Review: Jordi Savall The Human Voice

Ian CollinsThe title of this concert was a test if not a tease since no human voices were to be heard - only the sonorous tones of the bass viol or viola da gamba.Ian Collins

St Peter Mancroft Church

The title of this concert was a test if not a tease since no human voices were to be heard - only the sonorous tones of the bass viol or viola da gamba

But given the superb delivery of Jordi Savall we all left convinced of a 1680s claim that the viol came closest to the sounds of humanity since the bow was drawn across the strings in the same length of time as a normal breath, while conveying similar 'joy, sadness, agility, gentleness and strength' as speech and songs.


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For this Catalan master - whose average year produces 140 concerts, six records, and many lessons and masterclasses - music is clearly as natural as breathing.

His is the look and the sound of total effortlessness - automatic playing almost. Such is his level of hard-won (or at least long-perfected) expertise.

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Playing a viol made in London in 1697 and in the marvellous acoustic of Norwich's premier medieval church, Savall stroked, tapped and plucked an instrument forgotten between the 18th and 20th centuries. The voices he best delivered were those of long-lost Baroque composers.

A beautifully-balanced programme contrasted French and Italian inspired works - some from the court of Louis XIV - and English pieces by Hume, Ford, Playford and Messrs Anonymous, while proving the universality of old father Bach.

As well as voices we heard trumpets, (bag)pipes, lutes, fiddles and entire marching bands all thanks to an instrument now reclaimed fully and forever.

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