SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Pro Pacem: Texts, Art & Music for Peace – Montserrat Figueras, sop./ La Capella Reial de Catalunya/ Le Concert Des Nations/Hesperion XX/ Hesperion XXI/ Various Artists/ Jordi Savall, viole de gamba & direction – Alia Vox

An odd concoction on a worthy topic, but despite the excellence of the music the parts don’t add up to the whole.

Published on April 12, 2013

Pro Pacem: Texts, Art & Music for Peace – Montserrat Figueras, soprano/ La Capella Reial de Catalunya/ Le Concert Des Nations/Hesperion XX/ Hesperion XXI/ Various Artists/ Jordi Savall, viole de gamba & direction – Alia Vox multichannel SACD AVSA9894, 76:46 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

This is one of the strangest releases by Jordi Savall that I have yet to encounter. The whole thing is not really meant to be taken as just an SACD, but instead an integral unified collection on the theme of peace. Pro Pacem (For Peace) consists of twenty-three excerpts from the Alia Vox catalogue, spanning five centuries of music, from Gilles Binchois to Arvo Part. The cover art was designed by Catalan painter Antoni Tapies, shortly before his death. There are four essays in the multilingual 1000-page book (this time in regular paper and not the high gloss we have become used to in these editions) by Edgar Morin, Fatema Mernissi, Raimon Panikkar, and Antoni Tapies, all of which vary in their pretentiousness and depth, and hardly unified at all as pertaining to the subject at hand—peace. There are some platitudes which I found rather dated and painful to read, but others might find them profound. The cover art is very nice but nothing to write home about, and three additional samples on cards are included as well. Musically we get a broad spectrum of exceptionally well-performed pieces, certainly a fine addition to anyone’s catalog, but again very Western in origin, which I found rather odd since, as usual, Western civilization is blamed in the essays for virtually all of the world’s ills. Well, not quite, but it certainly seems to lean that way.

Savall is of course a profound humanist, if a little naïve in my opinion in this presentation, and the whole production is diffuse and thrown together on a wing and a prayer that such a subject as peace in the world can engender. The topic is too broad for this sort of multimedia event, and the essays themselves fail to bolster the opening arguments that Savall himself sets forth. But again, despite the original idea, the music is what matters to those who buy this, and it is very fine indeed. I even noticed that you can get the MP3 versions of these works on Amazon for about nine bucks if the rest of the product doesn’t matter to you—and it runs for about twenty-five dollars. Worth it for the music, but I found the booklet rather tedious.

—Steven Ritter




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