Jordi Savall plays ‘Celtic Viol’

Jordi Savall plays ‘Celtic Viol’

Jordi Savall is one of the masters of early classical music performance, now he’s turned his hand to Irish and Scottish music. There’s plenty of tunes you’ll all know here

http://www.amazon.com/The-Celtic-Viol/dp/B0028EPE02

Interesting concept that has one fan at least in the Irish Times classical music critic Michael Dervan who gave it 4 stars and says

"He doesn’t just want to emulate existing performing style, but to offer something different through an approach that’s soaked in his own experience playing Renaissance and Baroque music. The refinement that results is genuinely fascinating."

So to a classical music critic he’s "refined" the music, interested to know what the rest of you think. I’ll save my own opinion til later………

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Re: Jordi Savall plays ‘Celtic Viol’

I’ve been listening to Savall’s viol playing for long. He’s definitely one of the most important pioneers in early music. I believe he applies the techniques used in Renaissance and Baroque dance music on the recording, so he sounds somewhat different from folk or trad musicians we know.

Andrew Laurence-King has released an album of O’Carolan’s harp pieces, and his group the Harp Consort has made several recordings of ancient and contemporary folk music, including the one titled "Road from Erin": http://www.amazon.com/Road-Erin-Irelands-Musical-Legacy/dp/B00006310J

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Andrew Laurence-King’s reels reminds me of Martin Hayes.

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I quite like it.

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Bloody rubbish. No lift at all. Zero drive. It’s completely stilted. Plastered with hideous reverb. The bowing sounds exactly like any other classical fiddle player’s first attempts. Embarrassing

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Bad and prententious, probably ‘dots only’.

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For once I totally agree with llig it’s absolute crap.

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viol = fiddle with frets ?

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Movable frets, I think.

I still like Andrew Laurence-King tracks, not for dancing, of course (not that I can dance anyway), but for quiet listening.

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A very suitable addition to the "Celtic" genre, (with all that is therein implied!)

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tee he

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I’m reminded of a lady I heard on the radio a few years ago. It was a classical music program and she was defending the practice of classical singers performing folk songs. “We can do so much more with it,” says she. She then proceeded to “do so much more” with The Last Rose of Summer that I had to shut it off after a single verse lest it make too firm an imprint in my memory.

On the other hand, these classicisations of folk music aren’t produced for the likes of us, so we shouldn’t expect them to meet our particular standards. Still…

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"…can do so much more with it…"

Makes me want to shove a bow up someone’s nose.

"…aren’t produced for the likes of us…"

So they’re playing the music we play and love every day, badly, and not for us?

OK, just saying.

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….Do so much more with it…
You mean deconstruct it to a level where there is no ornamentation, phrasing, acccent and soul. High Arts my ar$e.

Re: Jordi Savall plays ‘Celtic Viol’

Well, my Petit Robert has this to say:

viol - Acte de violence par lequel un homme impose des relations sexuelles avec pénétration à une autre personne, contre sa volonté.

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Is ‘Celtic viol’ some bizarre variation, then?

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I still like the idea of a fiddle with frets are they common ?

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Great. He should "refine" some Jimi Hendrix next.

And some of you need to give Martin Hayes another listen, if you really think this sounds like him.

for bazouki dave: http://www.frettedviolins.com/

Re: Jordi Savall plays ‘Celtic Viol’

As an aside, just what actually is a "pioneer of early music"?

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some one who gets up to play at 5am ?

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i think people bashing Jordi Savall should at least know what a viol is.
before i go bashing people i’m off now to the next music store to at least listen to the cd 🙂.

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I think I heard a sample of it on radio 3

what I heard was poor and I don’t need to know what a viol is (though I do) to form this view. it may have pleased players and devotees of baroque instruments, in so far as it was done at all, rather than for its musical quality

the tune I recognised was the Musical Priest. It’s in B minor and I read somewhere that Bm tunes were relatively modern if so why did they choose it for a baroque player to show off with?

is there any evidence that viols ever figured in the irish tradition? fiddles seem to have been so for as long as they have been available at a price affordable to ordinary people, but I woluld have thought that viols, more popular in pre-industrial times, would have been the expensive tool of servants of wealthy, classically inclined audiences.

just a guess. please tell me if you can Mina,

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What i seem to remember about the viol is that they were actually instruments for amateurs. While pro’s played instruments of the violin family in Baroque times, people who were probably wealthy, but amateur musicians, played instruments of the viol family (them having frets, for example, might have made it easier; also violins were the top of the newest inventions while viol-like instruments had been around for longer. also violins must have been comparatively louder, maybe people wanted to play the viols in an more intimiate, indoor situation as well).

