SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

“Balkan Spirit” – Music from the various countries – Soloists/Jordi Savall – Alia Vox SACD + book

Despite some skewed and overly-optimistic booklet notes, this release more than adequately conveys the similarity and spiritual essence of this lively cross-cultural music.

Published on August 1, 2013

Balkan Spirit” [TrackList follows] – Mihailo Blam (double bass)/ Gyula Csík (cimbalom)/ Vilmos Csikos (double bass)/ Valeri Dimchev (tambourine)/ Bora Dugic (frula)/ Tcha Limberger (violin)/ Nedyalkko Nedyalkov (kaval)/ Slobodan Prodanovic (accordion)/ Dimitri Psonis (santur, saz, lafta, Moorish guitar)/ Moslem Rahal (ney)/ Zacharias Spyridakis (lyre)/ Hesperion XXI/ Jordi Savall, director – Alia Vox multichannel SACD + book AVSA9898, 79:15 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] (7/9/13) ****:

Aside from the Middle East itself, one can think of no more volatile, hot-headed, and war-torn area anywhere in the world than the area we now know as the Balkans. The term itself was coined by the Ottoman conquerors, who were not exactly known for their “tolerance” of the Christian majority (the Greeks considered the time as the “Turkish Yoke”) as posited by the thorough but somewhat overly-pacifist and historically inaccurate booklet notes. But the Ottomans were only the last chapter in the story, as most of the countries involved eventually revolted and rejected their overlords in a flurry of nationalistic revolution that has little comparison in history. The countries that make up the “Balkan Peninsula”—half a million square kilometers and twelve nations (Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Eastern Turkey) had their origins in the Byzantine Empire, with the addition of Slavs in the fifth and sixth centuries that began a cycle of wars, intermarriages, treaties, peace, and constant ethno-struggles. Eventually the Bulgarians and Serbians emerged as a sort of three-part empire that shared a common religion, music, social traits, and general culture. Add to the potent mix the appearance of the Roma, or gypsy element, and you have a musical brew that is as potent from a folk characteristic as any in the world.

This album (and a big enough book in several languages), is a prelude to another major SACD-book that Savall plans to release later in the year called Honey and Blood (the real meaning of the word “Balkan” coined by the Ottomans), gives a sample of the music of the region, with an especial emphasis on the coloristic attributes added by the aforementioned gypsy element, and contributed to by artists from various Balkan countries and religions. It is truly a pan-regional, pan-religious, and pan-artistic exploration of music that has common attributes of rhythmic vivacity, humor, storytelling, and wildly cultured spirit. Alia Vox is extraordinarily consistent in its SACD presentations, achieving a clear, focused, and discreet tonal allure, making listening a real pleasure. I can’t wait for the sequel to this one.

TrackList:

1 Traditional Dance
2 Hungarian Air
3 Chichovata (Bulgaria)
4 Soufi Dance
5 Traditional (Serbia)
6 Dramatic Song(Serbia)
7 Sborenka (Bulgaria)
8 Biljana (Macedonia)
9 Sousta (Greece and Turkey)
10 Gulubovska Ruchenitsa (Bulgaria)
11 Suite
12 King Nimrod
13 TaXyla (Greece)
14 Sitno Vlashko (Bulgaria)
15 Ciocarla (Croatia)
16 Doine, pourtala & horacaval (Roumania)
17 Lyric Piece (Serbia)
18 Traditional Dance (Croatia)
19 Piece for cimbalom and ensemble

—Steven Ritter




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