Convinced that a country’s cultural roots and traditions always have a decisive influence on the expression of its musical language, in 1987 Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras founded La Capella Reial, one of the first vocal ensembles devoted to the interpretation of Hispanic Golden Age music according to historical principles and consisting exclusively of Hispanic and Latin voices.
Following the model of the famous “royal chapels” for which the great masterpieces of both religious and secular music were composed in the Iberian peninsula, this new “Capella Reial”, which in 1990 took the name of Capella Reial de Catalunya, was born as the result of more than 13 years of research and interpretation in the field of early music. Together with Hespèrion XX (founded in 1974), its main objective is to extend and deepen the fields of research into the specific characteristics of the Hispanic and European polyphonic vocal legacy before 1800. The hallmark of this ensemble is its approach to performance, which balances meticulous vocal sound quality and appropriateness to the style of the period with expressive diction and projection of the poetic text, always striving above all to convey the spiritual and artistic dimension peculiar to each individual work. Under the direction of Jordi Savall, it has an intense schedule of concert performances and recordings and regularly takes part in the principal music festivals around the world.
The repertoire and major recordings of the group, as reflected in its 25 CDs, range from the Cantigas of King Alfonso the Wise and the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat to Mozart’s Requiem, and include, among others, the Golden Age Cancioneros and the great masters of the Renaissance and the Baroque periods, such as Mateu Flecha, Cristóbal de Morales, Francisco Guerrero, Tomás Luis de Victoria, Joan Cererols, Claudio Monteverdi, H. I. von Biber and, more recently, El Misteri d’Elx and Narcís Casanovas.
The ensemble has also taken part in the soundtrack of Jacques Rivette’s film Jeanne la Pucelle, on the life of Joan of Arc, and has performed in the operas Una cosa rara, by Vicente Martín y Soler, and Orfeo, by Claudio Monteverdi, staged at Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu in 1991 and 1993, respectively. Orfeo was also staged at Teatro Real in Madrid (2000), the Konzerthaus in Vienna (2001), the Teatro Reggio in Turin (2000) and once again at the newly rebuilt Liceu in Barcelona (2001), the latter production being recorded in a BBC-Opus Arte DVD.
Since 1990, La Capella Reial de Catalunya has received the official support of the Generalitat, the Autonomous Government of Catalonia.
Jordi Savall is an exceptional figure in today’s music world. For more than thirty years he has been devoted to the rediscovery of neglected musical treasures: thirty years of research, study and interpretation, both as violist and musical director. He has restored an essential repertoire to all those with ears to hear it. Beyond the happy few who already revered the instrument, he has created a wide audience for the viola da gamba, an instrument so refined that it takes us to the very brink of silence.
Together with Montserrat Figueras, he has founded three ensembles - Hespèrion XX, La Capella Reial and Le Concert des Nations; together, they explore and create a world of beauty and emotion which reaches out to millions of music-lovers world-wide and has established them as the leading exponents of so many neglected musical gems. One of the most multifariously gifted musicians of his generation, his career as a concert performer, teacher, researcher and creator of new projects, both musical and cultural, make him one of the principal architects of the current revaluation of historical music.
The pivotal part he played in Alain Corneau’s film Tous les Matins du Monde (All the Mornings of the World), which won a César award for the best soundtrack, his intense concert activity (140 concerts per year), recording projects (six per year) and more recently the creation of his own record label, Alia Vox, is proof that early music does not have to be elitist or of interest to only to a minority, and that it can and indeed does appeal to an increasingly large and young audience. Like many other musicians, at the age of six Jordi Savall began his musical training as a member of the boys’ choir of Igualada (Barcelona), the town where he was born, and later studied the cello at the Barcelona Conservatoire, from which he graduated in 1964. In 1965, he began to teach himself the viola da gamba as well as studying ancient music (Ars Musicae). In 1968 he began his specialist musical training at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland, where in 1973 he succeeded his own master, August Wenzinger, and continues to give courses and master classes.
He has recorded over 160 CD. Jordi Savall’s numerous awards and distinctions include “Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” (1988) from the French Ministry of Culture and Communication; the “Sant Jordi Cross” (1990) awarded by the Generalitat (Autonomous Government) of Catalonia; “Musician of the Year” (1992), awarded by Le Monde de la Musique; “Soloist of the Year” (1993) awarded by Victoires de la Musique; the “Gold Medal for Fine Arts” (1998) from the Spanish Ministry of Culture and the Arts; Honorary Member of the Konzerthaus, Vienna (1999); Doctor honoris causa of the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium (2000); “Victoire de la Musique” in recognition of his professional achievements (2002); the Gold Medal of the Parliament of Catalonia (2003), and the German “Preise der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik” (2003).
Montserrat Figueras is an outstanding performer in a vast vocal repertoire which spans the Mediaeval, Renaissance and Baroque periods.
Born in Barcelona into a family of music-lovers, she performed while still very young with Enric Gispert and Ars Musicae, studying singing with Jordi Albareda as well as dramatic interpretation. In 1966, she began studying early singing techniques, from the troubadours to the Baroque, developing a highly individual approach which draws directly on original sources, both historical and traditional, unfettered by the influences of the post-Romantic school. Her artistic and personal union with Jordi Savall, which has proved so fruitful in the couple’s multiple teaching, research and creative activities, dates from 1967. The mutually reciprocal, lasting impact of this collaboration on both their lives is particularly evident in the development of an innovative style of interpretation, characterised by great fidelity to the historical sources combined with an extraordinary creative and expressive power, that has exerted a decisive influence on the whole historical music movement. In 1968, Figueras pursued her musical training in Basel (Switzerland) under Kurt Widmer, Andrea von Rahm and Thomas Binkley at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis and the Musikakedemie. In the 1970s, Montserrat Figueras rose to eminence as one of a generation of musicians who realised that vocal music before 1800 required a new technical and stylistic approach capable of restoring to the beauty and emotion of the voice, that most human of all forms of expression, the necessary balance between singing and declamation, with an emphasis on the poetic and spiritual dimension of the text.
Between 1974 and 1989, Figueras was co-founder of the ensembles Hespèrion XX, La capella Reial de Catalunya and Le Concert des Nations. Both in conjunction with these ensembles and as a soloist, she has been instrumental in the rediscovery of a musical heritage as eclectic as it is exceptional. She has thus magically brought to life such unjustly neglected music as the ancient Song of the Sibyl, the lullabies included in her recent recording Ninna Nanna, Misteri d’Elx and Isabel I, not forgetting her legendary performances of Trobayritz, Llibre Vermell de Montserrat, Sephardic Ballads, Golden Age Cancioneros, Tonos Humanos of the Hispanic Baroque, and monographic programmes devoted to Milan, Mudarra, Narváez, Guerrero, Victoria, Marín, Merula, Monteverdi, Frescobaldi, Caccini, Charpentier, Mozart (Requiem), Sor and also the operas of Monteverdi (L’Orfeo) and Martín y Soler (Il Burbero di buon cuore and Una cosa rara).
Montserrat Figueras regularly performs at the major European, American and Asian music festivals.
Her CD recordings, which number more than 60, have received numerous awards and distinctions, including “Grand Prix de l’Académie du Disque Français”, “Edison Klasik”, “Grand Prix de la Nouvelle Académie du Disque” and “Grand Prix de l’Académie Charles Cross”, nominations (2001 and 2002) for the “Grammy Award”; in 2003 she was awarded the distinction of “Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the French government.
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