Magazine article Gramophone

'Venezia Millenaria': Music Connected with Venice from the Byzantine Empire to the Napoleonic Wars

Magazine article Gramophone

'Venezia Millenaria': Music Connected with Venice from the Byzantine Empire to the Napoleonic Wars

Article excerpt

'Venezia Millenaria' [G] Music connected with Venice from the Byzantine Empire to the Napoleonic Wars Hesperion XXI; Ensemble Panagiotis Neochoritis; La Capella Reial de Catalunya; Le Concert des Nations/Jordi Savall Alia Vox (F)(2) [SACD]. AVSA9925 (156' * DDD/DSD * T/t) Recorded live at Fontfroide Abbey, Narbonne, France, July 16,2016; Collegiate Church, Salzburg, July 26,2016; Tivoli Vredenburg, Utrecht, October 2,2016

Two discs, over 50 performers and 1000 years of musical history: even by Jordi Savall's standards, 'Venezia Millenaria' is an extraordinary project--proof of what ambition, imagination and, yes, public subsidy can achieve. From the gorgeous printed book (an actual book, not a booklet) with its abundance of historical images and essays by John Julius Norwich and Judith Herrin among others, to the meticulously researched and often newly arranged tracks, drawing together performers from many different traditions and nations, no expense is spared here in realising this enormous idea in all its richness and variety: telling the history of Venice from 700 to 1797 through music.

Imagine walking through the streets of Venice as centuries slip away around you. Through an open window you might overhear a young noblewoman singing a flirtatious song by Hasse; as you pass an Orthodox church the sound of chanting, ancient as the lagoon itself, leaks out; you pass through a curtained doorway into a tavern where folk musicians from Greece and Armenia are playing their traditional dances. This is the disconcerting experience of listening to a recording whose eclecticism mirrors that of the crossroads-city that is its inspiration.

Savall and his Hesperion XXI and Le Concert des Nations are joined here by La Capella Reial de Catalunya, an Orthodox choir and soloists on instruments including the oud, duduk, santur and qanun. The result is a chronological musical mystery tour, whose juxtapositions and collisions are often startling. Plunging from the primal ululations of Byzantine or Russian Orthodox chant (whose shared musical roots are amply evident here) into the highly worked sinfonias of Gabrieli or Vivaldi's church music is disorienting but throws up shared points of reference too. …

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