Saturday 6 February 2016

Jordi Savall has gathered together a terrific collection of music on the latest release for AliaVox to which he and Le Concert des Nations bring life and buoyancy, colour and great textures

Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations  can always be relied on to bring something new and exciting with their recordings. Their new release from AliaVox  entitled Les Eléménts: Tempêtes, Orages & Fêtes Marines explores the forces of nature vividly depicted by composers at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries, bringing together Jean-Fery Rebel’s Les Elements with Matthew Locke’s Music for The Tempest, Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto La Termpesta di mare, Marin Marais’ Airs pour les Matelots et les Tritons, Georg Philipp Telemann’s Wassermusik and Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Orages et tonnerres.

Recorded live on July 19, 2015 at the Abbey of Fontfroide, France this concert opens with Jean-Féry Rebel’s (1666-1747) ballet, Les Eléménts (The Elements) (1737). Striking discords open Le Cahos: L'eau - L'air - La Terre - Le Feu through which a flute can soon be heard bringing a plaintive melody. All through there are striking moments with Le Concert des Nations weaving some wonderful sounds with lovely textures and harmonies, particularly towards the end.

Loure I: La Terre picks up a stately rhythmic pulse in the strings through which a flute weaves its melody. Chaconne: Le Feu is even more lively as the various instrumental strands are woven with some particularly agile playing from the ensemble in this fast flowing section. Ramage: L'air brings a small group of strings and flute in this lovely section, beautifully done and quite charming. The small ensemble expands for the lively Rossignols, equally charming in its delicate nature.

Le Concert des Nations weave some fine instrumental lines with a gentle rhythmic pulse in Rondeau: Air Pour L’Amour before Loure II brings the fine sound of natural brass who deliver a terrific texture, raucous and gritty, the whole ensemble finding a terrific swaggering rhythm. There is a gentle lilt to Sicillienne with some wonderful individual instrumental timbres showing through.

Brass return with drums to announce Caprice bringing a marshal feel with some very fine string playing as the music darts around before developing a terrific sweep. An oboe opens Premier Tambourin: L'eau before developing quite a hectic pace with strings and percussion pointing up the music and leading into Second Tambourin, a slightly more restrained part with mellow woodwind contribution. We run straight into Premier Tambourin: L'eau which briefly brings the return of the faster theme before ending suddenly.

When Matthew Locke (c. 1621/23-1677), wrote his music for Thomas Shadwell’s version of The Tempest (1674) he used, for the first time in English music, directions such as ‘soft’ and ‘louder by degrees’ and included tremolos for stringed instruments. There is a grand Introduction from Le Concert des Nations, pointed up by bass drum before they spring into the buoyant, rhythmic Galliard, again with percussion pointing up and colouring the sound. There are some particularly fine rhythmic string passages as well as a fine sweep to the music.

There is a brightly lit Gavot, full of life with terrific rhythms and again marked by percussion to add rhythm and colour before a Saraband that has a lovely gentle lilt with the strings of Le Concert des Nations bringing a lovely texture with the theorbo sounding through. Lilk brings back a boisterous rhythmic section with a terrific pace.

A wind machine opens Curtain Tune before the drums bring rumbles of thunder, soon followed by a slow mellifluous melody for strings, nicely decorated by the theorbo. The music picks up in tempo but there are further slow, beautifully textured passages before the wind machine appears at the close.

A bright and lively Rustick Air follows, rhythmically pointed up by drums with lovely woodwind contribution before the woodwind open Minoit soon alternating with the whole ensemble. Corant has a fine buoyant rhythmic spring with these players finding a terrific texture. A Martial Jigge has a lovely transparent light texture, beautifully sprung before we arrive at The Conclusion: A Canon 4 in 2 where Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations bring a terrific weaving of instrumental lines with something of a stately air.  

Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations whip up some terrific textures in the Allegro of Antonio Vivaldi’s (1678-1741) Concerto in F La Termpesta di mare (The Sea Storm) per Flauto solo e Corde (1729) before the flute enters in this fast moving movement. There are rich harmonies from the lower strings as well as some terrific agility from the flautist.

The lovely flowing Largo has seamlessly drawn phrases from the soloist before a crisply phrased Presto where there is more tremendous fluency from the flautist.

Together with Sémélé, Alcione (1706) is the only opera composed by Marin Marais (1656-1728). Gathered together from Alcione are the Airs pour les Matelots et les Tritons (Airs for Sailors and Tritons) with rich sonorities opening the Prélude where Le Concert des Nations provide a terrific sound, full of individual instrumental detail. There is a really attractive rhythmic Marche pour les Matelots I & II with percussion to add colour, texture and rhythm before Air des Matelots I & II which brings more forceful, rich striding rhythms, later speeding up for a very fine section.  

Wind machine and drums open Tempête in a wild sequence before the strings join to hurtle forward through the storm, creating an intensely dramatic piece. Woodwind and theorbo bring the gentle and beautifully shaped Ritournelle before the concluding Chaconne pour les Tritons where the full ensemble provides a fine subtle rhythmic pulse and some wonderfully French sounding woodwind harmonies in an impressive conclusion to this work.

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) wrote his Wassermusik, Hamburger Ebb and Fluth (Water Music, Hamburg ebb and flood) (c. 1740) to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Hamburg Admiralty. There is a slow introduction to the
Ouverture (Grave - Allegro) with long held woodwind phrases over strings before the allegro brings a lithe, lively tempo, full of forward propulsion and with terrific textures and sonorities. There are some fine woodwind sounds in the gently flowing Sarabande: Die schlafende Thetis before a lively Bourrée: Die erwachende Thetis with a particularly fine section for flute and bassoon.  Loure: Der verliebte Neptunus has a fine poise, Jordi Savall achieving a subtle rhythmic lift from his players and carefully controlled dynamics followed by a terrific little Gavotte: Die spielenden Najaden so light footed.

Harlequinade: Der Scherzenden Tritonen brings some lovely instrumental textures and timbres and a fine rhythmic pointing. The wind machine appears again in Der stürmende Aeolus before strings enter to drive this section ahead with some impressive fast and incisive string playing. There is a lovely, nicely phrased Menuet: Der angenehme Zephir with the lovely woodwind of Le Concert des Nations sounding through and adding a rather special contribution. Gigue: Ebb Und Flut rises up full of joy and energy before the jaunty concluding Canarie: Die lustigen Bots Leute.

Orages et tonnerres (Storms and thunders) (1735-1749) draws on orchestral extracts from a number of operas by Jean Philippe Rameau (1683-1764). A solo violin opens the Air pour les Zéphirs (Les Indes Galantes) (1735 rev. 1736) soon joined by flute and theorbo as they weave a slow melody quite beautifully with some quite lovely sonorities. Orage et air pour Borée, from the same opera brings back the wind machine and drums, whipping up some tremendous sounds before the strings bring a fast moving theme over which winds soar through passages of lively buoyancy.

Even more dramatic drums and wind machine open Tonnerre (Hippolyte et Aricie) (1733 rev. 1742) before fast and furious strings join, bringing a fine drama. The opera Zoroastre was written in 1749. Here we have lovely, crisp Contredanse from that work, pointed up by tambourine and drums before another extract from the same opera Contredanse très vive that acts as a finale as Jordi Savall and Le Concert des Nations hurtle ahead full of joy, with rhythmic clapping and some lovely, distinctively French sonorities before the audience break into an enthusiastic applause. This would go down well at London’s BBC Proms.

Jordi Savall has gathered together a terrific collection of music to which he and Le Concert des Nations bring life and buoyancy, colour and great textures. 

They are vividly recorded on SACD and there are excellent notes by Jordi Savall in the lavishly illustrated booklet full of colour photographs.

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