In a few months I’m going to be moving to Spain. Specifically Ronda, in Andalucia. An area loaded with history dating to the pre-Roman times. I’m super stoked for this move. So in advance, and because I speak no Spanish other than the words I pick up living in Southern California, I am listening to more early Spanish music.
Jordi Savall is a viola player that I’ve followed for a little while off and on. He’s been playing professionally for something like forty years, so his discography is immense. Plus there are constantly re-releases of his good stuff. Like the 25th anniversary re-release of La Capella Reial de Catalunya, his early music vocal ensemble formed to explore pre-18th century Catalan music.
Below is an hour long concert broadcast in Spain featuring the vocal ensemble with Savall conducting and a small ensemble of instruments accompanying them. While I know a lot about English musical history, seeing as it’s my own personal interest and I lived there, I’m getting caught up to speed on Spanish early music. The Moorish invasion in the early 8th century had a huge impact on all of Spanish culture. The entire peninsula was occupied all the way to the Pyrenean foothills, and Charlemagne himself held the line. Spain was occupied in some way or another until 1492 when Ferdinand and Isabella pushed back the final groups at Granada. So that means that for nearly 750 years parts of Spain were more Arab than European. When you think about it, 1492 was only 520 years ago. So for a longer period than from 1492-present Spain had this huge Arab influence. That makes the musical history much richer and the music much more complex than in some other areas that didn’t have such diversity.
There was also a lot of internal conflict. Some parts of Northern Spain, like Catalonia, were controlled by Christians, and thus incorporated the Roman liturgy, much earlier than Southern Spain. So there was this flowering of medieval Church music up North while not so much in the South. A lot of pushing and pulling was going on for centuries.
When you listen to the music below, listen for that pushing and pulling, and the Arabic influence. I’m becoming a big fan of this music, and am glad I’m going to get more of an opportunity to learn about, and listen to it.