Jordi Savall & Hespèrion XXI

Jordi Savall

Recorded voice: Where to? Carnegie Hall, please. Okay, here are your tickets. Enjoy the show. Your tickets, please.

Jeff Spurgeon: Welcome to a concert broadcast from Carnegie Hall Live. The series brings you some of the world's greatest musicians from one of the world's great music venues, Carnegie Hall in New York City. We're getting ready to hear works by composers who aren't exactly headliners today, but the performers certainly are.

Jordi Savall, the Spanish viola de gamba virtuoso and musicologist, and Hespèrion XXI, the instrumental ensemble he co-founded 50 years ago. Backstage at Carnegie's Zankel Hall, I'm Jeff Spurgeon, alongside John Schaefer.

John Schaefer: And Jeff, when you say Jordi Savall, you don't really need headline composers. Not that there are that many from the period of time that Jordi and Hespèrion XXI are mining. That would be the Renaissance and the Middle Ages. You may know Jordi Savall's music from the score that he did to the early 90s movie, Tous les matins du monde/ All the Mornings of the World. An unexpected hit movie about musicians in the court of France's King Louis XIV, but in the long career of Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI, they have unearthed forgotten scores and played them on instruments and used techniques and tunings of the time in which they were written and they have made a lot of wonderful recordings that place this music in historical context and connect our Western musical tradition to those of other nations from all around the Mediterranean. And, you know, some of his, some of his recordings, I know you've seen them, Jeff.

Jeff Spurgeon: Oh, they're wonderful.

John Schaefer: They come with books.

Jeff Spurgeon: They sit on the bookshelf.

John Schaefer: Yeah, not booklets, but actual books of, of context, of music and history.

So this really is, music made as accessible as possible to as broad an audience as possible.

Jeff Spurgeon: That is what Jordi Savall is all about.

Now, just a quick definition or two. Savall is a specialist of what we call Early Music. That's just an umbrella term for the stuff that was being composed and performed in Europe during the Renaissance and before.

1600 is the year that is sort of the boundary between those periods, between the end of the Renaissance and what we now call the Baroque style, started to show up. Now, some of the big Baroque names, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, you're familiar with them, but they came along about a century later. The music that we're going to be hearing tonight is by composers who were on the boundary, the liminal composers between the Renaissance and the Baroque.

This concert is titled Les Nouvelles Musiques, The New Music. And it's about those composers who were making the change from the Renaissance into what we now think of as Baroque music.

John Schaefer: And it was a big change because there were things happening. It was a simpler, more direct style. One of the biggest changes was the development of what we now call opera, which was born in this transitional time.

Now a word about the band. Hespèrion XXI was Hespèrion XX until the turn of the century. It is now Hespèrion XXI. Created by Jordi Savall and his late wife, the soprano Montserrat Vigueras, the lutenist Hopkinson Smith, and bassoonist Lorenzo Alpert, the group has always varied in size according to the occasion and the project, and many players have come and gone during its five decades.

The band for this performance is six players. And because the instruments of the late Renaissance and the very early Baroque eras aren't as powerful as their modern counterparts, it makes sense that we're here at Carnegie's midsize hall, Zankel Hall, for this performance. And I will tell you that every one of the 600 seats here is spoken for, despite some pretty gruesome weather outside.

Jeff Spurgeon: That's right. A rainy night in New York City. This concert is built around dance forms, galliards, pasacaglias, chaconnes, guaracha. And a few other things, too, including the folia, which is a dance, but just as much a harmonic pattern, a sequence of chords. Lots of composers have written tunes that go with the folia chord sequence. Players love to improvise on it. The dances that open this program are called capricci, composed by Vincenzo Ruffo. They are very much in the Renaissance style.

John Schaefer: Now, although, Jeff, you did start off by saying that there are no headline making composers here. There is one familiar name, and that is Anonymous.

Greensleeves, the anonymous English work that, for a while, was attributed, winkingly perhaps, to King Henry VIII. I think we all knew it probably wasn't really his composition, but was associated with him for sure. We don't really know who wrote it, but it is part of the program that Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI will be playing for us, and it is Sort of related to the folia that you were talking about, it also is built on a repeating bass pattern, an ostinato, which allows the musicians the chance to show off their improvising skills.

Jeff Spurgeon: Another way to show off indeed the virtuosity of these players.

