Four or six years ago, Jordi Savall played a concert of Celtic
dance music that left me muttering about how many people I know
personally who can play better dance music than that.
Two years ago, he played a concert of Turkish music that I
didn’t go to, because I figured I’d appreciate non-danceable
Turkish dance music even less than the Irish dance music I know
something about. People told me I was wrong and that it was a
wonderful concert. One of the pillars of the recorder community
was still raving last week about the Ney player on that concert.
So apparently, what he’s decided is that if he wants to play
music he wasn’t brought up to, he should get people who were to
play it with him. Last Monday, he played Spanish and Latin
American music with the Tembembe Ensemble Continuo, a Mexican
group that connects Baroque performance practice with contemporary
One thing I particularly liked about the concert was that,
while there was lots of virtuoso ornamentation and improvisation,
they always played the tune straight, first. This was true even
with the simple bass lines of the Ortiz ricercars. The concert
opened with Savall playing the “La Spagna” bass line:
It was gorgeous. Another example was in the “Differencias sobre
las Follias, where the castanets were accompanying all the
trickiest rhythms throughout. They gave the castanet player a
solo chorus, and you still heard the tune under the clicks.
Savall is still working on Celtic dance music. Someone who was
sitting closer than I was who can hear better should correct me if
I got this wrong, but I think he said that he had
switched the fourth and fifth strings on his bass viol (made in
1553) so that it would be easier to play bagpipe music. He then
demonstrated by playing a set of traditional Scottish dance music,
and sure enough, I’ve never heard a viol sound so much like a
But the Maraca solo in Jácaras – La Petanara really did
bring down the house. At the end, Enrique Barona is holding one
maraca in his hand and it’s spinning, and it spins slowly down,
decelerating and bringing the piece to a close.
The standing ovation and two encores at the end of the concert
were well-deserved. There is more detail about who played what
when in the review
at The Boston Musical Intelligencer.