October 23, 2008

SEARCHING FOR THE DON:

Improvisation and Encores in a Search for Don Quixote (JAMES R. OESTREICH, 10/23/08, NY Times)

It is a commonplace in early-music lore that given the remoteness and sketchiness of most of the documentary sources, aspects of any performance are necessarily conjectural. But that educated guesswork is always a matter of degrees, and since scores for obscure repertory are hard to come by, it is often difficult for listeners to determine its extent. So the encore the Spanish viola da gamba virtuoso Jordi Savall, La Capella Reial de Catalunya and Hespèrion XXI appended to their splendid concert at the Rose Theater on Monday evening was a gift to old hands as well as to novices.

The program, which opened the season of Great Performers at Lincoln Center and its series New Visions: The Literary Muse, was basically a distillation of the luxurious 2005 Alia Vox album “Don Quijote de la Mancha: Romances y Músicas.” It related episodes from Cervantes’s “Don Quixote” through Spanish music of the 16th and 17th centuries fitted out with texts, and through spoken readings, rendered here by F. Murray Abraham.

The encore was the number that closed the first half, the “Ballad of Count Claros of Montalban,” attributed to Francisco Salinas. But as Mr. Savall explained before the reprise, all that had been known of the music was a sequence of four notes cited in a reference. From that germ Mr. Savall and company have created a wildly imaginative and richly textured set of variations running some eight minutes.


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Posted by Orrin Judd at October 23, 2008 11:08 AM
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