There's no intermission in this concert, which is expected to last about 90 minutes. The audience here has a printed program, but you at home are not left out. You too can find the planned order of pieces and some terrific program notes online at

This is the second of nine concerts on this tour by Hespèrion XXI. They're going to be making further stops in the next couple of weeks in Boston and Athens, Georgia, Berkeley, Davis, Pasadena in California, and Santa Fe.

John Schaefer: And the six members of Hespèrion XXI out on stage here at Zankel Hall, led by Jordi Savall who plays the viola da gamba, an instrument that looks like the cello but if you look closely, it has seven strings instead of four. It has frets, so it is in fact a kind of bowed member of the lute family. And here are these pieces by Vincenzo Ruffo, his chaconnes to get us started, from Carnegie Hall Live.


You can expect to hear a fair amount of tuning during this concert because these instruments can be temperamental, but we will start with this music from Vincenzo Ruffo, a selection of caprices beginning with one that is in fact called La Gamba. Here is Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI from Carnegie Hall Live.

MUSIC - RUFFO Selections from Capricci in musica a tre voci

Jeff Spurgeon: Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI with music of Vincenzo Ruffo to open this concert of Le Nuove Musiche, The New Music.

John Schaefer: The new music included opera, and Emilio de Cavalieri claimed to be the inventor of opera. We'll hear the Sinfonia, the Overture, to his piece called Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo. And, a ballet, or a dance excerpt from another piece called La Pellegrina. Both of these early examples of a music theater that was getting towards opera, at least, in the early part of the 1600s, played by Hespèrion XXI, led by Jordi Savall from Carnegie Hall Live.

MUSIC - DE' CAVALIERI Sinfonia from Rappresentatione di Anima, et di Corp
DE' CAVALIERI "Ballo del Granduca" from La Pellegrina

John Schaefer: Two works from the Italian composer Emilio De’ Cavalieri, a dance excerpt from La Pellegrina, and before that, the Sinfonia, or Overture, from Rappresentatione di Anima e di Corpo.

Once again, Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI on stage here at Zankel Hall.

And the familiar Greensleeves coming up next. And that'll lead us directly into another dance piece, the Galliard Battaglia by the German composer Samuel Scheidt.

Interesting to hear the three viol members of Hespèrion XXI in that piece. Jordi Savall, Xavier Díaz-Latorre, and Philippe Yeah, no, actually, there were two Xaviers in the band. It was Xavier Puertas, who played the violone, which looks like a viola da gamba, and Philippe Pierlot, who, like Jordi, plays both the treble and the bass members of the viol, or viola da gamba family.

So, we heard those three instruments. Now we'll begin to incorporate some of the others in this setting of Greensleeves which will, as we mentioned earlier, provide us with the opportunity to hear the musicians improvising, because there will be a kind of recurring bass line underneath the familiar melody.

So, Jordi Savall, Hespèrion XXI. Live performance from Carnegie's Zankel Hall of Greensleeves and then the Galliard Battaglia by Samuel Scheidt.

ANON. "Greensleeves" to a Ground
SCHEIDT "Galliard battaglia" from Ludi musici

John Schaefer: Hespèrion XXI, with a work by the 17th century German composer Samuel Scheidt, his Galliard Battaglia.

And I think we're going to go next to Italy, with music by Girolamo Frescobaldi.

Tuning sounds

Jeff Spurgeon: Musicians continue to tune their instruments. Yes, we're going to turn to a couple of other dance forms here. The canzoni of Frescobaldi. It was a specialty of his. And then we'll hear a Ciaccona, a chaconne, another chance for the musicians to improvise over a repeated pattern. And then a New World contribution in this concert by Hespèrion XXI by a Mexican composer, Juan García de Zéspedes. We'll hear his Guaracha.

Renaissance instruments. It takes a while to get them back in shape after you play, so that's part of the task tonight here at Carnegie's Zankel Hall.

John Schaefer: Interesting to hear David Mayoral on percussion because he's tapping out a lot of very traditional kind of dance rhythms. You can hear the strong echo of medieval folk dances, and in the Guaracha coming up in this set, he'll be required to play one of the rhythms that came back to Spain from the New World. Here's Hespèrion XXI.

FRESCOBALDI Canzona à 2 Canti, No. 3 from Canzoni da sonare a 1–4, bc, … libro primo
FALCONIERI Ciaccona from Il primo libro di canzone ...
GARCÍA DE ZÉSPEDES Guaracha “Ay que me abrazo ¡ay!” from Convidando está la noche

Jeff Spurgeon: Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI. Six member bands from Carnegie Zankel Hall, concluding a set of music by Girolamo Frescobaldi and Andrea Falconieri and Juan Garcia de Zéspedes, concluding with that Guaracha, an ancestor of every piece that you've ever heard that had a beat that you could dance to at a wedding or a party right there.

