SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Hispania & Japan Dialogues – Montserrat Figueras, sop. & other soloists/ Hesperion XXI/ La Capella Reial de Catalunya/ Jordi Savall – Alia Vox

Wonderful tribute album celebrating the arrival of Francis Xavier on Japanese soil.

Published on February 23, 2012

Hispania & Japan Dialogues – Montserrat Figueras, soprano/ Hiroyuki Koinuma, shinobue & nokan/ Yukio Tanaka, canto & biwa/ Ichiro Seki, shakuhachi/ Masako Hirao, viola de arco baja/ Ken Zuckerman, sarod/ Prahbu Edouart, tablas/ Hesperion XXI/ La Capella Reial de Catalunya/ Jordi Savall – Alia Vox multichannel SACD 9883, 60:00 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

I can’t possibly sum up the purpose of this album better than Jordi Savall himself: “This program is a tribute to the Japanese people, who at present are coping with the terrible and devastating consequences of a tsunami of unprecedented proportions combined with a nuclear disaster. In it, we have attempted to create a true dialog between the spiritual music of Japan and the Hispanic world at the time of St Francis Xavier’s arrival in Japan.” The gestation of this program began back in 1996 and continued again ten years later, marking the 500th anniversary of the birth of Francis.

Francis Xavier had a very high opinion of the Japanese people, considering them “the finest people we have encountered so far.” From 1605 (with the publishing of the Manuale ad Sacramenta, the beginning of western European music in Japan) to 1613 (when Christianity was banned in Japan) there was a full-fledged flowering of the faith, though the survival of any western music was quite providential.

This recording presents much of that music along with Japanese “takes” on it through improvisation and some native music from the period as well. Performances are just what you would expect from these forces, as is the well-established superlative surround sound. [Plus the gorgeous, highly-researched and illustrated bound booklet in several languages...Ed.]  A fascinating and intriguing journey along a path that few are aware of.

—Steven Ritter




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