I’d say that a violin=fiddle wasn’t affordable then to simple and poor folk. They must have played their "ITM" on other instruments, but i wouldn’t know exactly about the viol. There’s still flutes, whistles, bagpipes, and harps out there.

These reflexions just show that when applied to baroque and renaissance/medieval music, you cannot make the difference between "folk=music of the poor and simple but happy country people which has an oral tradition and was easy and cheap to access" and "Classical music = music of rich elitist bastards based on a complicated tradition which requires lots of money to learn".

This kind of clear difference only came into being in the 19th century. True, there has always been music of the "folk", the peasants, and music "of the courts". But the gap between them was never as big as it is today. Music of the court was to be a "refined version" of the "folk music".

Does that mean that mister Savall and his record label have an approach to ITM meaning that it has to be refined ? Or is he doing something that actually historically happened to the irish folk music at the baroque period? The first would mean, yeah, this is quite elitist and not necessary. The second would mean, its good practice of historical music playing.

I recently heard a very nice concert of a baroque duo showing the similarities between italian baroque music and irish trad music. After all, O’Carolan was a big admirer of the italian baroque composers and wrote new music inspired by them, but his music has kind of "come back" into the folk tradition.

So i don’t think that we should refuse any attempt to play ITM in a classical setting or on baroque instruments.
But i’m not going to defend Mr. Savall either before i’ve heard the record. After all i think a classical record label might very well fall in the trap of "if we call it Celtic, it will sell" , als folk/pop/rock music have done before.

maybe the cd-booklet will tell us more about the background and justification of this project. Does anyone have it?

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ok so i went to the record shop and bought the thing and am now listening to it.

it has a big fat booklet with the text in english, french, spanish (castellano), català, gaeilge, gàidhlig, and german.

i have to say it is a bit disappointing since there is not too much revelation about the use of viola da gamba/viol in old irish and scottish music. the most interesting bit is this: when Savall was exploring the baroque music of the british isles, Elizabethan and Jacobean composers, he came across the "Manchester Gamba Book" which contains more than 30 different tunings (scordatura) for the viol, and in particular "bagpipe tunings".

The booklet refers then to the lively musical world in (and exchanging between) Scotland and Ireland in the 16th and 17th century, mainly concerning harp playing. (note that inside the booklet, the term "celtic" is mostly replaced by "irish and scottish")
it’s treated as kind of self-evident that the music of these countries was played on viols. because of the big amount of literature for viol existing from those english composers at the same time.

It also says that Queen Elizabeth I said in 1602 that "there was much dancing of country dances before the qeen’s majesty who is exceedingly pleased therewith. Irish tunes are at this time much liked". So the irish (or scottish) folk music must have been played by the queen’s court musicians who must have used viols or other instruments of the period. this goes with my idea i posted earlier about the relationship of "folk" and "court" music in earlier times.

Among the tunes he plays on the cd are some from the 17th and 18th century, claiming to have "much older roots". but he also plays tunes which cannot be followed further back than the 19th or early 20th century.
This i don’t find very satisfying.
Also the criteria of choice of the different tunes/sets kind of eludes me. the sets sound very different one from the other.

NOWHERE in the booklet could I find anything referring to a need/wish to "refine" this music.

Instead Mr. Savall tells us very extensively about his highest admiration and deepest respect for this oral tradition and music which he has had for many decades. he says he is very aware of the fact that there is a huge difference between him (who has still much to learn about this music) and people "born" to this music and having learned it by ear. in one instance does he say that he "hopes that his experience with renaissance and baroque music enables him to offer an interpretation which is different from the interpretations heard in modern traditions".
the second text in the booklet written by Tom Sherlock says: "While he (Savall) has drawn the material on this recording from printed sources, his interpretation of these traditional pieces is filtered through the listening ear of a master musician". in relation to the fact that Savall didn’t learn it by ear as the people who originally played this music.

so make of this what you want.

the playing doesn’t have the same brillance and variation we are used to from modern fiddles. this seems logical to me: the CD shows clearly the technical limitations of the viola da gamba instruments. no wonder the modern violin was developed!
on the other hand i find some of the drone effects he achieves through his technique and the scordatura interesting, very archaic, which is something i like a lot.

