Musical Traveler Savall Brings 13th-Century Galicia to Life

Jan 9, 2015

Editor's note: it's a pleasure to offer another in our series of classical reviews by IPR's panel of guest experts - this one by Dubuque native, cellist, author, & Boston Public Radio producer Will Roseliep (who started doing radio at the University of Iowa and also worked for IPR). You can read a previous review by Uri Golomb of a Bach recording here, and by Susan Scheid on albums of new works by John Adams here. Over to Will:

  Jordi Savall is a restless traveler, multi-instrumentalist, and early-music evangelist and scholar. In 1994, Savall and Pedro Estevan worked up an album -  La Lira D'Espéria -  featuring early music from what's now Northwest Spain. Savall played bowed, fiddle-like instruments, Estevan supplied percussion, and a music known largely by oral tradition and scraps of manuscript was re-energized.

A new album, La Lira D'Espéria II: Galicia (Alia Vox 9907), reprises the Savall-Estevan partnership. Tunes are grouped into seven different sections. The bowed instruments (rebec, rebab and viele tenor) often have a drone-y, trancelike effect. The percussion is absent on some tunes, and supplies a necessary punch-up on others.

Nothing here is beyond six minutes, and long tunes are often flipped and twisted around. "Cantiga A Virgen" lulls for a minute until Savall takes off on a solo, and is later egged on by Estevan's drumming. "Saltarello" jumps like the Bellagio Fountains. The two invocations nearly stop time, while other tunes are loose and jaunty.

The whole project - like its predecessor - is excellent. You could slice it apart and go track-by-track (like in Spotify), but you'll want this one front to back. La Lira D'Esperia II is filled with what athletes call "lights-out playing," the kind that rises above mere perfection. 

Here's a sample track from the album, "Alalá": 

 

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Dubuque native Will Roseliep is a producer for Boston Public Radio. He got his start in radio on University of Iowa’s student station, and also worked for Iowa Public Radio. Outside of radio, Will plays the cello and a decent game of tennis, writes a weekly e-newsletter, The Classical Dark Arts Mailer, and authored a bookThe Libertine's Guide to the Classical Music RevolutionYou can follow him @willroseliep and email him at