A taste of La Vida Bona

October 6, 2010 at 1:15 pm 1 comment

~posted by Sara Hessel, KMFA music director

An excited crowd of several hundred gathered in Bates Recital Hall on the UT campus on Sunday evening to hear one of the biggest names in early music perform. Jordi Savall, the man credited with the modern rebirth of the viola da gamba, was in town with his groups Hespèrion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya to perform music taken from his latest CD release: El Nuevo Mundo: Follías Criollas. Also featured were soprano Montserrat Figueras, and Tembembe Ensamble Continuo from Mexico. The concert was entitled “Route of the New World: Spain to Mexico – The musical dialogue from the Old Spain, the Mexican Baroque and the living Huasteca and Jarocho traditions.”

The excitement of the audience turned to exuberance once the musicians started to work their magic onstage. Tembembe vocalists Ada Coronel and Zenén Zeferino were greeted with cheers after their performance of the traditional huasteca El Cielito Lindo. One of my favorite moments was Ms. Figueras’ performance of Trompicávalas Amor. Her music seems to originate in the center of her being, to be disseminated in waves in time with her movements. I found her a joy to watch as well as to listen to. Another high point came from the viol master himself, Jordi Savall, during an instrumental improvisation. I could feel the entire hall hanging from his every bowstroke. I could sit for hours and listen to him weave a tale with his instrument (which I learned later was an original from the  16th century!) I was also blown away by the flawless choral singing of La Capella Reial de Catalunya, and the seemingly effortless way in which they switched between styles. My favorite choral piece was Chacona: a la vida bona by Juan Arañés.

The effervescent music made even my creaky German bones want to dance, but luckily that aspect was already taken care of by someone far more qualified! Donají Esparza wowed the audience with her footwork and graceful onstage presence. After the performance, the overwhelming applause resulted in an encore, and after that the musicians were called back for yet another curtain call. They were obviously touched by the passionate response their performance brought forth. I hope they will remember Austin as fondly as we’ll remember the incredible evening of music they gave us!

[Sara Hessell had the opportunity to interview Jordi Savall while he was in Austin; if you missed hearing it on Sunday's broadcast of Ancient Voices, you can listen to it again here.]

~posted by Sara Hessel, KMFA Music Director and host of Ancient Voices.

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