Hearing rumours of great artists remastering their works several years after their release is sure to put you on your toes. Once the comparison between the different recordings is over, one is tempted to see them as snapshots of an aesthetic ethos, testaments to an artistic evolution. In this case, Jordi Savall offers us a fine gift: 30 years after his first version of the Requiem, here he is, conducting Mozart’s masterpiece with an entirely new Concert des Nations. Savall’s gesture becomes all the more touching as he explains that it was motivated by a chance personal anecdote from when he was 14—his dazzling and unexpected confrontation with Mozart’s quasi-testamentary work.
In this new production, the Catalan master takes his obsession with detail and historically informed interpretation even further: from the exact Latin pronunciation employed in Vienna at the time, to the pitch 430, to the specific embouchures of the trombones. The ensemble also drew on the respanable work of the musicologists Jean and Brigitte Massin.
This Requiem is captivating in its fluidity. The soloists sparkle—the stunning soprano Rachel Redmond and the baritone Manuel Walser in particular. The choirs of the Capella Nacional de Catalunya form a solid rock with the Concert des Nations, each group embracing the asperities of the other in a play of contrasts and chiaroscuro touching on the mystery of Mozart’s ambiguous relationship with the Christian faith. The recording culminates in the “Lacrymosa”, which quietly devastates with its balance and the sensuality of its melodic lines. This new version is among the best in that it handles the mystery of Mozart’s genius without ever distorting it.
A Figure of Historically Informed Performance
For more than half a century, Jordi Savall has been one of the most prolific and talented players in the revival of Baroque and Renaissance music. With the ensembles he founded at the end of the 1980s, the Concert des Nations and the Capella Reial de Catalunya, he has been dusting off the most beautiful scores of ancient times, with a constant concern for the precision of gesture and the purity of timbre that have become his tradespan.
The longevity of Jordi Savall’s career (born in 1941) has led him to forge lasting collaborations with high-profile artists, including the late soprano Montserrat Figueras, who became his wife. Many of his recordings have become important reference points, including the Pièces de viole by Marin Marais and the complete Beethoven Symphonies.
He gained international recognition in 1991 when he recorded the soundtrack to Alain Corneau’s film Tous les matins du monde, which tells the story of the special master/student relationship between Jean de Sainte-Colombe and Marin Marais.
In 1997, the creation of his own label Alia Vox gave him the freedom to undertake projects such as exhuming little-known and forgotten works. The label has since produced more than 200 recordings, regularly awarded prizes and hailed by critics as a first-rate record label.