John Schaefer: And up next, another kind of familiar feeling piece from Giovanni Girolamo Kapsperger, Austrian born composer, a master of the lute, and its ungainly five- to six-foot-long bass cousin, the theorbo, both of which are played in Hespèrion XXI by Xavier Diaz-Latorre.

Kapsperger's Folia uses another of these bass ostinato patterns, these repeating patterns, that would become hugely popular among composers for centuries after Kapsberger sort of standardized it with this piece that you're about to hear.

Once again, Hespèrion XXI, led by Jordi Savall, six members strong for this performance at Carnegie's Zankel Hall.

MUSIC - KAPSBERGER Folia from Libro I d'intavolatura di chitarrone

John Schaefer: Hespèrion XXI featuring their theorbo player, Xavier Díaz-Latorre. The theorbo, an instrument almost as tall as Díaz-Latorre himself, a member of the guitar family. And Folia by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger, a work that would be much varied for centuries after that.

Jeff Spurgeon: This particular version from Rome, but another version of Differences on the Folia coming next, collected by Martín y Coll in the 17th century, but this a more Spanish orientation of the Folia.

A little re-tuning once again from members of Hespèrion XXI, and we'll hear these six musicians take off again in this program of dance music.

Dances by composers on the border of the Renaissance and the Baroque on this program titled Le Nuove Musiche. It's not new music now, but it was a new sound at that time. And it is part of the story of the evolution of music. That's what this concert, and so much of Jordi Savall's work, is all about.

John Schaefer: So focusing in on around the year 1600, and this folia theme had been around for who knows how long, but Kapsberger standardized it. Now here are these variations on it.

MUSIC - ANON. Diferencias sobre la Folía


Jeff Spurgeon: Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI with Differencias sobre la folía, a set of variations on the folia from Spain collected in the middle of the 17th century by Martín y Coll, musician.

Now the musicians of Hespèrion XXI on their feet before this Carnegie Hall audience at Carnegie's Zankel Hall.

That was a wonderful ending variation, that last one introduced by Jordi Savall tapping on the strings of his bass viol with the bow to introduce the pattern along with percussionist David Mayoral.

John Schaefer: And that just one of many centuries worth of variations on La Folia. You might know it from Baroque composers like Vivaldi and Bach. All the way to the 20th century in Rachmaninoff, a theme that has stayed with us through the centuries.

Jeff Spurgeon: And you'll wake up singing it in the middle of the night, and you'll have Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI to thank for that.

John Schaefer: And David Mayoral, once again the percussionist, who was first to rise after that, to acknowledge the applause of the audience.

All right, so just as a firework show has the grand finale where they start throwing all the fireworks up in the sky at once, we have for this final set, a bunch of different dances, some of which we've heard before and some of which we haven't. Two Pasacaglias, a Chaconne, and another Galliard. We'll start with Pasacaglias by Andrea Falcanieri and Biagio Marini. Then a Chaconne by Tarquinio Merula, and we'll conclude with Antonio Valente's Gallarda Napolitana. Here's Hespèrion XXI.

FALCONIERI Passacalle from Il primo libro di canzone ...
MARINI Passacaglio, Op. 22, No. 25
MERULA Ciaccona, Op. 12, No. 20
VALENTE "Gallarda Napolitana" from Intavolatura de cimbalo

John Schaefer: The Early Music ensemble known as Hespèrion XXI, led by viola da gamba player and musicologist Jordi Savall, with a set of four dances from the 17th century. That last one, I guess, kind of Early Music's answer to La Bamba. Antonio Valente and the Gallarda Napolitana, the Neapolitan Galliard. Before that, from Tarquinio Merula, we heard the Ciaccona, and if that sounded familiar to you, the bass line was almost the same as the Chaconne that we heard earlier by Andrea Falcanieri.

Preceding that, we heard a pair of passacaglias, another dance form of the day. Biagio Marini before the Merula Chacon, and at the beginning of the set, a passacaglia by Andrea Falcanieri.

So, in order of appearance, Falcanieri, Marini, Merula, Valente, all played brilliantly on stage at Carnegie's Zankel Hall by the members of Hespèrion XXI, all of whom are taking some individual bows on stage.

Jeff Spurgeon: The percussionist David Mayoral, the other viol player, the other viola da gamba player on this program, Philippe Pierlot. And then we've also heard from the violone player. That's the, that's the bass, the instrument that sounded like a bass, and it is kind of a bass, Xavier Puertas.

