Llibre Vermell de Montserrat
O Virgo splendens hie in monte celso [3.58]
Stella splendens in monte [7.25]
Laudemus Virgin em Mater est  [2.13]
Los set goyts recomptarem [7.30]
Splendens ceptigera [1.50]
Polorum regina omnium nostra [6.01]
Cuncti simus concanentes: Ave Maria [5.01]
Mariam Matrem Virginem [7.21]
Imperayritz de la ciutat joyosa [6.50]
Ad mortem festinamus [7.12]
O Virgo splendens hie in monte celso [3.22]
Montserrat Figueras (voice)
Christoph Coin, Sergi Casademunt, Pere Ros  (fiddle, rabab, lyre, rotte), Hopkinson Smith (lute, morisca), Lorenzo Alpert (flutes, percussion), Bruce Dickey (flutes. Cornett), Reno Zosso (hurdy-gurdy), Regis Chenut (harp), Sally Smith (psaltery), Jean-Pierre Mathieu (trombone), Renate Hildebrand (pommer)
Hesperion XX/Jordi Savall
rec. St Savinien, 11-14 July 1978
ERATO 6286582 [59.18]
A small monastery was founded on a mountain in around 1025AD at Montserrat in Catalonia. It developed into one of the most important places for both pilgrimage and culture, a centre of remarkable musical productivity both in terms of sacred and secular music. Its library was destroyed by fire during the Napoleonic Wars in 1811, but the Libre Vermell (Red Book - as it was covered in red velvet) survived the flames. This extremely important codex includes a note from the copyist. This is to the effect that the songs featured therein were recommended for pilgrims to sing - presumably to help keep them awake - during the night vigil in the church square, having been composed to fulfil this particular need. The songs were therefore a way of providing more respectable and acceptable music than the coarser folk songs and dances which would otherwise have been employed by the pilgrims on such occasions.

This disc opens with the devotional and atmospheric canon O Virgo Splendens hic in monte celso, which is followed by Stella splendens in monte, a work in the form of a virelai. The latter is a French song style which reached Spain via the Provencal troubadours and which was possibly of Northern African origin. About half the works in the codex are virelai.

The well-thought-through programme intersperses meditative and devotional chants with more lively dances with catchy percussion, and ranges from the ballad Los set goyts recomptarem to the gentle and beautiful motet Imperayritz de la ciutat joyosa. The short canon Splendens ceptigene is particularly effective, with good echo effects, and the penultimate Ad mortem festinamus with its brass and upbeat percussion is really rather magnificent.

All the works featured are beautifully performed. The solo voice of Montserrat Figueras is radiant and clear: strong but flexible. All instrumentalists are of the highest standard. The recorded sound is also good, with the venue of St Savinien appropriately resonant, whilst nevertheless retaining immediacy and clarity.

An excellent disc.

Em Marshall-Luck

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