Hesperion XXI live is an experience I will never forget. I've been a fan for some time, but I wasn't expecting quite the level of sublimity that was bestowed upon we, the lucky audience in the City Recital Hall last night. If I could stay a little longer, I would be there for the second concert on Saturday night - different program. That being impossible, however, I shall simply bask in the lasting afterglow of a supreme musical experience.
If angels have voices, I imagine they sound rather like Arianna and Ferran Savall. Such glorious purity of tone, musical intensity, and absolute rightness of expression. Sometimes, and it is rare, I experience a musical event that does not disturb my sensibilities in any way, because it is so completely right and perfect in itself. This concert was one such event. Jordi Savall's viol playing is so refined and beautiful, his sound tugging at the very centre of the soul. I was disappointed to find out that Montserrat Figueras was ill and unable to travel to Australia... however this disappointment didn't last long as the delights contained in the program, even without her, were immense.
Special mention must be made of Pedro Estevan's percussion. An unwavering sense of rhythm, inventiveness, and personality. What really struck me about this ensemble was the unity of purpose, whilst still maintaining the individual strengths of the members.
I have had the haunting melody of Arianna Savall's La Salve coursing through my veins since leaving the concert hall last night. The warm, crystalline purity of her voice, combined with the dulcet tones of her harp are wonders to behold. There is something very human about the music Hesperion XXI chooses to perform - both ancient and modern. The ancient is surprisingly modern, whilst the modern carries within it the essence of ancient humanity.
I wouldn't believe I'm the only person in the audience who fell a little in love with Ferran Savall, either... he's a little bit too gorgeous to be such a masterful theorbist and have that voice as well. Not to mention his composition, a vocalise entitled Jaroslaw, was spellbindingly beautiful.
Driss El Maloumi proved a masterful Oud player, and Dmitri Psonis enthralled whenever he took up his instruments. However, the evening's laurels really belong to the patriarch, the spellbinding Jordi Savall. Undoubtedly, the highlight of this concert were his Variations sur O Sonjal. Absolute mastery of his instrument, and a way of speaking directly to the heart and soul of the listener. The final pizzicato phrases were a marvel in their sonority, a few moments of pure magic. This is what music is all about.