And then also the theorbo and guitarist Xavier Díaz-Latorre, and of course, Jordi Savall.

John Schaefer: And Andrew Lawrence-King, who played the triple harp.

Jeff Spurgeon: Yeah, and quite an adventure with it, too. He was refused by Lufthansa permission to bring his own triple harp, this Baroque harp on the plane to come over from Europe to America. And so a great busyness ensued on Facebook pages and other places to find harps for this tour. And guess what? They've done it already, except maybe for the last concert in Santa Fe, but that's being worked on too. Andrew Lawrence-King, I spoke to him before the concert. He was very pleased at everything that had happened that allowed him to be part of this tour. And the instrument he played tonight is of the same maker and same model as the one that he would have brought with him, so he was right at home in this amazing Baroque harp.

John Schaefer: Well, it is very much a communal experience, both music making and, you know, among the fans of this music. And Jordi Savall has sat back down. And so have the other members of Hespèrion XXI. Now, he does have a microphone nearby.

Jeff Spurgeon: And they're tuning, of course, so we'll have that.

John Schaefer: Goes without saying.

Jeff Spurgeon: But we sort of anticipate that that Jordi might introduce the encore.

John Schaefer: You mentioned he plays the viola da gamba. There are many shapes and sizes of the instrument, and both he and Xavier Pierlot play both a smaller treble viol that they hold in their laps and then a bigger viola da gamba that looks kind of like a cello, which it is often in fact mistaken for. But it's a separate family of instruments. As we mentioned earlier, these these viols have frets. They are fretted instruments, not like violins, violas, and cellos.

So the members of Hespèrion XXI are back on stage, and here is Jordi Savall to introduce an encore.

Jordi Savall: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, dear friends. For the encore we play now, we go back to 1780, very exactly from Codex Trujillo, a manuscript collecting different songs and dances from the region around Lima, and all with music composed by the people from the area. Not from great Spanish composers or Italian, but really from people descending from the Indians, from the mulattoes, from the, all the mixtures existing this time.

From this collection, we will play first a spiritual song, which original sung in Quechua with the text referring to the Passion of Christ. And then the second encore will be, it's a song, dance to the Virgin with the name Cachua Serranita. And this is a song, a dance, who was singing by young women, singing around the circle and dancing together. On both music we will improvise. Thank you.

ANON. "Tonada del Chimo"
ANON. "Cachua Serranita"

Jeff Spurgeon: Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI, with a couple of encores on this concert of Le Nuove Musiche, the new music. Selections you just heard are music from the New World. A couple of excerpts from the Codex Trujillo, the Codex Martinez Compañón from the 1780s, a collection of life in colonial Peru. And that's where those pieces of music came from, but as Jordi Savall said, they were improvising on them so there was some instant creativity supplied by Hespèrion XXI as well.

We've had an evening of amazing music from this amazing early music group and Jordi Savall backstage at Carnegie Zankel Hall. I'm Jeff Spurgeon alongside John Schaefer.

John Schaefer: And out on stage the members of Hespèrion XXI, six of them for this program. Basking in the applause of an audience that is now giving them a standing ovation.

Jordi Savall putting down the smaller treble viol that he was playing on that on those two pieces from the Codex Trujillo. By the way, in Early Music circles, a codex is simply a bound manuscript that contains all kinds of things. All kinds of things. Not just songs, but lots of songs, and a lot of where early music ensembles get their music from are these codices, and there you'll find them in monasteries throughout Europe.

There are a couple from the New World, there's one from Mexico, 1600s or so, and this this Codex Trujillo is from the 1780s, as Jordi told us from what is now Peru. So really interesting to hear what was happening in the New World and how it impacted the old world's music.

Jeff Spurgeon: Well, as music does, we play for you, and then you play for us, and then we put it all together, and that's how these creations come about.

And so that concludes this concert of hespèrion XXI with us, but we are hoping to get a few words with Jordi Savall before the entire evening is concluded. The lights are up in Zankel Hall for a sold out concert here at Carnegie's Zankel Hall, the second of the performance spaces at Carnegie's second largest, I should say, about 600 seats. All of them spoken for on this particular concert.

