[amazon_enhanced asin=”B004DY5B2Q” /]Jordi Savall is one of the leading music-makers of any kind in all the world. The range of his accomplishments is beyond those of mere mortals; a virtuosic, improvising gamba player, a conductor, musicologist and impressario, everything he does balances ambition and accomplishment, intellectual investigation and simple pleasure. His musical values come together in this remastered and repackaged recording (originally from 1991) of the Mozart Requiem, along with the short Maurerische Trauermusik K477.
Playing classical music on period instruments is no longer a novelty or a specialty. Well into the second generation of the style, as exemplified by the likes of Savall and Rene Jacobs, it has gone past didacticism into what is the most humane way to make music. The ensembles are small in scale and in sound, and even such details as hearing, in greater detail than with modern instruments, the yard head of a drum stick striking the skin of the timpani adds a human touch. It is the sound of people, rather than ideas. Savall is a master of this.
He has a ringer in his wife, Montserrate Figueras, one of the most unique singers around, in any genre. She combines technical finesse with an astonishingly earthy, even eerie, sound, and takes Mozart out of the realm of the esoteric. Requiem masses are for the living, and Savall’s version is just that. It is not grandiose but dignified, it is not anguished but quietly restless, not tragic but clear-eyed. There are certain technical things he does that are wonderful; a gorgeous blend of vocal and instrumental choirs, a properly and thrillingly swift tempo in the “Dies Irae,” clearly pointed rhythms in the “Rex Tremendae” that are almost menuet-like, and a consistently moving way with shaping phrases. But the most important thing he does is really unquantifiable, except in the ears and the heart. He has the musicians play this music with a narrative line that I have never heard, and always wanted to hear. It is the tale of death, grief, wonderment and an acceptance that offers that resignation is possible, but resolution is better. It is the comfort of inevitability. This music is so well-known that from the first moment, we know how the ending will be and how we get there. In his simple way, Savall makes everything almost surprising, deeply involving, and so even more satisfying at the end. Exquisite in every way. Simply one of the best recordings of any kind you will hear in 2011.