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<<  -- 2 --  Rex Harley    DIÁSPORA SEFARDÍ


The versions of the songs and instrumental pieces on the present CD are thus drawn from across Europe, but concentrate on the migration eastwards, as far as the shores of the Bosphorus. The double CD format gives the opportunity for a rather different presentation of the material: the common practice in recordings of Sephardic music is to alternate vocal and instrumental pieces, and to ring the changes in terms of pace and mood. So, to take to instrumental CD first, four of the tracks are quite long -- (between eight and eleven minutes) -- which enables the music to unfold gradually and, as it were, organically. There are even affinities, most obviously in the final track which features the sarod playing of Ken Zuckerman, with the Indian raga.

This is a sound-world which does not make the strongest impact on first hearing. The impression will probably be of a homogeneity in which one piece merges all too easily with another. But repeated listening reveals a range of different musical patterns and shapes, enhanced by subtle combinations of instruments. And though the human voice is absent, always a solo instrument presents the melody in a way which somehow captures the essence of a truly vocal line. It may be the flute, the mediaeval lute, or the viola or rebab of Jordi Savall himself, one of the acknowledged masters of his instrument. He creates a tone that is, appropriately, melancholy and plangent; at times quite painfully beautiful.

I should be sorry to be without these sensitive and subtle performances. However, my enthusiasm for this disc can in no way be extended to include the vocal offering on the first CD of the set. The reason is simple, and may be purely personal: I find the vocal mannerisms of the soloist, and long-time collaborator of Jordi Savall -- Montseratt Figueras -- almost unbearable to listen to. Over the years, she has cultivated a style of ornamentation which involves elaborate swoops and trills, in every line of every song. It was not always so. If you listen to the recordings she made in the mid seventies, such devices are used sparingly and in a way that, arguably, strengthens the sense of the words being sung.

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Copyright © 10 November 2002 Rex Harley, Cardiff, UK


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