Sunday, January 13, 2008

Music Tells The Story

Francisco Javier (better known outside the Spanish world as St.Francis Xavier) was a much travelled man. Accompanied by members of the Jesuits, the order which he co-founded with Ignatius Loyala, his missionary journeys took him to Goa and the Portuguese Indian colonies and then to southern India and Indonesia. In 1547 he met a Japanese nobleman and encouraged by him, eventually two years later he was able to begin work in Japan, established congregations in three towns, his mission being continued by his Jesuit successors when he left to continue his travels elsewhere.

In 1552 he set sail on the Santa Cruz for China reaching the Chinese island of Shanchuan, 14 miles off the mainland. There on 21st November, he fainted after celebrating Mass. He died on 3rd December, at the age of 46, without having fulfilled his ambition of preaching in China. He had incredible and dangerous experiences, supported by the King of Portugal his patron and commissioned by the Pope.

His story – and especially his travels - have inspired Jordi Savall i Bernadet, the Catalan viol player, conductor, and composer, to compile a new double CD of music that reflects those travels. Savall has been one of the major figures in the field of early music since the 1970s, and is largely responsible for bringing the viol (viola da gamba) back to life on the stage. His repertory ranges from Medieval to Renaissance and Baroque music.

With the title 'La Ruta de Oriente' the discs reflect Javier's historical staging posts and times, from his birth in Navarre to the start of his missionary travels, using the history or a remarkable man as the scaffolding for an imaginative and exotic sequence of forty nine pieces of music which begin with the Spain of Ferdinand and Isabella and end with the traditions of that period in Japan and China.

A recent review of the CD’s (which are published by Alia Vox) is enthusiastic about the performances by Savall’s ‘ ensemble Hesperion together with an impressive number of soloists with whom he has made many recordings, and complemented here by Japanese performers. Early music is not quite my scene, but this is an interesting way of linking a notable history with the music of its day. There is a lavish booklet that goes with the album.



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