Since 1998, renowned Spanish conductor and gamba player Jordi Savall’s Alia Vox label has been synonymous with stylish packaging of equally stylish performances of early music.
In 2007 Savall launched the Alia Vox Heritage collection in order to “offer a fresh vision” of the recordings he and his then wife, the soprano Montserrat Figueras, made with their instrumental and vocal ensembles on the Astrée label between 1977 and 1996.
The remastered recordings on the four CDs contained in this handsomely packaged boxed set were originally made on that label between 1987 and 1995. Together they offer a snapshot of the kinds of vocal genres that flourished in Spain between the fifteenth and the seventeenth centuries, including the secular villancico and ensalada (“salad” – a variety of madrigal) and the sacred mass and motet.
El Cançoner del Duc de Calàbria features music associated with the court of the Duke of Calabria in Valencia by composers such as Aldomar, Flecha, Morales and Guerrero; another CD is devoted to the sacred music of Joan Cererols, a monk who contributed much to the musical life of the monastery at Montserrat. The remaining two discs are given over to the villancicos and ensaladas of Mateo Flecha, Bartomeo Cáceres and that most prolific of composers, anon.
The performances by the smaller vocal ensemble Studium Musicae Valencia, the larger La Capella Reial de Catalunya (which celebrates its 25th anniversarythis year) and Hespèrion XX, all under the direction of Savall, are as colourful, detailed and compelling as one would expect. Favourites are perhaps those of Cererol’s sacred works: majestic, stately yet filled with an intimate intensity so characteristic of Savall’s own solo gamba playing. But the icing on the cake is the clear, flexible soprano of Montserrat Figueras, who sadly died in 2011.