I like to listen to it. It’s very nice and quiet music, just viol and harp, ideal for a quiet evening after a busy day like mine.

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Just to make this clear:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viol

this is about someone playing an instrument OLDER than the modern violin/fiddle. they simply couldn’t do what a fiddle can. and people had to play them because the fiddle simply wasn’t around then.

Re: Jordi Savall plays ‘Celtic Viol’

i just listened to the "Road from Erin"-sampler someone mentioned here. This IS more fun than Jordi Savalls "interpretation".
But what’s the connection between Hildegard von Bingen and Ireland? I’d be interested to know.

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I listened to the sample cuts and thought they were mildly interesting. I’ve listened to viols and the other instruments of that cohort for many years and I’ve always felt that the viol was a bit weak as a solo or lead instrument. It works better as part of an Elizabethan style consort, where it adds texture to the stronger melody instruments.

Actually, the trad music tribes and the Early Musick cult have been intermingling for several decades, so I’m never really surprised to hear this sort of cross pollination. Sometimes it’s brilliant, sometimes, as my cat says, meh.

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Hi Bob,
yeah, and i think it makes sense that they "intermingle" because that’s what the music does. It does also make sense to call them "tribes/cult" because sometimes they do behave that way 🙂.

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I remember Alfred Brendel was asked once by one of those early music bods, why did he not play his mozart pieces on the instruments they were composed on? His reply was simple and sublime, it sounds better on a modern piano.

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Jordi should leave playing Celtic music to professionals like Quadriga Consort or Baltimore Consort.

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Hi Sylvia
they sound real nice, i just listened into Quadriga Consort.
But can you tell me what the difference is between their approach and Savall’s (after all he’s a pro 🙂 )? I mean what MAKES it sound better, i’m no specialist on old music really?

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Hi guys,

I was reasing this post and I couldn’t help but create an account. Even though I’m a fiddle player myself (just been playing for a few years now) I am really fond of classical and baroque music and Jordi Savall is one of my great idols.

The viola da gamba is a baroque instrument that was incredibly popular during a few centuries. Not, as some users have pointed out, before the violin, but as a matter of fact during a time in which the violin was considered "lower" and was played on the streets.

I think a lot of users here should calm down. The word "refinement" that has bother so many users should not be understood as "improvement" or whatnot, but rather as from the perspective of performance in te context of really precise, almost scholarly environments.

Jordi Savall is an incredible performer:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=BR&hl=pt&v=OpTTJOam2WA&fmt=18

http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=BR&hl=pt&v=egQ5TtE7E9I&fmt=18


You guys should not see it as an illicit intrusion, he just wanted to record an homage to a tradition that he claims to admire, just as he has done with eastern musical traditions.

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You say that the use of the word "refinement" was not meant to mean "improvement", but rather "precise" instead?

Except it’s not precise. Far from it. The timing is dreadfully sloppy.

I’m not in a position to judge whether Jordi Savall is an "incredible performer" of his kind of music. I listened to those clips and it sounded a bit boring to me. But I’d be the first to hold my hands up and readily admit that that is more than likely because I don’t understand the music.

Shame he won’t reciprocate the courtesy.

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Well, was it because of his playing or because of the pieces themselves? Do you like listening to baroque music at all, to begin with?

In the XVI and XVII centuries people played like Savall, and as some other users have mentiones it should be kept in mind that the gap between music of the "peasants" and "of the court" was really narrow from today’s perspective (look at goliard music, for example, which was a really towny and popular music).

At the time, instruments like the viola da gamba (the leg viol, and also the bowed arm viols) were played and, Savall says, in courts people really liked to listen to popular country dances, like Irish dances.
Even today, some ways of holding the bow in ITM are really similar to the bowing style that existed during the baroque.If they were anything similar to XIX and XX century fiddle tunes of ITM*, what would this "Celtic" tunes have sounded like when played by formally trained interpreters?

