Portrait of the Gamba virtuoso Jordi Savall
Born 1941 he began his musical education in 1947 and concluded it in 1970 at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. Since then he performs about 100 concerts a year as gamba virtuoso in overcrowded concert halls and is founder and director of three ensembles of ancient music. He manages his own record label, 2 million copies sold, with a discography of about 90 CDs featuring his own recordings. He received countless prices and awards. Jordi Savall's records can’t be beaten - not in southern Europe anyway.
Jordi Savall founded the ensemble Hespèrion XX ?29 years ago together with his wife, soprano Montserrat Figueras.
Hespèrion XXI, a programmatic and also a cryptic name:
During Antiquity “Hesperia” was the name for the two big western European peninsulas Italy and Spain .The Roman “XX” means: 20th century.
Savall and his ensemble wanted to revive the old and almost forgotten music of these two countries. Not archaeologically but with the awareness and liveliness of musicians of the 20th century. The scores handed down to us from this early period of European music history (those of the 12th until the 18th century) often only give very little detail about instrumentation, tempo and ornamentation.
Many valuable manuscripts are just extremely abbreviated summaries, much like memory aids for improvising interpreters who were in many cases the composers of the music.
Jordi Savall doesn't only conduct this ensemble, that essentially consists of students and graduates of the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, the best university for ancient music in Switzerland, he also plays the viola da gamba. This instrument was nearly forgotten since it was overshadowed by the violoncello about 250 years ago.
Nearly everything about this instrument was forgotten and had to be reconstructed from archives and old illustrations. How to play it, hot to handle it, the tone etc.
Jordi Savall is now regarded as master of the viola da gamba.
With the warm overtone-rich and mellow sound of his instrument, a sound considered by contemporaries to almost equal the human voice, Savall is conquering an audience that is getting bigger and bigger, especially in France, Spain, Italy and Austria.
Music & Film and Film music
A considerable part of his success is caused by the soundtrack of Alain Corneau’s film “Tous les matins du monde” about the vita of the eccentric composer Sainte-Colombe le fils and his pupil Marin Marais. Jordi Savall provided the sound of his instrument to the actors Jean-Pierre Marielle and Gerard Depardieu who were just pretending to play the instrument, but did have to learn how to play the gamba as best they could.
It is hard to say exactly what made this soundtrack so successful: it might be the outstanding skill of the interpreter - the calm concentrated playing and the variety of tonal colors – which can be fully appreciated when you listen to the CD.
The viola da gamba is less suited for big concert halls and rather an intimate chamber music instrument in the literal sense of the words.
His music playing is very unobtrusive and you can, but you don’t have to listen to it. You can either ‘use’ it as 'musique d’ameublement' (background music) – or listen to it with meditative concentration.
Besides the original ensemble Hespèrion XX (which since has become XXI) Jordi Savall founded and conducts the vocal ensemble LA CAPELLA REIAL DE CATALUNYA. He also initiated LE CONCERT DES NATIONS, a chamber orchestra which has already recorded Beethoven symphonies.
In addition Jordi Savall performs solo recitals and duets with a.o. harpsichordist Ton Koopman.