life and the world can the people who are living under these lethal drums of death have, if anything else than the exquisite pleasure of suffering? Is that contemplative vision of suffering the result of this barbaric age or the achievement of a higher level of spirituality? Never forget, never forgive such rage! It has no excuse. Let us come together in that beautiful sadness on CD1 track 21.

On CD2 track 5 some man tells how barbaric, hostile and treacherous the Cathars are, attacking in the back and encouraging thieves and murderers. CD2 track 6 is a call for vengeance, the vengeance of an offense done to God, the Catholic God, no one else, no real human person, just God. The Catholics are calling for vengeance because they are hurt in the Cathar lack of respect for their God, a God who is of Peace and Love. And yet it is vengeance that eliminates the heretics both physically and religiously. That's what they called peace and love. Peace for the Catholics and love for the Catholics. Where are peace and love for one's neighbor? It is in such joy at the prospect of killing in as much suffering as possible that we find out and know that man is not essentially good, nor evil, as for that, just human that is to say ready to do anything with joy provided it gives them survival and satisfaction. CD2 track 10 is the direct answer to the previous frivolous and dancelike evocation of the destruction of Beziers and it laments on the death of the Lord of Beziers. What joy can there be in killing? What mournful sufferance there is in being killed or witnessing an unjust murder! CD2 track 11 expresses in a few words the irreversible fate of such crimes that just get forgotten: ""neither man nor God not anyone on earth will hold it against them [the killing crusaders]."

On CD2 track 16 we have the epitaph for Simon de Montfort. The Crusader who killed so many and had so many killed is compared to Jesus who did not offer the flesh and blood of anyone else but himself. The comparison does not need any comment at all. The last track of this second CD is the absolute accusation of Rome as being inhuman and just ungodly in its very essence and we recapture a century old hatred of Rome, the conquering empire that had become the conquering Catholic church.

Now the tempest is finished CD3 starts with a different tone, a tone that may not sound as somber and sinister as before but in a way there is like a complacency and a cynicism that is definitely not very recommendable. The reading of the Papal rules of the Inquisition does not dispel that hypocritical and cynical atmosphere. In fact it makes both even deeper and more out of time and out of space, eternal in other words, an essence of man in his deep evil and the acceptance of that evil.

Track 5 shows how the victims or the survivors of this crusade are turning back to the catholic faith to try to alleviate, with praying all the suffering they have been through, and to get a promise that they won't be sent to hell, which would be an again. It's no longer the moaning and crying of them who suffer or have suffered but the slightly nostalgic tone and atmosphere of men who would like to forget, who would like to go back to peace even at the price of conforming to the winner's religion, which is after all nothing but a vestment that can cover anything you want. Track 10 pushes that cynicism one notch further and we feel that behind this nonchalant cynicism that is no blindness at all there still is the desire of a pure religion close to those who believe and practice. The reformation is in fact already hibernating under that cloak of ashes and that flood of blood.

This tone will be kept till the end though tracks 18 and 19 dedicated to Joan of Ark are slightly misplaced. The Hundred Year War is in no way the consequence of that crusade though it is the consequence of a rift in Europe between the English who started to invent modern democracy in 1215 with Magna Carta, hence to get rid of feudalism and France that was defending that feudalism and will push it so far that it will break in 1789. The shift then to the Ottoman Empire and the end of Eastern Catharism after the fall of Constantinople is historically farfetched.

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on 10 February 2014
I expected a box with some CDs - I got a a real book with 3 CDs. The book describes the background of the time, the history of the first "protestants" in Europe, the Cathar and Albigenses. The texts are written in 7 (!) languages (French, English, Occitan, Castellan, Catalan, German and Italian). The song texts are also translated in these languages. Of course, the music by Jordy Savall and his colleagues is marvellous!
The delivery time was very fast. This product deserves the best rating!
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on 11 January 2011
I thought that this was an original idea, which was very well executed. The standard of the performance on the CD's was very high, and the information about the Cathars and the background to the roman Church's "Cathar Crusade" was of the highest standard. Anyone who wants an introduction to this disgraceful episode in Church history should read this introduction.
This in not a CD cover note, it is a book in itself!
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