Would it have sounded something similar to the baroque playing style? Let us also try not to be too influenced by XX-XXI century "folk" music, with uses of fiddles, bagpipes, guitars, accordions, bodhrans and bouzoukis that didn’t even exist 30 or 40 years ago.

That’s, I think, the exercise that Jordi Savall wanted to make. A cocktail of musical archaeology, modern irish tunes and imagination. To pay a homage to this musical tradition, just as he has done with Eastern music*.

I’d also like to remind readers that the unfortunate "refine" was not said by Savall himself… but by a this critic who was giving his opinion about the result of Savall’s experiment. Please, be open! ;)

Cheers,
C.

*http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8EPjGHDOlE

Re: Jordi Savall plays ‘Celtic Viol’

I said I wasn’t familiar with baroque music, and I try not to differentiate between a musician’s playing and the piece.

"In the XVI and XVII centuries people played like Savall." You cannot know that. You absolutely have no way of knowing what any kind of music sounded like three or four hundred years ago. Sure, you can make educated guesses, but guesses are all your attempts will ever be.

And how can you not be influenced by what music sounds like today? It’s ridiculous, it’s all the music we have. Including people like Savall’s playing. It’s today’s music.

The problem with this particular recording of Savall’s is that he hasn’t listened to real live people playing the music. All his exercise is is a guess. And as such, is an embarrassment of a homage

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Hi clertar, thanks for the interesting information! I think what you point out is important.
On the other hand i think even Savall falls into a certain commercial trap here. I get the impression that being a master and scholar of the baroque gamba leads him to just cover huge areas of "old" music and maybe sometimes perhaps claiming scholarship where his famous persona cannot in reality compensate for lack of historical (also in the sense of musical) accuracy. For example i picked up one of his records with medieval music. Because its really hard to find good records of medieval fiddle. But i was quite disappointed: He just plays it all on his soprano gamba in his personal style. I might have been wrong about the co-existence of gamba and violin but am quite sure that the gamba wasn’t around in medieval times.
The same problem arises a bit with the Celtic record. I have no problem with the sound of the music even if it doesn’t correspond with what we’re used to hear in XIX th century trad music. But then, why does he go and play lots of non-baroque, younger tunes??? these tunes were most likely developed on the "modern" fiddle, so they should have a sound incorporating what you can do on one of these and not "bend" to the conditions of the gamba. I think it is a slim line between a hommage and and a sell-out here. I was looking forward to irish and scottish tunes from the baroque area and i get stuff that’s re-imported from American Irish fiddlers.

Its the handling of that slim line that gives a certain point to statements like Ilig’s. But unlike you Ilig i like the sound of the Savall record just for the sound of it 🙂

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I think everyone who calls this recording rubbish schould read the booklet first! there he says that he is completeley aware of the fact that he is not part of the irish tradition… he’s done this recording only because he likes this music! and as he really is such a genius in his own music i think everyone can learn from him, even if would better listen to someone else if you want to learn how to play irish traditional music in the "proper" way.

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I think it’s great and listen to a lot (I’ve had it for months). It’s much more like Scottish fiddling than Irish - specifically, the North-East style of Hector MacAndrew. But mainly he’s doing his own thing, which is fine by me. It doesn’t have to sound like any particular regional style of the past to sound good. The strathspeys work particularly well.

The viol was never a folk instrument - far too expensive. Some *wealthy* amateurs had them, but most of the viol music we listen to now was written by pros for themselves to play. It had no traditional folk repertoire anywhere. (Neither did the flute, violin, harp, or concertina, until folk musicians decided to adopt them - there’s always a first time).


"The problem with this particular recording of Savall’s is that he hasn’t listened to real live people playing the music"

He hasn’t spent his life in a monastery. You can’t avoid it in any city in Europe and certainly not in Barcelona.

Re the quote about Irish tunes being played in England in 1602: the violin was invented earlier than the viol, so there’s no reason to suppose it couldn’t have been used. But the most likely instrument would have been the virginals.

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And since you’re on the subject, one of the best EVER piece of music I’ve heard happens to be a Virginal / Irish number!
It is track No 43 on the 2nd CD of ‘Instruments of the Middle Ages and Renaissance’ by The Early Music Consort - David Munrow:
an anonymous ‘Toccata’ taken from the Dublin Virginal Book (c. 1570)

A ‘must hear’ for anyone, irrespective of preferences!