John Schaefer: Which was called Le Nuove Musiche, The New Music. And with the exception of the encores, which were from the 1780s, well, they were collected in the 1780s or probably much earlier, but with the exception of those two, this was music from around the turn of the 1600s, the first part of the 17th century, a time of great artistic ferment, when the complexity of the Renaissance was giving way to the relative straightforwardness of early Baroque music, and that, that sort of opened up all kinds of emotional possibilities in music, the rise of opera. It is no coincidence that that happened at this time. And so yeah, a remarkable period in in Europe, the, the doorway to the Baroque period that would bring us the music of Bach and Vivaldi and Handel and so many others. And, you know, as always with Hespèrion XXI, Jordi Savall doesn't just present the music, but places it in, in context, and in this case we're talking about a context that spanned hemispheres, the old world and the new.

And we are backstage here at Carnegie's Zankel Hall. I'm John Schaefer alongside Jeff Spurgeon, and joining us at the microphone now is is the music director of Hespèrion XXI and its co-founder Jordi Savall. Congratulations, great program.

Jordi Savall: Well, it was a difficult program for the second day. With the jet lag, we have arrived Monday. Oh my God.

Jeff Spurgeon: You seem to have recovered from it very well. [Yeah, yeah]. But I wanted to ask you, this is the 50th anniversary year of Hespèrion XXI. How has it, has it turned out the way you thought it would? Has it grown the way you expected?

Jordi Savall: Yes, I think so. We have every Period. It was different. The first year was the combination of Hopkinson Smith, Montserrat Figueras, it was inventing new programs and doing crazy things music, music from Naples.

Then we have to do big projects.  At the time of the, we work with with Electrola, EMI in Germany. They have more money when we have to then, Gabrielli, big concerts. And then later we had to do Spanish music. And then we founded '87, La Capella Reial. Then we start a new project [the vocal ensemble] with the vocal ensemble. And ‘89, the orchestra, the Concerts de Nation. And now we are doing more, more Romantic music. In fact, as, as uh, Early Music. Because in my life now I like to do what I have loved when I was 14, 15, 16, when I have played cello, I've played Brahms, Schumann, and now after 50 years making Early Music, now I like to experiment in the music that everybody knows, to find the original way to do this with explanation, with respecting the, the, the metronomic tempos, the phrasing, everything.

Jeff Spurgeon: And so you're in a way doing the same historical research [Yes]. That you've done for, for very Early Music.

Jordi Savall: It's the same, yeah, same. The same Thing. Try to imagine how the music has sound. in the moment. Because this is our, our idea, no?

John Schaefer: Well, and one of the other things about Hespèrion XXI is it has been a kind of college of musicians who've graduated, and you mentioned Hopkinson Smith, and then after, after him came Rolf Lislevand, another great lute player, your daughter Ariana, wonderful harpist.

Jordi Savall: Rinaldo Alessandrini, Pierre Hantaï, very, very much.

Jeff Spurgeon: Xavier Diaz-Latorre studied with Hopkinson Smith.

Jordi Savall: Andrew is playing with me 40 years now.

Jeff Spurgeon: Whenever he can get his harp onto the plane.

Jordi Savall: This is also the quality of our ensembles. We are good friends also. And we can play long, even if we discuss also. We can also discuss for questions of interpretation. But we remain good friends and we enjoy the music together, basically.

Jeff Spurgeon: Well, this is the essence of what you have brought to audiences for now with Hèsperian XXI for 50 years. An idea of friendship, not only among the music makers. But with the audience.

Jordi Savall: With the audience, absolutely. Yeah.

Jeff Spurgeon: And inviting people to understand some of the universality Yeah. Of music. That feels like what you have been going for the whole time.

Jordi Savall: Yeah. The quality of the music as a dialogue with other cultures, with the dialogue between the, the, the gentries, right.

Jeff Spurgeon: Also the old world and the new and the young audience and the audience that you've had for a long time. So it's a conversation for sure.

John Schaefer: Jordi Savall, thank you so much for bringing this music to Carnegie Hall, and thank you for spending some time with us.

Jordi Savall: Thank you. Thank you for making this possible.

Jeff Spurgeon: Oh, it's always a pleasure to have you with us.

Jordi Savall: Thank you.

John Schaefer: And that's going to do it for this episode of Carnegie Hall Live. Our thanks to Clive Gillinson and the staff of Carnegie Hall. The WQXR engineering team includes Edward Haber, George Wellington, Bill Siegmund, and Duke Marcos. The WQXR production team is Eileen Delahunty, Max Fine, Maria Shaughnessy. Yueqing Guo, and Christine Herskovits.

I'm John Schaefer.

Jeff Spurgeon: And I'm Jeff Spurgeon. Carnegie Hall Live is a co-production of WQXR and Carnegie Hall in New York.