La Lira d’Espéria Revisited
20 years ago, Jordi Savall recorded a CD with Pedro Estevan called La Lira d’Espéria that drew on pieces from each Jewish, Islamic and Christian sources performed on various types of fiddle and percussion instruments. The 1994 recording was a big hit, and now, a full two decades later, Savall has released a companion to that original disc. This new 2014 Alia Vox recording, La Lira d’Espéria II focuses entirely on the Spanish region of Galicia in the northwest of the Iberian Peninsula. The repertory included in the program include the well-known, and often recorded Cantigas de Santa Maria, complied by the 13th century King Alfonso X of Castile and leon.
The performing forces on this recording are simple, comprising various string and percussion instruments. Given the limited performers, the incredible variety of sound they create is impressive. While the extent to which percussion was historically used is sometimes questioned, all the different instruments are enjoyable to hear. Percussionists Pedro Estevan and David Mayoral play instruments including darbuka, adufe, tamburello, pandereta, and pandeiro among others.
From Jordi Savall’s latest recording, to his daughters’ most recent release…Arianna Savall, daughter of Jordi Savall and the late Monserrat Figueras is herself an accomplished singer, historical harpist and composer. Arianna has performed extensively as a member of her Father’s ensemble Hespèrion XXI, but in 2008, together with Norwegian musician Petter Udland Johansen, Arianna Savall formed her own group called Hirundo Maris. A 2014 recording by Hirundo Maris on Carpe Diem records titled Vox Cosmica, centers on music by Hildegard of Bingen.
Born over 900 years ago, Hildegard of Bingen is still probably the most widely known women of medieval Europe. In 1148, she established the first convent for Benedictine nuns, and later founded 2 monasteries at Rupertsberg and Eibingen. Hildegard lived in Rupertsberg, composing in the meantime a lot of liturgical plainchant for the nuns there. One of Hildegard’s close associates at Rupertsberg wrote about the music heard at these convents—interestingly describing the singing of melodies complemented with ‘the accompaniment of the most beautiful instruments….” We’re not entirely sure what those instruments might have been, but Hirundo Maris employ a sundry assortment from flutes, harps, and fiddles to a tromba marina, nyckelharpa, Tibetian singing bowl, and many others.
Other tracks on this disc also feature the singing of the co-founder of Hirundo Maris, Petter Udland Johansen. He sings a lament composed by Petrus Abelard–a mournful contrast to Hildegard’s musical visions of light and life.
Interspersed with the works by Abelard and Hildegard are four newly composed meditations written by Petter Johansen. Inspired by the vocal music of Hildegard, the Meditations sound sometimes modern and sometimes ancient, the composers intent perhaps one that crosses boundries of space and time.